Monday, July 24, 2017

The Gospel According to Power: When God says "Don't Thank Me"

There’s a question that has been haunting me and daring me to write/teach/speak/preach about it for about  6 weeks now and you’ll hear it in some format from me sooner or later in detail. The question is:

What are we going to say to God when he asks us to give an account?

 You see, there’s a book being kept  on all of us- there’s an account and a record on high- right now that we all are going to have to speak on one day and the question hit me- 
what are we going to say to God when he asks us:

Where you been?

What you been doing?

Did you see my church in need?

Was football more important than me?

Sunday was the only day to cut grass?

None of the Pastors that I sent your church were any count?

The answer to those questions is not the focus of this piece but it is something that’s kept me awake at night lately and I won’t rest comfortably until it’s been satisfied…the focus of this piece isn’t what we will say to God when he quizzes us but rather what he may say to us in return.

I’m watching Power right along with the rest of you and slowly and surely we see Angela softening her position-no longer is she the confident, cold, stone faced federal attorney that marched James St. Patrick out of his nightclub but now she’s questioning and reconsidering everything up to and including  the guilt or innocence of the man who broke her heart. Angela discovers evidence exonerating James, makes a bold, career-risking move to secure his freedom and as she retreats from the witness stand- Jamie thanks her…to which she stops on a dime, whips her body towards him and snaps “don’t thank me, you didn’t do this one but you’re still guilty of others…” before returning to her seat.

*Show of hands* 

All of  you who believe that James St. Patrick is going to use this second chance to exit the drug industry, give his life to Christ and work with a non-profit organization in that big, rich town please raise your hand…in the words of my former Presiding Elder- “seeing hands, hearing no voices”…

We insult God when we thank him for his saving power but we do absolutely nothing to get out of the mess that we needed saving from in the first place.

God says don’t thank me for delivering you from Newports if your next stop is a nickel bag.

God says don’t thank me for ending your reliance on Alize’ if you’re planning a step up to Hennessy.

God says don’t thank me for keeping your family together if you’re just planning to move on to the next one in a different area code.

God says don’t thank me for the saving of your soul if you’re just going to return to where you lost it in the first place.

God says if you want a toy, you’d better go to the dime store.

God says “I’m not for play, play”.

God says the best way to thank me is to change.

God says quit like your name is Sean Spicer.

Walk away from the sin.

Lay aside the weight.

God says, then you can thank me later.

God’s Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Ain't Worried About Nothing

I remember several years ago when I was still living in Orangeburg, a scandal rocked the church community when I was a very young preacher. Mom and I were talking over dinner and I mentioned how shocked and saddened and disgusted I was. I distinctly remember that Mom had a super laissez-faire demeanor about everything that I told her and I was a bit put off so I stopped my complaint and asked her point blank…Mom- what do you have to say about this- do you not care- are you not surprised. Mom’s reply was classic and quintessential Bessie Dowling… “child, I’ve lived long enough and seen the Lord move long enough that nothing really surprises me anymore…” She kept eating her beans, kept attending worship, kept giving, kept forgiving, kept being the amazing superhero that all of us know her to be because way back in the late 90’s…Mom had the beauty of perspective and loads of Christian maturity.

I know we’ve watched the news with our hands over our mouths the last 2 weeks or so but I assure you that the world is not going crazy, rather the world has BEEN crazy…let’s check the book…

God put a man and a woman in paradise. Everything that they could have ever wanted was within arm’s reach. He told them not to do ONE thing while giving them freedom to do MANY things…they decided to do that ONE thing that they weren't supposed to do…that’s crazy…

That same couple had a son named Cain and a son named Abel. They both brought gifts to God but when God smiled on one gift brighter than he smiled on the other gift, instead of stepping his game up the next time, Cain decided that he was going to kill his brother…that’s crazy…

Lot and his wife were in town when Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed. The entire city was doomed but they were instructed that they would be saved if they just followed God’s instructions and did not turn around- Lot’s wife decided the rules didn’t apply to her and she turned around…that’s crazy…

Abraham and Sarah were advanced in age and were childless. God promised Abraham that he would have a son from his own body but Sarah didn’t believe that the baby would or could come from her so she offered her servant Hagar to Abraham and instead of waiting on the Lord for the promised Isaac, Abraham produces Ishmael instead who he mistreats and sends away…that’s crazy…

Just in case you think I’m reaching for data, those stories can all be found in the first 19 chapters of the first book of the Bible...

