Special to South Florida Times
Pastors at a first-of-its kind conference have challenged themselves and other faith leaders to make a greater impact on their communities.
“We call ourselves the body of Christ but we are lying,” said the Rev. Michael Anderson of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in West Park. “God has given us a plan and we don’t live by it. We need to be more courageous, caring and compassionate. The church does not have a plan unless it operates by the plan of God.”
The startling acknowledgement of shortcomings came from pastors in a panel discussion Tuesday night at the Gospel Practitioner Planning Conference. It took place at Koinonia Worship Center and Village in Pembroke Park.
Information coming out of the meeting will inform the planning for next year’s conference and fuel the ministers’ course of action, said Elder Mathes Guice, director of the men’s ministry at Koinonia.
The Rev. G. Vincent Lewis, chief of staff at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, who gave the featured address, described the church’s role today as “not impactful on the minds of people on a day-to-day basis.”
“Our forbearers built institutions and colleges and we can’t seem to keep them open,” he said. Ministry, Lewis said, is about something that “helps us be
complete. And we need to take responsibility for that.”
That view was shared by the Rev. Dr. O’Neal Dozier of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach. The church, he said, is failing to make an impact not only on the community but also on the world.
“Leadership is not about finances or ego,” Dozier said. “Those things need to be parked so we can clearly address what needs to be done.”
What needs to be done, he said, is for the church to help the poor.
People are waiting on the church to make a difference, said the Rev. Eric Jones, Koinonia’s pastor. “The church has one ministry,” he said, “the ministry of reconciliation. And it’s the irreconcilable differences that hurt.”
Community involvement was also the theme of comments from the Rev. Dr. Anthony Davis of the Church of Brotherly Love in Deerfield Beach. Becoming more involved with community efforts could make a change, he said, adding, “and that’s what I do.”
“I attend the community meetings; I see what the people need. We need to take authority over ourselves and stop blaming others; to make a way to buy our own 40 acres,” Davis said.
Guice said the conference, attended by some 40 people, including eight pastors, was necessary.
“We have been forced to look at ourselves critically and inwardly,” said Guice, who was facilitator for the panel discussion. “We can do better. We are at a critical point in history and cannot sit idly by and do nothing.”
Historically, Guice said, the black church has been at the forefront of all movement within the community. “The NAACP, black colleges and businesses — the church has been involved,” he said. But, now, he said, the church has “taken a back seat” and some “are not involved at all.”
“Through our involvement with the community over the years, we noted a disturbing deficiency in leadership,” he said.
Most people see the crime, youth violence and other social ills in the community and do not realize that “they emanate from what we consider sin and it is up to the church to address sin-related issues.”
Guice described the community as “a reflection of the church” and the church “a reflection of its pastor.”
Pastors, he said, are not just “a part of the problem or associated with the problem, they are the problem. The church and the pastors have the solution, but they take no action.”
West Park resident Willie Manor, 63, liked what he heard from the pastors, describing it as a “start of something fresh.”
He was glad, he said, to see that the church “is not only willing to step up but that it is clearly taking responsibility for neglecting the community.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.
Photo: Mathis Guice