Growing up I learned early on the meaning of the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Many times I was made aware that my parents were not the only ones raising me. They were not the only ones who had the freedom and even responsibility to discipline me. I recall on one occasion misbehaving and acting disrespectfully in public and an older lady in our community immediately chastised, disciplined me on the spot, and sent me home. By the time I walked home, she had called my mother and upon my arrival I was chastised and disciplined again. In our judicial system this called double jeopardy, and it’s illegal. In our community it was a village raising children together.

Thankfully, there were elders in our community with the same values as my parents, who believed in raising disciplined and respectful children. Even when my parents were not around, they knew they had ears and eyes on us.

As I look around the landscape of our communities today, I can’t help but ask the question, “Where are the elders?” Not only have we lost the accountability of elders in communities, but tragically the elders have been lost in the church as well.

For example, much has been made of the sermon (if you want to call it that) recently preached by Jamaal Bryant in which he encourages all the men in the audience to look to each other and say, “These hoes ain’t loyal.” Many believe Bryant’s words were misplaced, disrespectful, and inappropriate. I am not here in this space to critique or judge Bryant. Those who sit and listen to him preach get what they ask for.  My concern is to raise the question, “Where are the elders?”

Whatever the context of Bryant’s remarks, my question is, “Are there any elders who are willing to hold him accountable?” I hope there are older ministers in the ministry and in the church who could pull him aside and say, “Son, you went too far.” Prayerfully, there were some older mothers in the church who could say, “Son, come over here, sit down, and let me talk to you.”

Admittedly, I don’t know if Bryant received such loving discipline or not. Hopefully he did. However, as I look and listen at the current landscape of young preaching today (particularly among black preachers) and the way many try to push the envelope in seeking to be clever and relevant, I wonder if the elders have been all but vanquished from the community.

In other words, “where are the elders?” Where are those older saints who won’t be dismissed or excused (as Bryant did), but are actually taken serious and into account as the preacher prepares to preach? Where are the elder ministers who will pull a young man’s coattail and let him know he’s gone too far? Where are the elder women who will check that young minister when he disrespects himself, his wife, or other women? Where are the elders who know their responsibility of overseeing the village and making sure God is honored and community protected? Perhaps decorum in preaching has been lost in many quarters because the elders are absent.

What do you think? Does it still take a village? Are the elders as essential as I suggest they are? What is and is not appropriate from the pulpit? Do our mothers and fathers in the church have a responsibility to discipline the young – even, and especially, if he is the preacher?

The Front Porch
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Receive the latest updates from The Front Porch

Invalid email address
Stay up to date with us.

21 Comments

  • Avatar Randy Thompson says:

    Hi Pastor Carter,

    This is the second preacher in the last two days that I have come across
    because their unconventional and crude behavior in the pulpit went viral. The
    other instance was a pastor that put the enslaved man down. This other pastor was describing the “Boaz Family Tree” where he wittingly would replace “bo” with lazy, broke, or other distasteful character traits. I was thinking the same thing in line with “where are the elders” when I was watching this (behind him I found out), but also, where is your conviction of crossing the line when speaking to God’s people? The audience loved hearing it though, they stood up and applauded and the hands of praise went towards him as to affirm that “this is the entertainment we came for”. No surprise to me that after the crowd calmed down he said “I am not going to turn and look back at [elder pastor], he asked me to come, that’s his problem”.

    My perspective is this, we [Christians] “prepare for worship” before we come into the presence of God with our fellow believers. Our preparation begins primarily the day before and even the morning of; my family prays before we leave the house so that we can together open our hearts to be filled. Our prayer is for our attentiveness to the Word being proclaimed from the preacher, thus we are asking for help to attentively listen to everything being preached! We are asking to be teachable and fruitful with what we will hear. We are asking for our minds to be purified from the worldly distractions so we can hear the divinely inspired word of God.

    So now, for those that are in this tranquil state, their entire family and the unbelieving visitors mind you, are now subject to this derogatory language – it’s a setup. In this case, he blended the secular artist Chris Brown’s lyrics into a sermon that is supposed to be used to call God’s people to repentance and into a relationship with Him. As far as fruitfulness goes, most will be so distracted by the
    misogynistic name drop that no matter what was preached prior or after will be
    difficult to retain due to the distraction – rotten fruit will bear. As we
    attempt to come into worship with minds purified of the world, here they are
    subjected to it to only have it refreshed. It is a complete disservice to the
    Christian and sends a poor message that we can use any distasteful anecdote to
    convey our point.

    His argument I am sure was, “you need a godly woman, not one from the streets”. Is there not enough in His creation to say this without further suppressing weak women, burdened with sins and are currently led astray?

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Carter:
    Very timely post, my brother. New church plants certainly need elders.
    Elder Grant tightened my head up a couple months ago. I was and remain grateful for his godly insight and wisdom.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    “…it’s a setup” :).

    Randy, your last point is well made, “His argument I am sure was, ‘you need a godly woman, not one from the streets.’ Is there not enough in His creation to say this without further surppressing weak women, burdened with sins and are currently led astray?”

    Well said. Hopefuly Bryant realizes that today. May we all be so faithful as well. Thanks for steppin up on the porch. See ya soon bro.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Amen Elder Grant. You have to have some big pliers to tighten up that head :).

  • Avatar Joshua Servanthood says:

    To answer the village question, a community is vital to the raising children to adulthood, whether Christian or non-Christian. For example, Scripture gives a glimpse of Timothy, who was raised by a believing grandmother and mother, then Paul and other believers come alongside to help teach and model the Christian life before him (Acts 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1; 1 & 2 Timothy; Hebrews 13:23).