I suppose I could also mention that the Savior of the world appeared and cared, healed, forgave, blessed, touched and loved for 33 years without sinning one time and the crazy world decided to release crazy Barabbas and rewarded the Prince of Peace with a crown of thorns and placed Him on a rugged cross to die…that’s pretty crazy- isn’t it?

The world is not going crazy- the world has been crazy. The book we pledge our allegiance to tells us all about it if we could be bothered to read it.

Nation will rise against nation
Daughter will rise against Mother
Son will rise against Father
Earthquakes in various places
Famine, Pestilence, Disease

We can’t be afraid of lions and tigers and bears when they show their faces because the Bible almost spells it out for us…

Police Brutality
North Korea
Senseless and Stupid Acts of Violence

So forgive me for not sharing any money on GoFundMe, I’m not going to post about nuclear weapons or the mother of all bombs or the roads and bridges in Atlanta…all of those things are products and by-products of the world. I serve a God that tells me to “be of good cheer…I have overcome the world…”

I’m blessed to have the Mother that I do- she’s worth far more than rubies and I learned much from her shrugging off that scandal 20 years ago…so when I woke up from my nap on Easter to find that a 74 year old man had been brutally murdered on social media by a sociopath, I didn’t pop out of bed to criticize the world for being the world- I didn’t cry or stress or worry over Bro. Godwin but truthfully even in the midst of my sleepy fog, I exhaled and mumbled out loud… “well, thank God for Jesus- now at least there’s hope for a resurrection.” 

You can rise up too. 

Beams of Heaven as I go
Through this wilderness below
Guide my feet in peaceful ways
Turn my midnight into days

When in the darkness I would grope
Faith always sees a star of hope
And soon from all life's grief and anger
I shall be free...someday

I do not know how long twill be
Or what the future holds for me
But this I know- if Jesus leads me
I shall get home, someday!

God’s Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Thank God They Blew It

There's a well traveled joke that changes names depending on who has chosen to customize it- I'll share it in the original way that I heard it:

Bill and Hillary Clinton were in rural Arkansas and needed gas. They stopped at a full service gas station and Hillary perked up and told Bill that she used to date the gas station attendant. Bill didn't say much at all but about 15 miles down the road he started chuckling and ribbing her and asked- hey aren't you glad you didn't marry him- you'd be married to a gas station attendant- Hillary looked clueless and said see, that's where you're wrong- -don't you know that if I had married him, he would be President of the United States...

The mate that we choose profoundly impacts our lives. The person that we decide to spend the rest of our lives in has a direct influence on where we live, where we work, where we worship, whether or not we are parents and if we are- how we raise the children that we have been blessed with- aside from all of that, our spouses play roles in what we eat (or don't eat) on a regular basis, they keep up with our medical conditions, brush lint off of our jackets and are intimately involved in more aspects of our lives than we ever imagined that they could ever become.

With that in mind, I invite you to now reflect- just think back on your former relationships (this exercise helps if you're single as well) and just isolate the rough one(s).

The one who told your mother off.

The one who stole your debit card.

The one who convinced you to co-sign.

The one who had anger issues.

The one who laid their hands on you.

The one who lied.

The one who sent you to the clinic.

The one who had time for everyone/everything else but you.

The one who made your brother/uncle/father/cousin say "Where he at?"

The one who was on the down low.

The one who was just low down.

The one who I failed to mention but is alive in your head.

Just take a brief trip back in your memory long enough to allow yourself to say "thank you" Thank you, Jesus for removing them from my life.

