FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – On Feb. 28, 148 years ago, the Civil War raged full force, as the Union army began an unsuccessful raid against the Confederacy in Virginia. The war would not end for more than a year.
But on Feb. 28, 2012, as Southwestern honored Black Heritage Day, President Paige Patterson addressed a crowd of black and white Christians who joined together to worship the Lord and to hear Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Johnnie Bradley Sr. preach from the Bible.
Though not perfect yet, no one could argue that America has seen a massive change in the 148 years that link the days of slavery and prejudice with the days of freedom and forgiveness. Part of the reason for that change, Patterson told chapel attendees, lies in the rich fiber of pastors during those years.
“This world has no idea how great that influence is,” Patterson said. “Part of it is a tragic influence, coming out of those despicable and unthinkable years of slavery. There was, within the black community, a resiliency, that made it possible for those sweet brothers and sisters to survive under the most miserable conceivable circumstances—circumstances that would dehumanize anybody, that would absolutely break your soul and your spirit.
“One of the reasons that they survived during all those horrible years is the resiliency of their faith in the living God, epitomized like nobody else by the black preachers,” Patterson said of the Christian leaders who helped America begin to heal and move past its soiled and sorrowful past, even as equality proved slow in coming.
Patterson noted S.M. Lockridge and John Jasper as two African American preachers who significantly affected Christianity and were sources of encouragement and hope during the dark days of slavery and the long days of recovery and rebuilding that followed.
“God has graciously used the black pulpit to impact so many of us,” Patterson said, recalling that the reverse was true for him as his first congregation in South Texas—an African American congregation—dually impacted him in his early days of ministry.
The music school chose songs written by Andraé Crouch, an African American gospel singer/songwriter, for the chapel service and Bradley preached from Jonah, reminding everyone to obey God’s call and to follow His direction regardless of selfish desires and preferences.
“We are constantly consumed with self, doing something for self and to self. How different is this versus the message that Jesus Christ left us in Matthew chapter number 20 and verse number 28?” Bradley asked.
“Jesus says the Son of man did not come to minister to or concentrate on self but to minister and give His life a ransom for many. We must stop riding in the ship of selfishness and get in the ship that compels us to think about others regardless of ethnicity, background or social status.”