Elder Mark A. Moore, Jr. & Other Black Church Leaders Should Be Careful About Elevating Scripture Above Therapy Following Suicides of Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain…

Hello World,

I really hadn’t planned to post this morning because I’ve been out of town for a week and need to focus on returning to the more rudimentary rhythms of life. In other words, I’m readying myself to return to work tomorrow after a week off! But when I saw a Facebook friend’s post about a black church leader Elder Mark Moore Jr.’s Facebook commentary regarding Bible study and therapy, I knew I needed to weigh in about this very timely topic. Below is what he said…

I understand what Elder Moore is trying to say I guess, but in my experience and from everything I’ve read, the Black Church, historically, has turned to Bible study and prayer OVER therapy during a mental health crisis to its detriment. Here a few excerpts of articles I’ve found to support that premise…

From my very own blog:

‘Pain in the Pews’ Conference Highlights Mental Health & Ministry This Saturday!

Excerpt:  Do you feel like the church, specifically the Black Church, has appropriately addressed mental health and ministry? Please explain your answer.

No, I don’t think so. I think that historically, we have been taught just to “pray about it” – which, I agree wholeheartedly that we should pray about everything. However, it cannot stop there. If Sister Mary comes and says that she is suffering from depression and having suicidal thoughts, prayer along with ensuring that Sister Mary gets professional help is what is going to help to heal her. If someone says I have a tightness in my chest and my left arm is going numb, we are certainly going to pray, but someone is going to/should say “you need to go see a doctor.” The same advice given to someone with a physical ailment should be given when someone has a mental or emotional issue. That is not always the case in the Black Church.

Former Child Caretaker Dr. Sheila D. Williams Uses Background to Help Others With Mental Illness…

Excerpt:  How prevalent is mental illness in the black community, and what can the Black Church do to support mental health awareness and treatment? 

Within the black community, the subject of mental illness is still very taboo, unfortunately. There are many people within the black community who have undiagnosed mental illness or have been diagnosed with a mental illness, but chose not to take medication or get therapy. These individuals, unfortunately, are suffering in silence. By failing to see a mental health professional, to follow up with treatment or refusing to take prescribed psychotropic medications, their mental illness not only affects them, but it affects their families, loved ones and the entire community.

As a Christian woman, I have a strong faith, and believe in God and the power of prayer. However, at times in the Black Church we fail to acknowledge and expound upon the importance of physical and mental health. Although prayer and motivation are important, and I personally know the benefits of each, it is also important for the Black Church to encourage and promote mental health awareness. We often seek the help and advice of medical physicians, but we fail to seek that same help and assistance from mental health professionals when our emotional and psychological well-being is in jeopardy. I feel it a responsibility of all of us to promote and encourage 360 degrees of wellness, and this includes our mental health.

From The Huffington Post:

Gospel Singer Tasha Cobbs Says Black Church Can Help With Depression

Excerpt:  Cobbs was diagnosed with depression after attending her first therapy consultation, where she discussed her various symptoms. Now, the singer says she still attends therapy sessions once every month to make sure she stays “connected” with her therapist.

While there is a stigma attached to mental health issues in the black community and it is often viewed as a taboo topic to even discuss, Cobbs believes the issue should be considered a health priority — similar to other serious medical conditions.

“I think when you say ‘mental health,’ automatically people think ‘I’m not crazy,’ because we haven’t put a definition to exactly what we’re saying,” she said. “I believe when you say ‘it’s a mental health issue,’ it’s like having diabetes or something’s wrong with my toes or whatever the case is — it’s a medical condition and it can be dealt with. Just like you can manage a broken finger, you can manage mental health issues. I am a living witness that you can be freed and you can be cured and healed from it, but you have to first acknowledge that it exists.”

The suicides of Kate Spade earlier this month followed by Anthony Bourdain days later demonstrated in a dramatic way that no one, no matter the person’s social standing, celebrity status and wealth, is immune from mental health crises. I’m not discounting all of the people who don’t have a platform and suffer in the same way but because of the platforms of Spade and Bourdain, more people, I imagine, are paying attention to mental health issues.

As Elder Moore said, I do believe that Jesus still heals today but we cannot predict how He will heal and we have to use every resource available to facilitate that healing. I believe God has equipped some therapists and uses them to heal their patients. And some Christian therapists use Scripture in addressing mental health diagnoses. As my father was trained as a therapist and as a minister, I’ve never took part in the stigma about seeking counseling when needed. Bible study and prayer are indispensable tools that all should employ in health and wellness but they are not the only tools that God approves of and uses. I hope that more Black Church leaders come to this realization.

Alright, I think I’ve said all that I care to say except to point out I think that mental health issues are so hard for some people to grasp because the issues take place in the brain which none of us can physically see. But as Tasha Cobbs said, having a mental issue issue is just as debilitating as a physical issue. If someone has broken their leg in a car accident for example, you’re not going to advise that person to crack open a Bible and recite Scripture. I mean you can do it and it could be helpful, but you also need to get to a hospital. A mental health issue should be treated similarly. If someone you know is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, seek the help of a mental health professional and all the while you can be recalling Scripture and praying as you do it.

And below is a Scripture that applies to this post:

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”  Proverbs 11:14

Do you feel that the Black Church elevates Bible study and prayer over therapy and medication when it comes to mental health crises?

Any thoughts?

Author Stacy Hawkins Adams Contributes to ‘Our Daily Bread’s Black Church Devotional ‘This Far By Faith!’

In Time for Black History Month...

Hello World,

When I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ about 20 years ago after being baptized as a teenager, I was on the hunt for Christian materials that would help me to learn about God. The daily devotionals by Our Daily Bread Ministries were probably the first devotional materials that I read. I appreciated the entries because they were short but encompassed the breadth of the Bible in everyday situations. I eventually included different devotionals in my reading to expand my repertoire, but I still consider Our Daily Bread devotionals to be the bedrock in daily devotionals. In fact, I’m not the only who thinks so. Millions of people throughout the world read Our Daily Bread devotionals, and they are provided for FREE!

That’s why I was excited to learn that Our Daily Bread published a Black Church devotional edition, “This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church, for first time ever and in time for Black History Month! “This special edition of Our Daily Bread is a celebration of the rich legacy of God’s faithfulness seen in the heritage of the Black Church. It is by the goodness and power of the Lord that believers everywhere have been able to overcome challenges in life and share God’s love with others. This collection of devotional readings will inspire you to engage in ongoing praise and thanksgiving for what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do for those who rely on Him and trust in His Word.”

Isn’t the cover of  heartwarming? That is how I felt as a little girl at church – filled with joy and free…

One of my writer colleagues Stacy Hawkins Adams was blessed to contribute to “This Far By Faith” and I interviewed her about her contributions and career below.

1. How did you get to be involved in the ‘This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church?’ 

When I speak and teach at various writer’s conferences around the country, I meet and network with other writers. A writer friend that I met at a conference in California several years ago is a regular writer for ‘Our Daily Bread.’ When this special edition was announced, she and the publication’s other freelancers were asked to share the opportunity with their professional peers. My friend reached out to me and I submitted sample entries, which I’m grateful were accepted. I wrote three entries for the publication and two were accepted – one for Day 7 and one for Day 17. 

2. I love how you drew from your experience being in the ‘watch care’ program at a church in Mississippi while you were in college to relate to how God uses people to provide support and encouragement in various situations in the Day 7 entry ‘God’s Care is Rock Solid.’ I had a similar experience at a black church in Athens, Georgia hours away from where I grew up in College Park, Georgia. Tell me about writing that devotional entry and how it relates to Hebrews 13:1-8, the main verses referenced in the devotional. 

I’m glad my entry on my watch care experience resonated with you. This devotional relates to Hebrews 13:1-8 because through the watch care experience, that’s what the pastor and the congregation were exemplifying – extending love to “strangers” (or in this case, college students) who were not going to become permanent members, but who needed encouragement, support and wisdom to continue growing as individuals and in faith. This Scripture reflects how Christians should be doing this at every turn, in whatever circumstances we encounter people experiencing. It also shows that God’s love is enduring, wherever we may find ourselves. 

3. I also enjoyed your Day 17 entry ‘Answering His Call’ in which you related Queen Esther and Rahab the prostitute from the Bible to former slave Sojourner Truth. As you highlighted, God encourages us to be courageous as noted in Esther. What inspired this entry?

Writers for the ‘This Far By Faith’ special edition were given various topics to explore, and one of mine was courage. I immediately thought of Queen Esther and Rahab as biblical ‘sheroes’ to reference. Yet for Black History Month, I also wanted to reference a figure who was both relevant to the freedom movement and a person of faith. As a traveling minister who devoted her life to seeking freedom and justice for her people, Sojourner Truth fit this bill. I hope that briefly sharing her story is a reminder that wherever we are and whoever we are, we have something to contribute; sometimes we just have to muster the courage to do so.

