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Elder Charles Blake II on the Importance of the Black Church

As a part of our Elder’s Corner series, Elder Charles Edward Blake II took time to reflect on the history and importance of the black church. 

Elder Charles Blake II on the Importance of the Black Church

The old West Angeles Church at 3501 West Adams Boulevard, c. 1960’s.

“Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah. (They were) rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church” – President Barack Obama, in the eulogy for Clementa C. Pinckney, Pastor of Emmanuel AME Church.

As I listened to our President deliver this historic, heartfelt speech, I was especially drawn to his comments on the historical significance of the black church in American history. I have believed that the black church is as our president described: the beating heart of the black community. The first African American schools, hospitals, farming co-ops, workers unions, and many more aspects of our community, came out of the black church. After the Civil War and slavery had ended, the church was the only institution the black community had to protect our civil rights during Reconstruction.

Years later, however, after the Civil Rights Era, other secular African-American organizations did our civil rights work for us. Today, it would now seem that many of the rights that we gained during that time have either slowly eroded, or have not been realized at all by our community.

“The Black church is as our President described: the beating heart of the black community.” – Elder Charles E. Blake, Jr.

In light of what the church has been to our community in the past, we must continue to question: “Who are we as the church in the present?”

Impacting Our Future

As the church, we have the power to impact nations and transform cities. Yet many of us have not allowed ourselves to be transformed by the Gospel into something new that God can use to help someone else. We praise his name and the Spirit of the Lord is here…there’s no doubt about it! But while this Word, this truth, this gospel is widely believed and agreed upon and we praise the Lord for it, it is a truth we widely take for granted. We have to really ask ourselves: “Is the world a better place because we are in it? Is this a better church because I’m a part of it?”

We are called not only to worship Christ, but also to truly follow him. So, how do we do that? Mark 10:43-45 says:

43 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

We have to remember beloved, that as members of the body of Christ, we have all been called as missionaries, evangelists, and ministers (Ephesians 4:11). We are here to follow Jesus’ example, to serve even those who we may feel don’t deserve it, in order to be a light to others. The church must be a better church because we are a part of it. The world must be a better place because we are in it.

Like the apostles themselves, we don’t deserve what Christ did for us when He died on the cross. But when we serve others and live our lives with integrity, God can look at our lives as an investment and pour out His blessings. We then honor the price that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ paid for us, and we begin to do our part to become the church He created us to be.

 

Elder Charles Edward Blake II serves as Assistant Pastor and Director of Community Relations of West Angeles Church of God In Christ, under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. He received his BS in Marketing from Oral Roberts University, and studied for his MD at the Interdenominational Theological Center. Elder Blake also serves as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Ecumenical Congress.  He and wife DeAndra are the proud parents of two sons. 

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Elder Kenneth Hammonds – What Is Holiness? Part 1

The world today calls for the church to live in holiness and righteousness. God calls us as His people to maintain our connection to Him; to be a people set apart from the ways of society, and to use our lives to bring light into the darkness of the world. In the first of a 3-part series for “The Elders’ Corner,” Dr. Kenneth Hammonds discusses the meaning of holiness through linguistics, and through understanding the nature and wonder of God Himself.  Presented at West Angeles’ Wednesday Night Bible Study.

What Is Holiness?

In order to study the meaning of holiness, we must start with God. God is the beginning of holiness. Before the beginning of creation was God, who existed in all of His splendor by Himself, of course in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But some theologians assert that God’s holiness – or His “otherness” – is His key attribute; the central core and foundational attribute of His nature and character.

One pastor, Pastor Jim McClarty, made a great statement which said, “God is unlike any other, and His holiness is the essence of His otherness.”

Defining Holiness through Language

Let’s look at some of the basic concepts of holiness through linguistics, in both its Hebrew and Greek foundations in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

In Hebrew, the word is Kadosh, which means “sacred or holy.” This word is used many times in the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus. In the Greek (in the New Testament), the word is Hagios, which means, to be holy; to be sacred, to be set apart by or for God as holy or sacred.” The Greeks used the word in their temples. A third word, Ekklesia means “church, assembly, congregation, convocation.” It is made of two words: ek which means “out of,” and klesia, from the word kaleo, which means “to be called.” The church is not the building! To be the church is to be called out as the assembly for God’s purpose.

Three words summarize the linguistic foundation of holiness and what it is. Holiness is:

  1. DIFFERENT – standing out from the ordinary
  2. SET APART – for purpose, mission, and service to God
  3. BEAUTIFUL – the splendor, the beauty of our life and of our witness; holiness is attractiveness

In other words, to live holy means that we are called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.

What Does Holiness Mean To Me?

Some questions about holiness we may ask:

  • “How do we know God is holy?” We know because God reveals, proclaims, and declares Himself as Holy to mankind. Leviticus 11:44 says, “Be Holy because I am Holy.”
  • “God is holy, but can He impart holiness to humans?” God says that it is possible, and it can be done.  Indeed without Him, you cannot be Holy. His nature makes it possible. You can be different; you can be set apart, but it takes His impartation of holiness to be set apart to God.
  • “Why is holiness required or indispensable?” Holiness is indispensable in the time in which we live, and in New Testament theology. It is absolutely required and indispensable to show God’s work in the lives of human beings. In you, as a holy human being, others have seen a difference in your life! The impartation of God’s holiness speaks to others about God’s work in our lives, which is for the benefit of mankind. Because others live holy, mankind benefits, simply because someone is set apart for God’s service. Most importantly, the reason we do anything and everything is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31 –

“We do all things for the glory of God.”

So, holiness is to be lived and enjoyed!

Conclusion

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. That is the holiness that God gives, and it is also the holiness of what God is. As you look at the words we’ve discussed above, you see that the nature of holiness is good. Holiness means being set apart. If you are a set apart being, then you are beautiful.

Therefore:

Be beautiful! Called-out! Set apart!

God Bless you!

Adapted from “Let’s Talk About It: Holiness,” by Dr. Kenneth Hammonds, Dr. Wilfred Graves and Elder Oscar Owens, 11/11/2015, at the West Angeles North Campus Sanctuary.


FOR FURTHER STUDY:

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – 2 Peter; Isaiah 6:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Romans 1:6, Leviticus 11:44 , 1 Corinthians 10:31.  See also: Strong’s Concordance, and the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.

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