Aren't you thankful that you don't have to live day in and day out with someone who breaks the law and brings that mess back to your house- around your children- and around your clean criminal history?

You should rejoice that you don't have to worry about a black eye every time you argue.

It should make your day to know that you don't have to play detective and safe-crack into your significant other's facebook/iphone/twitter/email/pants pocket because you know that they go straight to work, come straight home and the direct deposit is on point.

Here's my point:

We've all made mistakes in our dating past. If my wife didn't read this blog, I would mention the exotic dancer that I dated in 1998 and no, we didn't meet in a club, we met in the mall and yes, that's all that I will forever have to say about those 2 months of my life...we've ALL made mistakes in our dating histories- we've all been poor judges of character from time to time- we have all been with someone who has hurt our self-esteem- made us cry- made us feel bad about ourselves. We have all been with folks who made us feel like we were alone even when they were in the room with us- with folks that made us feel cold when it was 90 degrees outside- we have all been with folks that made us feel like prostitutes and johns- like our bodies and our goodies were all that we had to offer.

I thank God today that a leopard can neither change or hide their stripes. I'm glad- so glad that whatever is done in the dark will eventually come to light. I'm glad that the wrong person in your life blew it-


Thank God that God saved you from their selfish, childish, thugged out, trifling, immature ways. God saved you FROM them so that you could be purified FOR someone else. For that reason, stop jumping out of one bad bedroom into another one- take some time, some stock, some inventory, use that opportunity to get to know yourself again and take that time to pray. Pray over your current situation. Pray over the desires of your heart and never miss the opportunity to pray for others. Here's a radical thought- pray for the ones that blew it- you don't want anyone to have to go through what you went through do you? Let's break the cycle.

God's Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Sermon on CNN

Sing with me right quick…

There’s a God who knows it all
There’s a God who knows it all
He rules all land- all power in his Hands…
There’s a God who knows it all…

I was up just before my 4:30 alarm this morning and I decided to finally listen to Sis. Judy Scott- Walter’s mother’s comments made after the decision on the courthouse steps yesterday and I was not greeted this morning by the pity party that I expected…instead I was greeted by a sermon. I’ve heard theologically educated clergypersons deliver weaker messages than Sis. Judy's on Sunday morning.

Sis. Judy quoted Psalms 27 (Wait on the Lord, be of good courage)
 Sis. Judy quoted Daniel 3 (The God I serve is able)
Sis. Judy quoted Hebrews 12 (Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses)
Sis. Judy quoted Psalm 37 (Rest in the Lord)
Sis. Judy quoted Nehemiah 8 (The joy of the Lord is my strength)

And Sis. Judy closed with a celebration worthy of any revival- extolling the Jesus in her and how she’s been born again and has no worries about what man says or how things look because it isn’t over until God says that it’s over…let the church say AMEN, someone hit the Hammond and let’s open this altar…but I reckon there’s one detail that I left off…Sis. Judy preached this word on CNN’s airwaves. Quick question. When is the last time that you’ve heard a sermon on FOX News? MSNBC? Bloomberg? No non believing director would dare cut to commercial as this grieving Mother took her text(s) and proclaimed “thus saith the Lord…” I started thinking about how many folks were helped by Sis. Judy’s hurt and I’m not trying to criticize or critique any of my friends and family that were so angry at the result of this round but I really did ask myself…if Slager had been found guilty of the charges levied against him, would Sis. Judy have been able to preach the way she did? I was reminded during my drive in to work this morning that a good deal of ministry is born out of misery.

Jacob, running from Esau after stealing his inheritance is a millionaire with only a rock for a pillow but when he goes to sleep, God allows him to see angels ascending and descending on a stairway that we have since stylized as “Jacob’s Ladder”. Jacob wakes up, acknowledges the presence and power of God and dedicates that land as Bethel- but Jacob’s ministry was born in misery.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego were criticized and villified for not bowing down to false gods- they were given the opportunity to sell out several times but their refrain remained that the God they serve is able to save them and even if God chooses not to save them, they still were not willing to compromise their character. The 3 Hebrew boys’ ministry was born out of the misery of the furnace.

