Has the Church of God in Christ fell apart? : A response to John Fountain
I recently came across an article in the Chicago Sun that I thought was interesting. It was written by a man called John Fountain about his beloved Church of God in Christ.
For those of you that do not know, they are a movement of “black Pentecostals.” While the Assemblies of God and Church of God are mainly white (though that is changing), the COGIC remained mostly the black expression of Pentecostal for those who believe in fundamental of Pentecostalism.
Like the other Pentecostal movements, the original leaders, Charles Mason in this case, traveled to the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He was deeply moved by William Seymour on a personal level.
One thing that many people look over is the influence that the Church of God in Christ had on the civil rights movement. They would open their doors to Dr. Martin Luthur King Jr often when he would need a place to speak Memphis. They also hosted the funeral of Malcolm X in 1965.
In the last generation, it seems the Church of God In Christ has slowly became less effective in the communities and they are not growing like this use to grow….
Responding to John Fountain
You can read the article here but this is the part of the article that I want to talk about today and why I think the COGIC is not growing anymore.
I loved the Church of God in Christ — though my church seems today to have lost so much of its luster, in my eyes. Pomp and circumstance, glitter, gators and glam, and a slow drifting away from its humble roots make it difficult for me to differentiate my grand old church from others in this dispensation of a bling-bling Gospel.
The “luster” of yesteryear has been damaged by the over emphasis of a few teaching from the pulpit in many of their churches. I want to give you two examples of things I have seen in my travels as an evangelist.
The fixation on deliverance is not something that is healthy or even biblical. Jesus did give us power to cast out devils. However, it seems that many in the COGIC are completely obsessed with deliverance ministry (to the point of naming their churches something to do with the function.
I understand that a lot of this comes out of the being formed as a church in the early part of the 20th century that was influenced by the African religion revival among blacks right after the civil war. William Seymour was also directly influenced by this movement as well when he was in Louisiana.
The other pitfall was the overemphasis of prosperity. The call to be financial blessed became more important to many in the COGIC than the preaching of the Cross, Blood, and Holy Spirit. Part of this is due to values of the black community that reach outside of religious expression.
Azusa Report does confirm that as a general rule we believe that God will bless people who commit their lives to the proclamation of the gospel. We do not promote a “vail of poverty.” That is a value of Catholicism, not Pentecostalism.
What about Church of God in Christ sexual sins?
There has recently became a major issue with ministers that have been involved in numerous sexual scandals. Most of them has been the classic, “Minister leaves his wife for the secretary” stuff but there has also been the criminal issues with some pastors become tried for child molestation. Both of these trends is doing serious harm to the faithful and possibly the larger Pentecostal movement.
There has been cases of some pastors in the movement leaving their wives and to make it worse, they remarried very quickly after the divorce. In some cases, it has been completely clear that they were living in adultery that caused the divorce. This is becoming common in the COGIC but to be fair, it is a problem in the Pentecostal movement that is much better than just this one denomination.
The issue with claims of many cases of child molestation by leaders is more serious. While the adultery is not less of a sin, it is not a criminal act. There seems to be many cases of this happening across the nation in Church of God in Christ fellowships.
Both of these trends must be addressed by the leadership and dealt with without reservation or excuse to move forward. These are not acceptable.
Is there hope for the church?
Personally, I would like us to move past the “white Pentecostals” or the “black Pentecostals” mentality that has ruled out history. Sadly, it is very rare to see a gathering of both people from the Assemblies of God and Church of God in Christ together….even in times of outpouring. This should bother us.
With that said, I believe that the COGIC is a beacon of hope to the black community and they must figure out how to address the over emphasis of some pet doctrines and address the sexuality of the leadership. When this happens, they will be in a much better place to reach out to a hurting, broken black community.
There is a lot of pains there and the movement is in a special place to address those issues but they have to position themselves to do so. I firmly believe they should be the answer to the black community problems. It is what happens when people are awaken to being the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
Let’s face the facts here. Black Lives Matter is a loud and violent group but when confronted by clergy of the black churches that would include the COGIC; they will have to come to grip with the actions. There is little question if the pastors have a part to play in putting down these angry hunger for rioting.
Let’s pray as the Church of God moves forward!