Archive for February, 2014

We Overcome by the Word of our Testimony… ‘Anybody Got a Testimony?’

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Antipas Harris

TS SS BannerLately, I have been thinking a lot about “Testimony Services” in the church where I grew up. Our church was one of the,  “sanctified churches.” As explained in Cheryl J. Sander’s Saints in Exile, basically the “sanctified churches” were the predominantly African American Classical Pentecostal Churches. But, we did not call them “Pentecostal” churches. We understood ourselves to be “holiness churches” or “sanctified churches.” I did not realize I was “Pentecostal” until I was a teenager. I just knew that I was supposed to get “saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost,”– as the pastors would often explain, “like the Bible says.” In other words, our self-understanding was that we were living out the experience of the New Testament Church. This experience was not only my upbringing but also one that was both spiritually and intellectually formational. I appreciate the emphasis on salvation, sanctification and the baptism of the Spirit. But also, I have come to realize that my reading of scripture as a scholar was formed (or my hermeneutic was shaped) by my early experience of African American Pentecostal Christianity — with emphasis on “African American” because in some ways it may have been different than the “European American” experience of Pentecostal Christianity.

Testimonies played a large role in both the church services and in faith formation. Recently, I lectured for the 2nd Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ of Virginia’s Worker’s Retreat. It took me back to those good ole days in Manchester, GA — both “across the mountain” at A House of the Living God, Church of Jesus Christ and at “Bridge Street” at the Bridge Street Church of God in Christ. As my dad was the pastor of the former but was saved in the latter, the worship experience was very similar. In most African American “sanctified churches,” testimony service was either before the sermon or after the sermon. I remember vividly that during testimony service, my mom or another mother would spontaneously start singing that ole song, “Believe I’ll testify, while I have a chance. I may not have this chance anymore.” The song spoke to a conviction that the Christian faith requires us to testify. But also, it presupposed that those testimonies were not only to be shared with unbelievers outside of the walls of the church, but also to be shared among the sisters and brothers of faith – ” the saints.”

In form, they had only a few ways to start-off: “I do honor the Lord, to the Spirit of Christ and to everybody here to make up this waiting congregation….”; or “I give honor to God, the head of my life, to the saints and friends. I just want to thank the Lord for….”; or some of them were as short as “Thank the Lord for my life.” Whether the testimony was long or short in length, testimonies were deemed essential to faith formation. So, they were not just another thing to do in the service. In fact, they were so important that as young boys and girls, the children were taught to get up and give their testimonies as well. It was part of how the “sanctified church” understood Proverbs 22:6, as recorded in the KJV, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Read the rest of this entry »

On Pryor and Pop Culture: A Response

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 by Dale M. Coulter

My Regent colleague Scott Pryor has graciously offered two responses (here and here) to my post at First Thoughts on evangelicals and pop culture. I am always appreciative for the way in which Pryor engages me in the spirit of “iron sharpening iron.” I should state at the outset that I consider blog posts to be more ad hoc explorations of various ideas and themes in relationship to issues being discussed. My posts are no different and thus they do not represent a fully-developed position on these issues. A complete response to Pryor would, it seems to me, require a more substantial piece than the medium of blogging allows. Having said that, there are some areas in which I think Pryor has misunderstood what I was attempting to do.

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‘Chile,’ We Don’t Even Know the Half!: A Reflection on African American History — The Soul of American History

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Antipas Harris

bhmFall 2013, I was blessed at the invitation of Archbishop Idem Ikon of Revival Valley Ministries International to travel Nigeria for the first time! The experience was  another life-changing one. In the picture to the lower right, I stood in a beautiful garden just off of the shores of  a river in Cross River.

This could be my ancestor’s home – I don’t know! That very area where I stood, gazing into the beautiful greenery is where, during the late 18th–early 19th centuries, many African people were forced to board slave ships to begin a 6 month (or more) journey to the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »