Take Them My Kingdom (Jesus, Jobs and Justice)
My passion for reaching African American men crystallized during the height of the crack epidemic in the 80s and 90s after my two youngest brothers were killed. They died approximately six years apart. I had four brothers, they all died prematurely. Jesus spared me from the curse that killed my brothers because I became His committed follower in the nick of time.
I preached the funeral of my two youngest brothers, which was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Their deaths were devastating and convinced me that young African American men were facing an unprecedented curse and crisis that neither America nor I could ignore any longer. I doubled down in my efforts to reach unchurched African American men for Christ.
I quickly learned that addressing the crisis facing African American men was daunting. The devil has used white supremacy, poverty, fatherlessness, broken schools and much more to undermine the progress of African American men especially those living in the inner cities. Even more destructive has been the self-hatred that white supremacy has taught African American men. Black male self-hatred is so pervasive they call each other “nigga” and murder each other in alarming numbers. As proof of the self-hate, black-on-black homicide is the leading cause of death for African American men.
It’s painful seeing the degradation of young African America men. Most African American churches seem oblivious or indifferent to the plight of African American men. I sought the Lord for ways to change the predicament of African American men. He said, “take them my Kingdom.” His answer became my divine mandate.
My understanding of the Kingdom of God was initially insufficient, especially how it could transform the lives of young black men. I studied the kingdom of God diligently. I read everything on the Kingdom of God I could find and prayed incessantly for God’s wisdom. I followed Bible teachers who taught on the Kingdom of God such as the late Dr. Myles Munroe, my pastor Bishop Lockett, and several others. My knowledge and understanding of the Kingdom of God increased slowly.
Over the years, the Lord taught me that taking the Kingdom of God to black men practically could be accomplished by taking them Jesus, jobs, and justice, or said another way, discipleship, dollars, and dignity.
TAKE THEM JESUS
Taking the Kingdom of God to African American men is a step-by-step process. The first step is the new birth. Once they experience the new birth, they automatically become Kingdom citizens, possessing all the rights and benefits of Kingdom citizenship.
The second step is intensive discipleship; a process our church calls Saltmakers 360. The primary focus of Saltmakers 360 is to help people become authentic Christ followers. It also involves teaching Kingdom principles that cause Kingdom living.
Kingdom living is the lifestyle of Kingdom citizens. It’s the byproduct of seeking the Kingdom of God first and obeying Kingdom principles. Living by a new system empowers African American men to conquer white supremacy, fatherlessness, poverty, disease, substance abuse, despair, and so forth. It produces success and trans-generational wealth for the African American community. It breaks the deadly spiritual curses and cultural habits that kill black men prematurely and disproportionately.
Satan doesn’t want African American men experiencing Kingdom living given its benefits. He seeks to alienate African American men from Jesus, and by extension Kingdom living. He uses lies, deception, and hypocrisy to accomplish this alienation. Let me explain.
As white Americans profited from free slave labor during slavery, they sought to justify and protect it. White theologians and ministers indulged them by twisting Scriptures to appease their guilty consciences and to make the enslaved Africans accepting of slavery. This hypocritical perversion of Scripture causes many African American men to distrust Holy Scripture.
Moreover, many African American men feel alienated from Jesus because whites have depicted Jesus as white. Noted artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Europeanized Jesus. The historical and Biblical records are precise, however, Jesus is not white nor European. He is a Hebrew from the Middle East, a man of color undoubtedly, perhaps even black.
Further, Jesus and His people suffered slavery and oppression as African Americans have experienced in America. He knows from experience the trials and tribulations of being an oppressed minority. Yet, the Europeanization of Jesus continues to alienate many young African American men from Jesus and the local church. We intend to reverse this alienation by planting a church that accurately depicts Jesus as a man of color who understands the trauma of oppression and injustice.
TAKE THEM JOBS
Besides needing Jesus, many African American men desperately need jobs. The unemployment rate for African American men (10.4%) is 2.3 times higher than for white men (4.5%). In some cities, such as Chicago, the unemployment rate for young African American men is over 50%. Unemployment is so dire for many African American men they have vanished from the unemployment rolls and quit looking for work. Joblessness is a contributor to the high unemployment many black men face. This high level of unemployment and joblessness for African American demonstrate how entrenched racism is in America.
African American men desperately need jobs for other significant reasons. Like all men, they find their identity and self-worth in their jobs. Jesus placed in the DNA of all men the desire to work and provide for their families. Unemployed African American men cannot provide for their families and feel a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. This sense of inadequacy and hopelessness have caused many African American men to abandon their families and turn to crime, which further exacerbates their inability to find jobs because of the felony records that crime produces.
