Today I was inspired by a picture. It was not an ethereal scene of splendor basked in vivid color showcasing a part of the world I may never see. Nor, was it a face unflawed and brilliant, illuminated by the perfect amount of natural light. Instead, it was a photograph that depicted power, fervor and a spirit that screamed enough-is-enough. The photo is of a pastor who has grown tired of seeing the senseless violence and death occurring in his community. The photo didn’t capture my attention because I know the pastor, or members of the congregation. It forced me to pause because it is passionate display of how it looks when God’s people come together on one accord.
Pastor Theo ‘Ta-Ta’ Wilkins is putting faith into action and -with his congregation in tow- is making noise in the name of Jesus. I don’t know about other cities but in Los Angeles (namely South Central) there is a church on every corner with a liquor store right next to it. It baffles me that inside the church we hear catch phrases and clichés about the goodness of God, but outside the four walls is a gang infested neighborhood complete with all the activities one imagines would occurs within that vicinity.
This picture should be on the cover of every African-American periodical in publication. It is a reminder of the true power of the church. It seems as though many pastors have forgotten that the Black church use to be the social justice hub for the community. Yet, some have turned into palaces for entertainment and lack the true intent of why we are supposed to assemble together. Instead of bickering on who is going to Heaven, or Hell; it’s time to help our communities. It’s time to show the community what God is all about. He is not locked in a box, only to be let out during Bible study and Sunday service. There is such a battle for supremacy that occurs between supposedly like-minded ‘saints’ and if not careful those who are newly seeking God will turn and walk away.
This picture reminded me of the noise made by those who marched and rallied during the Civil Rights Movement. It reminds me of the power of a good leader. One who is not about title, position, or fame; but has authentic concern for people and community. I pray that everyone who sees this photograph is inspired and impacted by the spirit on the face of these people. The violence needs to stop and it is time for our children and elderly to feel safe in their communities.
Kudos to Pastor Wilkins and those leaders like him who grew tired of hiding in their pastoral offices while gunshots and helicopters serenaded their community. I am praying with and for you.
Pastor Theo Wilkins is the Senior Pastor at Three Oaks Baptist Church in Los Angeles, CA.