    Likewise, alongside faithful community must come faithful leadership, especially in the house of God. In fact, God prescribes the characteristics of those who would represent Him in leadership, we see this in both Testaments. For instance, God tells Abraham to be blameless; He attested to Job’s character by calling him blameless and honorable; the Apostles selected seven men who too were blameless and filled with the Holy Spirit; and Paul tells Timothy, the elder of a church must be blameless foremost (Genesis 17:1; Job 1-2; Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:2). Subsequently, it should be said that God did not say these leaders must be perfect or without sin, but the word “blameless” infers having a faithful testimony before those inside and outside of the church and God’s Word.

    What is and is not appropriate from the pulpit? As far as what is appropriate from the pulpit, what I am learning from seminary and being within our church context is knowing the community you are in informs what is appropriate. With that said, that does not mean adding or taking away from what the Scripture says, while it does mean using wisdom and humility in the pulpit (Matthew 10:16).

    Do our mothers and fathers in the church have a responsibility to discipline the young – even, and especially, if he is the preacher? I thank God for all the support that God has so graciously given me from my mother to the leaders/congregants at East Point Church. I believe they would agree that we have a responsibility and a biblical mandate to hold one another accountable, especially those in leadership (Romans 4:4; Acts 17:11; Ephesians 4:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:22-25; 1 John 4:1).

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Aw, you must be mistaking me for Thabiti.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Well said Josh! Humility, as you know, is the key. The pulpit is a dangerous place for hearts not completely sanctified. Being clever and hip may bring us notoriety, but it does not always bring glory to God. Stay thirsty, my friend!

  • Avatar Pastor Bruce says:

    Bro Randy

    Your reply should be framed and put outside churches for people to read before they entered the sanctuary to worship the Lord.

  • Avatar daveski says:

    Great article, Pastor Carter!

    When I first heard about the situation, my mind went to “That is poor shepherding?”

    Unfortunately, when the desire to be culturally relevant or cool in the pulpit eclipses the desire and need to be reverent toward God and caring for the sheep, things like this happen. Preaching is a divine event and the man speaking God’s word ought to understand how weighty that task is.

    As it seems, Bryant’s words were the fruit of a root problem going on the recesses of his own heart.

    This is a great example of why a plurality of elders is most helpful for the teaching elder, the congregation, the witness of the church and the glory of God.

    d.

  • Avatar Derrick Johnson says:

    spot on Pastor Carter!!! Often times I’ve seen in this context as you’re describing and asking the question that “the elder” has been relegated to a subservient role not to call into question what the pastor says or does.

  • Avatar nate says:

    Great article, but I think in his mere attempt not to criticize Bryant, he does. To ask the question, “Where are the elders?” already suggests that Bryant has done something wrong. The author even provided examples to support such claims…the elders brought correction when things went wrong. Therefore, I don’t think the author should suggest he’s not judging Bryant because he is….and rightfully so.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Actuallly Nate, on one hand you are right. The criticism is self-evident and therefore in merely pointing out Bryant’s error is criticism of it. However, the article is not taken up with an critical analysis of why what Bryant said was wrong but rather to point out the systematic failures of a community void of the presence of elders. Still, your point is true. Critiquing Bryant is easy in this instance. No analysis is necessary. Just let what he said speak for itself. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in!

  • Avatar johnnie whitehead says:

    Wonderful article – the time is coming where young David(s) will have rise up to take down some of these Goliaths. When the pulpit becomes the place to shame the sheep, the shepherds are feasting on their riches. what does the world see?

  • Avatar Dale says:

    When the Pastor and his wife are ‘Founders’ of their ministry, there is virtually no accountability or oversight in place.

  • Avatar William Douglas says:

    Thanks for such good and solid writing about this important matter. May God give us elders who love the glory of the Lamb’s bride and will defend her.

  • Avatar Vince says:

    Great article!!!

    What do you think? Does it still take a village? I agree, it takes a ‘village’ or more aptly – the body of Christ – to edify the ‘body of Christ’ and those seeking God. There seem to be a lot of churches that are more concerned with membership vs mentorship. Sadly, discipleship seems like a taboo in some churches.

    Are the elders as
    essential as I suggest they are? Empathically “YES” There should be a plurality of elders.

    What is and is not appropriate from the
    pulpit? Hmm, I ‘think’ everything is ok except profanity and crass sexual innuendos.

    Do our mothers and fathers in the church have a responsibility
    to discipline the young – even, and especially, if he is the preacher? Yes!!! – if they ‘come correct.’ In other words, if they are sound :)!

  • Avatar Deryk Hayes says:

    Good stuff Pastor Tony!

  • Avatar Lance Mann says:

    Brother Dale I will take it a step further when it relates to Bryant. I don’t believe it has anything to do with him being the “Founder” of his church as the reason for his lack of accountability. Because his father is a well known and respected Bishop in the AME Church nationally. I would suggest that once one begins preaching on the “circuit” and their ministry becomes larger than the one accountable to, oft times the relationship erodes.

  • Avatar Dale says:

    Basically ego replaced humility. Gifts and talents propel many into the national spotlight. The lack of mental and spiritual maturity reveal flleshy lifesyle choices.
    BTW it’s Sister Dale.

Leave a Reply

The Front Porch

Conversations about biblical
faithfulness in African-American
churches and beyond