Jesus can solve unemployment and joblessness for Black men if they seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. Black men will thrive if they follow Jesus and obey His Word. Obedience to the Word of God will prevent African American men from engaging in self-destructive practices like dropping out of high school, selling drugs, fathering multiple children, etc.
Local inner-city churches must play a stronger role in job creation too. For instance, our local church formed the Texas Urban Renewal Network (TURN). We used TURN to start the CEO program. It helps black men with criminal records create economic opportunities for themselves and others in small businesses. The goal is that the new companies will create jobs in the inner city.
TAKE THEM JUSTICE
The Kingdom of God represents justice. The concept of justice is not secular and did not originate with humans. It originated with God. It’s as much a part of the character of God as are holiness, faith, love, and truth. Psalm 89:14 says the very throne of God comprises both justice and righteousness, and the Prophet Amos instructed Israel to let “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” (Amos 5:24).
The Hebrew word for justice is mishpat. In his book, Generous Justice, Dr. Timothy Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York defines justice as protecting the rights of the vulnerable. This definition of justice demonstrates the importance of justice in a fallen world where the majority often oppresses the minorities. This definition reminds us that without justice, the powerful will oppress the vulnerable. Justice demands that society enact and enforce laws that prevent and punish the oppression of the weak and promote equitable opportunities for all.
Many whites have a difficult time embracing justice for all. Above, we stated that many whites practice white supremacy and constructed a system that brutally enslaved and stripped African Americans of dignity and humanity. It was only after Jesus moved white Christian abolitionists to demand justice for enslaved African Americans were white slaveholders forced to dismantle slavery vis-à-vis a horrific civil war.
Many southern white slaveholders were unbowed, nevertheless, even after the civil war. They refused justice to the newly freed African American citizens and instead enacted Jim Crow laws to segregate and oppress them. This awful Jim Crow system lasted another hundred years until once again God used His church via the civil rights movement to dismantle Jim Crow.
History proves that from ancient Israel to modern day America the Lord has consistently championed justice. Justice is one of His hallmarks. Even today, He’s forcing America to continue working at creating justice for all. Hence, we thank Jesus for the progress America has experienced, culminating in the election of the first black President, but much more work is necessary. Especially, now that the Trump Administration seems less interested in justice for all.
The fight for justice never ends, despite having had a black president, because some whites fear the changing demographics of America. They are determined to “take America back” or “Make America great again” thru such tactics as mass incarceration, voter suppression, and attacks on affirmative action.
The fight for justice requires the complete destruction of systemic and institutionalized racism. Much work is still needed before African American men will experience justice. For instance, our education system fails black boys. Read my book Education Injustice to learn how failing schools fail black males and place them on the school-to-prison-pipeline
Regarding the school-to-prison-pipeline, our criminal justice system unjustly imprisons many young nonviolent African-American men and leaves them disenfranchised and marginalized. Mass incarceration of black men is the stubborn proof of continued racial injustice in America’s criminal justice system. Mass incarceration and mandatory minimums may be around for many more years since Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes criminal justice reform and supports mandatory minimums.
Further, our health care system unjustly denies many young vulnerable African American men equal health care, and our corporate system unjustly denies them equal job and career opportunities.
As committed Christians, we must preach, teach and demonstrate the love and Kingdom of God by demanding justice for young vulnerable African American men. We must not stand silent as injustice and inequality prevail. We must also develop programs to empower African American men despite white supremacy.
I hope you understand better our vision of taking the Kingdom of God to African American men thru Jesus, jobs, and justice. We’re unabashed in this assignment. We relish in it.
Some people may misinterpret our heart with claims we are violating scripture by targeting only young vulnerable African American men. We disagree strongly for two reasons.
First, Jesus has targeted particular groups throughout scripture. He targeted Nineveh. Jonah 1:2. He targeted the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 15:24. He targeted Gentiles (Romans 15:16). He targeted the poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind and the bruised. Luke 4:18. Last, He instructs us to target the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, imprisoned, fatherless and widows. Matthew 25:35 and James 1:27.
Second, our mandate to target African American men does not come from racial hatred or bigotry. We love, welcome and offer our ministries and charities to anyone in need. Sincerely, we welcome everyone.
By targeting young vulnerable African American men, however, we are merely reaching a group that America has left behind. Please help us reach them!