Excerpts from The Rev. Joe Darby's view of Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African-American Sermons, 1750 to the Present:
A friend of mine at The Post and Courier, who knew that I’d get restless while recovering from surgery, gave me some “homework” – to read “Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African-American Sermons, 1750 to the Present” and do a book review. In addition to keeping me occupied, the book was enlightening and revelatory...
It hit me while reading those sermons that the historically black church and her preachers – from Richard Allen to Frederick Douglass to Adam Clayton Powell to Martin Luther King, Jr. – served as America’s spiritual and moral conscience....
Too many preachers today are more interested in “preaching style” and entertainment than in making a difference in the lives of those in and beyond their churches. Too many sermons today are the equivalent of theological “fast food” – long on sensory appeal and pleasant taste, but short on spiritual nutrition. Too many “megachurches” serve up a counterfeit Gospel that emphasizes personal prosperity but ignores personal and corporate responsibility for those who are lost, hurting and in need of advocates who can speak truth to power. Rather than being sold on the liberating power of Jesus, many churches have simply “sold out” and allowed divisive demagogues like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rocky D. to create confusion without challenge.
Those who laid the foundations of the historically black church once sang in brush arbors and praise houses that we should “all go back to the old landmark.” We should take their admonition seriously today. Those who stand in the pulpit should be authentic in promoting spiritual and social well being and in demanding that America be “one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all.” Those in the pews should make it plain that we are to be about our Father’s business and change our churches, our communities, our state and our nation for the better. Going to the polls on November 2 and electing those who go beyond empty words to stand for progress and well being for all of God’s children would be an excellent starting point.
Click here to read the full review. His critique of the failures of preachers and the church today speaks to black, white and multi-cultural churches across the United Sates.
Rev. Darby is the senior minister of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, SC.