Daniel was given a date in the den of lions simply because he would not alter his prayer life or the subject of his prayers. Daniel survives the lion’s den and his new ministry was born out of this awful misery.

Paul warned the folks against sailing into a hurricane and just as he said, the boat breaks apart- even to the point where some have to sail to shore on the broken pieces of the ship- to make matters worse, Paul is building a fire to attend to those injured in the shipwreck and as he does so, a poisonous snake bites him on the arm. Paul is able to shake the snake off into the fire and suffer no ill effects but his ministry was birthed in misery.

So what about you? What are you fussing about on Facebook today? What are your troubles that you are sharing on Twitter? What are you Igging about on Instagram currently? Is there any silver lining in your cloud? Where is the bright side and more importantly, where is the space for the hand of God in the middle of your despair? Church Folk  Christians, we’ve seen it all you know…we’ve seen hurt, heartache, heartbreak, trouble, turmoil, sickness, disease, war, rumor of war, layoff, felony, misdemeanor, indictment, no indictment (you name it). There is however one thing that we still haven’t seen- we’ve never seen the righteous forsaken…and we never will. I do not know your story, I do not know your situation, your pain or your sorrow- but if you’ve been saved- I do know your God and I know that if your problem is too big for you- then your problem is just right for God. I don’t know what ministry will make it out of your misery but this much I do know- Mom sang me to sleep many times with these words…

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us…
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown
He didn’t build a home for us to move away

He didn’t pick us up to let us down.

God's Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hillary Lost...And I'm Glad About It!

I remember the first time I saw the phrase “GOTV”. I was 21 or so and actively working for the South Carolina Democratic Party in their coordinated campaign. It was my job to deliver Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties for Gov. Hodges and the ticket in the 2002 statewide election and a group of us had been called together to meet on a Saturday and Sunday to receive intense trainings in the machinations of campaign work. We covered polling. We covered canvassing. We covered organizing. We covered phone banking and the last item that was in our binders that had the largest amount of time devoted to it was labeled simply “GOTV”. I privately asked my friend who was handling another portion of SC what those initials stood for because I was 1) Afraid of being embarrassed publicly and 2) I wanted some knowledge of the subject matter before we discussed it and he looked at me like I was an idiot and said Get Out The Vote…I had to redeem myself so I started researching on our (dial-up) campaign computers…and I saw tons of Democratic led GOTV efforts across the country. Detroit had a massive one, Chicago and Cleveland were nice. L.A. shut downtown down for theirs and the inquisitor in me typed “GOP GOTV” in the search engine…I got nothing. I modified my search and still swung and missed- I tried again and even again and again and still was coming up empty. I swallowed my pride and interrupted Craig again at the risk of sounding really ignorant- “Hey man, why is it that there are only Democrat GOTV efforts and our opposition doesn’t do them?” He turned towards me, stopped what he was doing and told me that I always ask the right questions. “The reason that we have GOTV efforts and budgets and church vans and coupons is that we have to beg our people to vote- all it takes for them to vote is an election.”

15 years removed and many things have changed but that remains the same. You want Democrats to vote?

It better not rain.
Or be cold.
Feed them.
Entertain them.
Cater to them.
Coddle them.
Include them in your platform.
Call their name in your speech.
Go to their church.
Say nice things about their Pastor.
Show up at Annual Conference.
Give them a yard sign.
Be at PTSA meeting.
Give Johnny $5 for making honor roll.
Take an ad out in their cousin’s daughter’s nephew’s newspaper.
Like their status.
Retweet them.
And the line can’t be over 6 minutes long…(because you know they gotta work).

You want a Republican to vote?

Schedule an election and have someone on the ballot with an “R” behind their name.


