Another approach to race: change individuals

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Living Word Men's Fellowship,

Changing America one man at a time

            None of the approximately 400 men in attendance at Living Word's Men's Fellowship last Friday evening were wearing T-shirts with words like "Hands up" or "I can't breathe" or "Black lives matter."

            The sayings on the T-shirts were "I am a leader, follow me" and "John 14:6" [Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."NRSV] and "God's got my back."

            The prayers, the songs, the teaching last Friday were not about working for justice in society or changing the system.  Instead they were all about changing what Living Word's Pastor, Bill Winston, sometimes refers to as "stinkin' thinkin'" in each individual.

            At the beginning of a time of singing praise songs, the song leader declared, "I plan to leave here a better man tonight."  In other words, for Winston and the gathering of men assembled at Living Word, the enemy was not external in a man's situation but internal in his spirit. 

            And so the minister leading the prayer at the start of the gathering asked God for a "Spirit of excellence, love and unity to be released" and for God to "bind the spirit of fear and division" among those gathered, 95% of whom were African American.  Instead of evoking images of Israel's liberation from slavery in Egypt, the lyrics were more those of a love song to the Father than of protest to injustice.  The words of one song:

 

            I love you Lord, and I lift my voice,

            To worship you, oh my soul rejoice.

            Take joy, my King, in what you hear,

           Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.

            About an hour into the program Pastor Winston came to the lectern to begin his teaching, which last Friday was about the "Gift of Work."  Work is a positive thing, he said, a gift from God.  "God created genius in each of you," he told the men.  "Work is the way you bring that genius out."

            "How does a mother deliver her baby?" he asked the men.  "She goes into labor.  In the same way, the work you do is meant to deliver the genius inside each of you."  He even said that in heaven God will have work for us to do, precisely because work is a powerful gift which brings out the best in us.

            He said that a lot of men want to get a job, but they don't want to work and thereby miss the point.  "Work as if you own the business," he told the gathering.  "Don't work only if somebody is looking over your shoulder.  Work as if you are doing it for God." 

            Then Winston got specific about what he meant.

  • You can't steal from your employer. 
  • Don't steal time from the business, by not doing your best.
  • Whatever you do, do it right.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Do what you say.
  • Show up on time.  Train your spirit.  If you can't manage time you won't be able to manage money.
  • Say "please" and "thank you."

Winston adds a promise to his teaching about work.  Not only is work good in itself, but work done well will be rewarded. . .in this life.  "God is ready to promote you," he declared.  "That's a law.  Allow God to change your perception of work and watch the results change.  Greatness is in you and work brings it out.  Promotion becomes automatic.  Your color, your background doesn't matter."  What matters, he added, is believing and trusting in God to do what he promises.

            And as if he is responding to those who blame an unjust, racist system for being oppressed, he contends, "In order to get the house straight, we have to get the brothers straight.  Those men in jail for selling drugs had an entrepreneurial spirit.  That's good.  The problem is that they were selling the wrong product.  If you are not creating, your spirit is enslaved.  Look at Joseph.  He was a slave in Egypt, but he worked well and Pharaoh promoted him to the second highest position of authority in the land."

            He did not deny that there are some police officers who are out of control, but he stayed with his focus on the individual rather than the system by blaming the violence in African American neighborhoods on a lack of respect for life in those neighborhoods.

             And, as if to emphasize his focus on individuals, Winston held an altar call at the end of the gathering at which he invited men in the audience who weren't saved to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 

 

           

 

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