Dear Reverend Rodney Wills,
Nine months ago, several youth and young adults spotted you at a Lil' Wayne concert. After that, we warned you “attending worldly concerts would not be tolerated”. We could question why they were at Weezy’s concert to begin with, but this isn’t about those WITH sin-casting stones. It’s about you, defying church policy, and attending a Rick Ross (Ma Ma Ma Maybach Music) concert. Due to the severity of this matter, we regret to inform you we’ve given you the boot. Get to steppin’.
God bless you,
Mt. Salem Baptist Church.
I imagine, Rev. Wills’ termination letter said something to that effect—in addition to him finding his parking space sign taken down, his name removed from his office door, and another minister standing in the pulpit when he arrived for Sunday service. To make matters worse, “social media theologians,” (those that received their PH.D.s in Theology via prestigious institutions such as, Facebook and Twitter), lead a charge against Rev. Wills, spouting scripture to justify their stance that he deserved to be fired.
They, along with the 11 of 14 deacons (one being his own uncle) that voted to remove him, are overlooking a critical point: Pastoring a church is not a hobby. It’s not bling and mega churches. It’s not hootin’ and hollerin’, while juices drip from a Jheri Curl. For those men and women truly in the trenches of the gospel, it’s grueling, unglamorous, often heartbreaking work.
I know it all too well. For the past 24 years, I’ve watched my father dedicate his entire life to his church. His pastoring sustained my family. In other words, it was a REAL job. Just like my job, just like your job. Jobs are the means for our daily subsistence. And no job should be terminated with out due cause.
I was waiting to hear that the brother was slacking on his pastoral duties. Showing up late to folks funerals, weddings, and Sunday service, and that once he arrived, he did a half-hearted job. I was waiting to hear that he treated the members of Mt. Salem poorly. That he refused to visit the sick and shut-in, and pray with and counsel members when they came to him with their problems. I just knew they were gonna report he was crook. That he stole from the church, and made decisions detrimental to the interest of the church body. These would be valid reasons for removal.
My waiting was in vain. All that was said was, “We cannot have our leader supporting people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God.”
Situations such as these are reflective of a destructive mindset within certain churches. A type of mindset that gives more importance to man-made moral practices, traditions, and policies, rather than the state of a person’s heart or how they live their life. This is a not a new phenomenon. In Matthew 15, Jesus’ disciples are scolded by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before they ate as tradition dictated. Jesus’ responded in verses 17-20 by saying:
“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Jesus is explaining to his disciples that the contents of a person’s heart, takes precedence over legalism. Jesus understands, as Proverbs 27:19 states, “As water reflects a face, so a man’s HEART reflects the man.”
If Jesus, the standard by which ALL Christians are demanded to follow looks at the contents of one’s heart, it’s not optional for us, we MUST do the same. Therefore, the only other appropriate reason to let Rev. Wills go was if his heart wasn’t right, and led him to live a morally filthy life. Going to that concert said nothing about him or the state of his heart, except he had absolutely horrible taste in music.
We as Christians can’t be so spiritually arrogant and uncompassionate toward people following man-made church rules and policies, that we discard them like worthless trash when they don’t comply. We bear the brunt of that lost. Because while we are so zealous to remove them, they could quite possibly be valuable assets to our community of faith.
Rev. Wills, I believe, was one such asset. He was 30 and had only served four years at Mt. Salem. There’s no telling what extraordinary things God could have used him to do for the Mt. Salem congregation. Sadly, now, we’ll never know. Damn you, Rozay.
Loy Alexandra is an attorney and freelance writer from Chicago. She’s also the founder and editor of the faith and lifestyle site Livin Like Maya.