On Election Eve, in Philadelphia, 33,000 folks showed up to hear Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen perform. Would you like to know where most of their Republican friends and neighbors were? At home. Sleeping- because election days are marathons and not sprints. I wonder how many of the 33,000 were too tired to vote the next day, or whose feet hurt from standing out for hours cheering on the Boss or who figured they’d supported Hillary enough by going to her event that they didn’t have to bother with going to the ballot box? This game that we play every 2-4 years it isn’t checkers, it’s chess.

So, I’m glad Hillary lost. I voted for her, I supported her, I still think she was the better candidate but I’m glad she lost. I’m glad she lost because sometimes the only way to correct spoiled children is to take things away from them for a protracted amount of time. We haven’t been marginalized the way that Donald Trump is going to marginalize us in a long time. Please don’t be so quick to say we’ve never been marginalized like this- you’d offend George Wallace and Bull O’Connor. Somehow we got comfortable. We have 8 year old children who know nothing else than a man of color in a house that’s white. We have men who refer to men as their husband and women who call women their wives and we don’t flinch or even think twice. We don’t see Transgenders as threats, nor do we call them weirdos or any of a number of much more insulting terms…and we crossed our legs and thought that stuff was sweet. We thought that the sun would shine forever. We figured that because we had elected a black man to our nation's highest office, that the world had changed and we used phrases like “Post-Modern America” and “Gender Neutral and “Post-Racial Society” we used terms like that as if the devil had given up. We said that stuff and won awards with our writings as if Jim Crow had died.

Child Please.

So, we have 2-4 years that we are going to have to do without some stuff. If we get real mad and get real organized and are really “woke” it will only take 2 years, until the mid-term elections to register, stand, wait and vote for like minded individuals in all seats of the House of Representatives in Congress and a portion of the U.S. Senate as well. We are a little over 700 days away from starting the process of fixing the madness that we just got ourselves into.

 We’ll get stopped and frisked for 2 years- don’t get mad, vote. 

We’ll lose some undocumented friends back to their homelands- don’t get mad, vote. 

Our Sisters and Mothers will lose some rights over their own bodies that they enjoy now- don’t get mad, vote. 

Planned Parenthood will be defunded- don’t get mad, vote. 

We won’t have any voice on the Supreme Court- don’t get mad, vote.

 Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Guiliani may well be in the President's cabinet- don’t get mad, vote.

When we vote, we will be able to place the Legislative and Executive branches of government into progressive hands.

When we vote, we will be able to hand the reins of leadership over to Cory Booker or Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris or Tammy Duckworth or Martin O’Malley and because of Tuesday’s debacle, we’ll be able to do it 4 years ahead of schedule.

So thanks for staying home ya’ll. Thanks for chillin and not being about that life on Election Day. ‘Preciate it.  Now we’re about to catch pure-d-hell. Democrats are going to “Feel the Burn” after all huh? Do me one favor…remember how it feels to fail. Remember how it feels every press conference, news conference, State of the Union that our newly elected President holds…and purpose in your heart that he will be a one-term circus act aberration.

Meet me at the Heart of Abbeville in 2 years, we’ll be handing out Dr. Scholl’s insoles, warm blankets and umbrellas for your comfort at the polls. The rest my friends is on you.

I love you (I know that didn't feel like it but I do).
 I'd love to be your Pastor.
Bible Study via Conference Call every Thursday via 888-628-8983 12:30 and 7:00 PM
Meet me Sunday at 9:45 for Church School and 11:00 for Worship

Historic St. James A.M.E. Church
The Heart of Abbeville
203 Henry M. Turner St.
Abbeville, SC 29620

God's Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Grab a Woman

There's a little cut out piece of grass on South Carolina State University's campus that's between MLK Auditorium and Turner Hall- it slopes down and leads to the back of the facilities and has very little purpose other than as a cut through- in fact,I doubt many students don't even recognize that it is what it is- it isn't useful, isn't functional and was honestly probably left there by mistake- it serves no sensible function...but one night it really helped out a broke college student from Orangeburg.

