Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This is the Church of God In Christ: A Contemplation

I am joined into the Church of God in Christ.

There is a church song which says, “This is the Church of God in Christ, you can’t join in, you have to be born in”… These lyrics have always troubled me because although I have been in church most of my life, I was raised in a Baptist church. In fact, my childhood pastor, Dr. C.H. Hampton, was good friends with Bishop J. A. Blake, the father of Presiding Bishop C.E. Blake. The notion that you have to be born in has always troubled me because the Church of God in Christ is the denomination that I belong to. I mean BELONG to. When I came to myself and called on the name of the Lord to cleanse me and set me free, it was to the Church of God in Christ that HE guided me. It was the Church of God in Christ where I re-dedicated my life to Christ. It was at the Church of God in Christ that I got baptized for the third time in my life. It is in the Church of God in Christ where I study God’s holy word. It is within the Church of God in Christ that I follow my clergical calling. And so, I have joined in. I am so glad that the Presiding Bishop Patterson made us change the lyrics…

The rich history of COGIC
Long before attending any sort of bible study, I began to study the Church of God in Christ. When I was newly graduated from my new member’s class, I was in the bookstore getting a few books and I
came across a little book known as the COGIC Official Manual. I was so surprised!!! And so I purchased it. I am fascinated with the origins of the Church of God in Christ. Being a broadcaster, after hearing the story of the Azusa Street Revival, I went to the USC Library at the Annenberg School of Communications so that I could look up the published news reports of the revival. It is interesting to note that the Revival received front page coverage in most major newspapers of the region and front page or near the front placement in major newspapers in the major cities of the time. It is interesting to note the perseverance our founder Bishop Charles Harrison Mason had as he completely and unabashedly received the knowledge and baptism of the Holy Ghost even as some of his original circle rejected him and distanced themselves from him. It is quite interesting to note that the miraculous falling of the Holy Ghost in “modern” times was thoroughly documented in secular news sources. The falling of the Spirit was real. Its results are tangible. Our Church is born out of this modern time experience and out of it even more churches were (see Assemblies of God) born. Today, we are the foremost Pentecostal denomination in the world today.

The “Dark Period” of COGIC
It is interesting to note the COGIC “dark period” which began after our beloved founder passed away. It is critical to note that this dark period took place near and during the days of our current Presiding Bishop’s college days. Consider this: Bishop Blake’s father was one of the original members of the general board after the “reorganization” of our denomination. Imagine the intuitiveness a young Charles Blake had as he was raised in the footsteps of one of COGIC’s greatest and most influential preachers. So intuitive that while he studied at the International Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, one of his dissertations was known as “The Church of God in Christ: It’s Organizational Crisis. This document is the scholarly foundation for Bishop Blake’s ascension to the leadership of our denomination and demonstrates why he has been instrumental in the steady and sure course of the Church of God in Christ in these days and time. And while the world changes and people need Jesus even the more, the role of COGIC is more pronounced and Bishop Blake is the right man for the job.

Holiness and Sanctification
The notion of sanctification beyond cliché’ is quite serious for me. The deeper my walk goes, the more I see how and why I must live a sanctified life. That is to be “set apart” from the norm. It is important to me because my denomination requires it. Now, as for me, this is an interesting walk. My career is built upon being a broadcaster. I am a mass communicator with a mission to preserve and promote African American pop culture and history. In my field you hear and see inappropriate music, films and discussion. I have frequently asked my subordinates to manage an event or promotion for me because it is completely contrary to my sanctification requirements. I am going deeper in the Lord and this notion of sanctification is becoming even more important.

The customs and traditions of COGIC
On the surface, I love the “pageantry” of the Church of God in Christ. At Holy Convocation both State and National, I get goosebumps when I see the procession of the Bishops, Elders and Adjutants. I love the promotion of excellence in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. The essence of our music is certainly the foundation of not only church culture, but all of African American Culture. You will find and hear similarities of black gospel in all of R&B. Most singers will have to remember they got their start in the black church. And the core of that soulful black music sound can be traced to the rhythms of the Church of God in Christ. The preaching of the Word is delivered in a way that touches me deeply. Even as I define my preaching style, I find myself looking at videos from not only today’s top COGIC preachers, I am going back. I see Bishop LH Ford. I hear Bishop J. Delano Ellis. I see Bishop JO Patterson, Bishop G.E. Patterson, Bishop Charles E. Blake and so many many more. The preached Word from the pulpit of the Church of God in Christ is clear, true and resonates with me on a level that is almost indescribable. And while hooping and yelling the Word across the pulpit is not necessary to extend salvation to the lost, I still love the tradition of the sing song style backed by a crisp, rich Hammond B3 organ. (note: Bishop GE Patterson once said "Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and evangelizing the Word of God is not about hooping and hollering and yelling your message across the room while the man or the woman plays the organ or the piano behind you, but it is about letting the Spirit of God take course as you do what God has called you to do for spreading His unadulterated Gospel.")

This is the Church of God in Christ

I am saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. I am called to minister God’s Word to today’s people. I am called as a minister of the gospel to promote social justice in our community. I like the discipline demanded for in the Church of God in Christ. I like the mothers praying. I love the tambourines, the drums. Sometimes I just close my eyes and take in the sounds of the saints praising and praying, the mothers beating and playing their tambourines all against a backdrop of the gospel musicians. Within this menagerie of loud and “peculiar” expression of reverence to God is my direct connect to our Heavenly Father through his Son Jesus Christ. This is the Church of God in Christ.