Those Old People and that Old Church Kept Me Married
Last Sunday I visited a fairly new church plant in my town. The church was planted out of one of the oldest Black Baptist churches in town. My son was schedule to preach there, so my wife and I went to support him and to be an encouragement to the young pastor and the members. I wanted to urge them on in the work.
I had a great, lengthy conversation with the pastor. It was refreshing to see and hear his excitement about the gospel. The area where he planted has many needs, one of which is an outpost for the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. I learned quite a bit about him as he openly shared about his life in the traditional Black Baptist church he planted out of. He was/is an Associate minister of the former church and is still very active with their youth. He and the young minister at the new church plant attend a monthly minister’s training meeting led by the pastor and ministers of the former church. So in many ways the former church is not really the former church. He still has intimate ties; this, to me, is a good thing.
What was extremely interesting and encouraging to me was his obvious affection for that congregation. When he spoke of why he loved that old church so much, it sent chills up and down my spine. He said, “Those old people and that church kept me married.” He told me when he came to the church he was young (20′s) and young in marriage. The church he attended in a previous town was young also. The members and the pastor were about his age. They were basically peers. What he and his wife needed was stability, an infrastructure of sorts. One that would not only train him for ministry, but one that would teach and model for him what it meant to be a faithful husband. His wife needed to be around older women who would help her understand her role as a wife.
That’s where the “old people” came in. This was an older traditional Black Baptist church. Therefore it had its share of older couples. People celebrating forty plus years of marriage was common in this church. The pastor of the new church plant said with tons of appreciation and admiration in his voice and eyes: “They were exactly what my wife and I needed”. He said he owed his current years in marriage to the dear older saints in that church. They taught me how to be married forty plus years, he said. “They took us and raised us up from babies to adults in our marriage,” he said on the verge of tears.
The old traditional Black Church has stood for many things in our communities. The causes she has led for Black people are numerous, i.e. her cries for justice during the Civil Rights movement to her response to the unrest in Ferguson. For this young pastor and for me, she has been a mainstay for our marriages.
Though many of her members have come through many dangers, toils, and snares and have faced many obstacles aimed directly against their marriages, she — the Black church — by God’s grace, has turned out many solid, healthy and long marriages.
Even though some newcomers (; ) in her ranks stand against God’s purpose and plan for marriage and seek alternatives, she continues to herald, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” ()
As the church planting pastor reflected on the longevity of marriages that helped him along, I rejoiced knowing he will be a part of “The Coming Reformation of Black Churches” as he continues to preach the Gospel and model biblical marriage. Our talk also reminded me of the need of senior saints in church plants. Their wisdom, stability, and “long obedience in the same direction” can be so helpful to any young church, especially a new church plant.
I am so grateful for the time I spent in worship with this new church plant. I am also grateful for the conversation with this church planter. His appreciation for the godly example of the long marriages of the senior members of his former congregation made me praise God for the older members of the congregations I grew up in and around. Today I thank God first for our parents, the Loves and the Larks, then there’s the Whites, Wests, Burns, Kyles, Williams, Sims, Turners, Boldens, Jones, Blairs, Rouses, Lewis’ Chisms (Sr. and Jr.), Grants, and yes the Crocketts.
The Lord graciously used and is still using those old people and those old churches to keep me married too.
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (ESV)
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ESV)
6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (ESV)