It was my first semester home at State after transferring from Morehouse to help out around the house with Granny's dementia. I had picked up a young lady for a date and we hit either House of Pizza or Antley's or the old Central Park and came back to campus and just walked around. We had known each other for some time and had flirted before so I tried it...I invited her over to this narrow strip of land and although we had no blanket, she sat right down next to me and we looked up at the night sky together. Now if you know me...really know me, you know that I don't necessarily appreciate nature as much as I should, but I LOVE being outside at night- and so I must have stopped carrying on conversation for the first time that night and as I'm (literally) star gazing, I look over and she's holding out a penny (for my thoughts)...I blabber something to her and then I remembered I had change in my pocket (all I had was change in my pocket) and I offer her a nickel (for her kiss)...she smiles- her dimples pop- and she says..."I'm not kissing you Sterling, you're a nice guy but you're not my man and I don't want to ruin our friendship." More star gazing, more small talk, I had church in the morning so I walk her back to Truth Hall and hug her good night.

If we were having this conversation in person, I'd ask you to look me in my eyes and I'd explain to you that I'm no Saint...and I've made many, many mistakes and in addition to my mistakes, I've also made  a few "on purposes"...but I've never tried to impose my will on any young lady...the same way a stolen dollar would feel strange in my pocket, I believe a stolen kiss would feel strange on my lips.

So I've never arbitrarily grabbed a woman's person for gratification or exploitation but let's be clear, there are ways to grab women and be guaranteed that they like it...

We can grab the door when we see them walking in a building behind us.

We can grab the gas pump/air compressor/windshield squeegee when we see a sister struggling at the gas station.

We can grab a bag or two at the grocery store as they buckle their baby in the car seat.

We can grab their attention when we put belts around our waist, starch in our collars and soap on our behinds

We can grab their respect when we finish what we start, keep our word and love our families.

We can grab their admiration when we set the standard, live up to the standard and hold a funeral for our excuses.

We can grab the check when it comes to the table and add the 20% that society expects us to leave off.

We can grab the keys on our way out the door to get the oil changed.

We can grab some slippers when we gather the trash to put on the curb.

We can grab the light bill, cable bill, gas bill, grocery billl...ESPECIALLY if we helped run it up.

We can grab our cell phones when we wake up and text "good morning" to let them know they're thought of.

We can grab our ears and just listen to the events of their day...just...listen...

I agree with the aggressors in one respect however- sometimes you just have to lay hands on these women- and when you do so- when they frustrate you to no end- when they snap on you and they are wrong- when they jump to conclusions- when they nag and pester and even belittle- grab them- it's ok to grab them!

Grab them by their hands, bow your head and lead them in prayer.

Our neighborhoods, our churches, our families, our communities are starving for real, solid men. 

Feed them.

I love you and I'd love to be your Pastor. 

We worship every Thursday at 12:30 and 7:00 in our weekly Bible Study. 
Kindly call 888-628-8983, mute your phone and grow with us.

We worship every Sunday morning at 9:45 for Church School and 11:00 for worship at
 203 Henry M. Turner St. Abbeville, SC 29620 in the Heart of Abbeville.

God's Best Be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Gospel: Evolution or Extinction...Because Sometimes it Really Does Take All That

I can only imagine when the Donnie McClurkin of the cotton field was ministering in song while under the harsh lash of his slave owner and one of the brothers began to slap his hand against his bag of crops on beat with the tune- that some pious slave somewhere rebuked him and told him..."let Donnie sing on his own- it don't take all that..."

When we evolved to "brush arbors" and were able to worship in a structure of tied together twigs and the Marvin Sapp of the manual labor era would be leading us in a tune and some rhythm sensitive brother would begin to tap one twig against another as if playing a drum- there was some scary someone that corrected him quickly with..."Marvin can carry his own tune- it don't take all that..."

Sooner or later freedom reigned and we built churches and after a while those churches actually had electricity inside of them and a brother named Hammond designed an organ and I wasn't there but something tells me that the first time Thomas Dorsey saw, touched, felt that organ- there just may have been one or two in the congregation that lost their cool points, shook their head and either whispered or said out loud..."he know good and well it don't take all that..."

