Charlottesville and the Sacred Desk

by Earon M. James Sr.

The pulpit has often been referred to as the sacred desk. It is the place from which the Word of God is to be faithfully proclaimed for the nourishment of God’s people.

Whenever I approach this topic, my mind goes back to Nehemiah 8 and the solemn assembly that was held after the repairs to the wall of Jerusalem were completed. Ezra stood on a wooden platform and read from the Book of the Law. A team of men assisted him in his task as they helped the people to understand the meaning of God’s Word.

What an honor it is to stand in the presence of God and before his people to expound upon the Scriptures. As we do so, we are utterly dependent upon the Spirit of God to bring conviction and lead us to repentance. It is a part of the process of God conforming us to the image of the Son. The task of feeding the flock of God is a sacred task indeed.

The sacred desk also comes with responsibility. One aspect of this responsibility is to speak prophetically in confronting sin. In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, there is a glaring need to condemn white supremacy and nationalism from the sacred desk.

I want to be crystal clear here. I’m not just talking about the racist bigotry and systemic issues that exist in the world. I’m talking about us as pastors boldly confronting them within our churches and the religious structures of our day. Racism and the idolatry of nationalism must be confronted face-to-face from the pulpit to the dinner table.

Every pastor knows that there are some sermons that are much easier to preach than others. We know that as long as we confront the sins that people are comfortable with us confronting things will go smoothly. As long as we continue to pet cultural idols instead of exposing them, we don’t have to worry about the onslaught of emails, letters, complaints, and hostile meetings. Right now many pastors are wrestling with the fear of losing members, relationships, networking opportunities, and even positions. It is not a pleasant experience to have your livelihood threatened, being accused of going “liberal” and having your character questioned because you dared to speak to ethnocentrism and privilege.

However, now is not the time to play it safe. We cannot shy away from denouncing this sin by name. The legacy of the church that has been handed down to us through the ages has never been about playing it safe. The call to discipleship is the antithesis to self-preservation. If speaking the truth results in us taking losses in the here and now, it only reinforces the hope of glory that lies ahead.

Brother Pastor, you have been given your platform to please God first and foremost. What do you value more, the approval of man or the affirmation of God? Preach the hard messages prayerfully, graciously, truthfully, and boldly. Trust God. If you have to suffer loss, then do so with dignity and honor. Let it not be said of us that we shrank away from our prophetic responsibility. Let it not be said of us that we sought to use the sacred desk as means to personal peace and affluence.

I pray that the Father would grant us the strength and courage to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed openly and faithfully. I pray that we would take the hits for them as our Lord graciously took the hits for us.

Editor's Note: For more information on CBR's stance on racial reconciliation, see Statement 6 of our Manifesto on Evangelical Baptist Catholicity.