Rev. Lisa Jenkins, Senior Pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem in New York, in her guest blog post writes about why she accepted an invitation to preach at a church where she knew she would preach from the floor.
Last Sunday I was the afternoon guest preacher for a Women’s Day service. The church has a tradition of not allowing women to preach at all. Yep! Check your watch. Check your calendar. 2016 and women not allowed to preach in the ‘sacred pulpit’. Now remember, I’ve been licensed to preach the Gospel since 1997 and ordained since 2002. I can’t remember there EVER being a time when I was asked to preach somewhere other than the main pulpit at a church. Of course, I’m sure there are many places where I just wasn’t invited at all because I’m a female. But, their loss, right??
But about this preaching from the floor last Sunday…
There were a few people (mostly sisters) who said that I should have turned down the engagement. But I didn’t think twice. I preached from the floor and not the pulpit for three reasons: 1) I wanted to bring a word to a group of Awesome People; 2) I wanted to help an Awesome Brother who is doing a new thing, and 3) I wanted to represent, serve and worship an Awesome God.
- The people, the women, in particular, at this church are absolutely awesome. I had the pleasure of conducting a retreat for the Women last October. To say that I was blessed at this retreat is an understatement. Sometimes conducting retreats and workshops is ‘work’. I know most folk think that this stuff is not ‘work’ for preachers, but it is. Work! But after teaching and preaching and fellowshipping with these sisters, and having THEM pray for ME before I left to get back to my church was mind-blowing. I was on a spiritual high all week just from being with these women. I could tell that they knew that God had something more for them. That they were ready for God’s move and the new thing God was and is doing in their lives. I wanted to be around these people – these women, these sisters – again.
- I wanted to help an awesome brother. The pastor of this church has proven himself to be just plain old good peeps! People expect new pastors to be able to turn situations around immediately. Folk who don’t understand leadership miss the ability to turn the ship which has been on course for so long. When the Pastor arrived at this church, they didn’t even allow drums or liturgical dance. Little by little, he has been teaching folk and loving folk so that God can do a new thing. When people are force-fed something, they don’t digest it. They choke. That’s why some things have to be broken up into small pieces so that it’s digestible. If the pastor had put me in the pulpit, there would have been people choking instead of digesting. That’s a fact. Stop! You know how folk get. They already have a hard time concentrating on the sermon because they’re checking out what you’re wearing. What length is the skirt! Why she wear that color robe?? She got too much makeup on. Girl, she needs some lipstick… Why she got on all that jewelry? She could have worn something around her neck. A scarf or something... Just stop! You know how folk get. And a woman in the pulpit when there are members who have been socialized and enculturated into believing that sisters should nevah evah preach! Yo! Assimilation is deep y’all. Culture is a hellova thing to change. It ain’t easy and it is not an overnight miracle. This thing is bigger than Pastor Lisa D. Jenkins. It’s about me tryna make a crack in a tradition that has been entrenched in a place for close to a century. And I am not trying to have folk call a meeting on a brother who is at least trying to make a change. For what? So someone else can be brought in who will take the church back another 50 years. Nope. We’re gonna work God’s plan, inch by inch. And that brings me to….
- I wanted to represent, serve and worship an Awesome God. In other words, I wanted to do what I’m called to do. I wanted to preach the Gospel. To be clear, the pastor felt that my preaching from a side podium on the pulpit would not get him fired, so that was offered to me first. But I said, ‘nope’. I want to preach in the center. And if that means that I’m preaching on the floor, then so be it. I want God’s word to be ‘centered’ and go forth. I told my mentor, Dr. Martha Simmons, that I would be preaching from the floor. She said, “Fine! Just preach like you lost your mind. Preach so that they have no doubt about your calling.” This calling is not about me. I’ve broken ground before. I have absolutely nothing to prove. As an unwed mother raising a black male in America and having been called to not one but two Black Baptist Churches in the same city, I have absolutely nothing to prove. Everything is because of God. The Word of God is too precious to not proclaim even in challenging situations. No! It, the Word of God, is too precious to not proclaim ESPECIALLY in challenging situations. I don’t preach for me. I preach for Jesus. I preach Jesus and him crucified. I preach so that the bonds can be broken from the lives of others. I preach because I know it is always my calling to do so. I preach so that if anyone has a doubt that I should not be preaching, they will realize that they must have bumped their head and now they’re woke. Yep! I preach like I’m losing my mind because people are losing their lives. I preach because this thing is too important for me not to preach. I preach so that sisters who come after me will be better off. Because if sisters are better off, then brothers are better off, because we all are One Body! I preach because I believe – I know – that our latter will be greater than our past!!
What do you think? Do you think women are called preach? Why or why not? If women are called to preach, does it matter where they preach? Why or why not?
#shepreaches #sheteaches #be Empowered
Rev. Lisa D. Jenkins is Senior Pastor of the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem, located in New York City. She is an adjunct lecturer in the field of multicultural studies. Her mission is to help empower people for purpose-filled living. Although her overall calling is to help men and women fulfill their calling and realize their potential, she has a special place in her heart for women who are actively involved in ministry. Her work has been featured in The African American Lectionary, and in the bestselling book, These Sisters Can Say It Volume 2. Her sermons and work can soon be found on ROHO, which was recently featured in the New York Times. She is the author of Scandal: An Introductory Brief on the Gospel of Jesus the Christ in Ancient Palestine. A single mother, her son, Jordan, is a college student who works part-time as a merchandiser. They both realize that ADHD is their strength, not their weakness, and they help others realize the same!
Rev. Jenkins can be reached through her website: www.lisadjenkins.org. Follow her on Twitter @RevLDJenkins