So some person wrote some piece about "Satan becoming the worship leader" If you need help falling asleep tonight, you can read it here:

The writer was attempting to make the point that modern gospel is inspiring a generation of confused Christians that can't decipher "Amazing Grace" from "Bump and Grind". It appears as if the writer's argument is that new age gospel music has so much bass, so much bump, so much thump that new age gospel can be played in and appreciated at the club as much as it's appreciated at the church...

I reckon I have a two word response to someone who has an issue with music that transitions well between Saturday night 11:00 and Sunday morning 11:00...

So What?

I'm not sure- I'm not trying to be glib or create shock or be edgy- but I'm really not sure how many of our churches that Jesus would visit on Sunday morning if he were still roaming this earth. Jesus wasn't much for religious formality. Jesus wasn't big on pomp and circumstance. Jesus wasn't the stoic, stuck up killjoy that we go out of our way to portray him to be so I'm not sure how much Jesus would visit our churches...but I can see Jesus walking into our nightclubs. I can see it and if you've read your Bible, then you can see it too- 

Jesus said that he came for the lost sheep of Israel.

 Jesus said that it's not those who are well who need a doctor but those who are sick. 

The church actually was angry at Jesus because Jesus not only hung out with the sinners but Jesus ate with them...guess they were at the Waffle House after the club...

Jesus changed the life of the prostitute Mary Madgalene.

 Jesus changed the life of a woman who had entertained too many husbands at the well. 

Jesus said if he had a church of 100, then he would leave 99 in the middle of worship and go to where the missing one was.

Here's my point: I grew up listening to a pipe organ every Sunday. I know the hymnal better than I know the alphabet. I grew up a fan of the hymns of the church- and my love for tradition was almost the death of my ministry because I became too rigidly regimented. I have believed and believe still that they hymns are the foundation of the church and I believe that because I used to hear 5 of them every Sunday but if St. James' DOVE dancers (the best doggone praise dance troupe in SC) has to dance to "That's What I Told the Storm" in 2015 in order for them to develop an appreciation for "Guide Me O, Thou Great Jehovah" in 2025, that's a small price to pay.

Sure a few of the contemporary Gospel artists are a bit "extra"- there are rampant rumors of homosexuality, adultery and fornication. There are Gospel artists who have felonies and divorces and battle alcoholism and other addictions- that is the reality of today's Gospel music industry. 

I would be quick to condemn them if I didn't travel the church. When I cross the length and breadth of just South Carolina- I encounter rampant rumors of homosexuality, adultery and fornication. In my home state, I encounter Christians with felonies and divorces and those who battle alcoholism and other addictions.

The Gospel industry is no longer made up of pristine choir robes and glossy figures who lord over us from their ivory towers of purity. The Gospel industry is made up now of flawed individuals...just like the folks who buy their music- just  like the folks who sit in pews and just like the folks who occupy pulpits.

 There will always be room for improvement in God's church- I know that because it is made up of sinful, flawed individuals. We will always be able to do better because we will always fall down and fall short. I choose to apply my energies to the least, the last and the lost among us. I choose to resist the urge to be prudish in my worship and conduct and to focus more on how it helps and less on how it looks.

I'll leave you with this hymn- quoted from memory of course thanks to my upbringing...

Rescue the perishing
Care for the dying
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
Weep o'er the erring one
Lift up the fallen
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save

Rescue the perishing
Care for the dying
Jesus is merciful
Jesus will save.

I love you and I'd love to be your Pastor. Meet us each Thursday at 12:30 and 7:00 PM for Bible Study at 888-628-8983. We worship each Sunday at our 9:45 Church School and 11:00 Morning Worship in the Heart of Abbeville, SC at 203 Henry M. Turner Street. We meet for evening prayer each Sunday evening at 8:00 on the above conference call number.

God's Best be With You Always,

Rev. Sterling J. Dowling