4. What do you hope readers will understand and or learn by reading your entries?

I hope readers will be reminded that God is faithful in all seasons of our lives and is ready to guide us to our purpose in all kinds of ways and through all kinds of people. We should never question another person’s ability to be used by God and certainly not our own. I hope that both of my devotions show that God is willing to support us in our spiritual growth and call us into service in both simple and significant ways.

 5. ‘Our Daily Bread’ devotionals are read by people throughout the world. What does it mean to be involved with this ministry, particularly as it relates to ‘This Far By Faith?’

Like many people, I grew up reading ‘Our Daily Bread,’ and I was always inspired by the entries to live my faith in a relevant way. Being offered the opportunity to write for the publication was an honor in and of itself. Writing for this special Black History edition, focused on the black church, was especially meaningful, as I grew up in church and can attest to the numerous ways that the ministry leaders, youth leaders and congregation members nurtured me and helped me grow. 

6. You have written 10 books including nine novels as well as a non-fiction book, not to mention the fact that you worked as a newspaper reporter for 14 years before becoming a book author. What exciting writing project or projects are you working on currently? 

As you can tell, I love all kinds of writing! Whether I’m writing for a secular publication or a faith-based one, I view the stories and the information I share as an opportunity to help readers feel encouraged, inspired or better equipped to make informed decisions, with less judgment, about others.

I am currently writing for an inspirational blog that I started almost a year ago, www.LifeUntapped.com, through which I encourage and empower women readers to aim for and pursue their best lives, and I allow other women to share their stories of growth and transformation.

I also am doing more essay writing and freelance writing on occasion for various national publications, including the Huffington Post.

I plan to write another novel in a couple of years, but in the meantime, I’m fine-tuning a couple of short stories and reading a lot of fiction and nonfiction, to stretch grow as a writer.

I also am mentoring aspiring writers through an online membership group I launched several years ago called Focused Writers (www.authorinyou.com/FocusedWriters).  I love connecting with new writers in this way and cheering them on to publication, whether it through a blog they’re launching or a book they’re trying to birth. The group also includes some newly published authors who are seeking guidance on marketing.

 7. You have assisted many authors in your ‘Author in You’ mentorship program. What is your biggest tip to become a successful author?

It has been wonderful to watch writers I’ve mentored go on to publication – either traditional or self-published. At least five​writers I’ve mentored over the past few years have had their books published, and a few others are nearing that goal. Several bloggers who have sought my assistance are thriving as well. 

Regarding how to become a successful author, I guess I’d have to say this depends on how you define success. For some, it’s simply being published once; for others it’s having a certain number of books published; for many it’s winning certain awards; and for others it’s making a certain amount of money from book sales. So success will vary author to author.

I believe that anyone who has published a book and presented it in the best form possible to the world – well written, well edited and well packaged – is a success, especially if achieving this milestone is a long-term goal.

I’m just thankful to be published and widely read (though I’d love the readership to grow), and it’s a joy to write words that resonate with others. I often feel a sense of reward when I hear from readers that something I’ve written has helped them heal a relationship, love themselves more, see another person’s perspective or consider God’s grace as available to them. It’s humbling and exciting to know that the words flowing through me can have that kind of impact. I’m grateful to be one of God’s vessels. 

To order “This Far By Faith: Legacies of the Black Church” which is an awesome resource for a church during Black History Month, go to ourdailybread.org. To learn more about Stacy Hawkins Adams, go to stacyhawkinsadams.com.

 Any thoughts?

Christianity Today Remembers Billy Graham’s Altar Calls…

Zondervan Publishing Releases New Book 'A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story'

Hello World,

The world lost one of its greatest evangelists when Billy Graham passed last Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 99 years old in his North Carolina home. He wasn’t perfect, but none can claim that accolade except for the Trinity. And through his worldwide ministry, Graham faithfully pointed to the Trinity for most of his life. As this blog is entitled “After the Altar Call,” I was intrigued when I saw this article about Graham “Billy Graham’s Altar Calls Were More Than Moments of Decision” by David Neff, a former editor of Christianity Today on its website. If you’ve ever wondered why I named this blog “After the Altar Call” beyond the About Jacqueline J. Holness page where I explain my reasoning, read this article. Below is an excerpt:

“First appeared on christianitytoday.com”

An evangelist came to town when I was just a freshman in high school. He needed an organist. So my pastor made arrangements for me to help out.

“When I get to the end of my sermon,” the evangelist told me, “I’ll start to move my fingers like this.” He wriggled his fingers like a mass of night crawlers in a bait can. That was the cue, he explained, for me to begin to play some comin’-to-Jesus music very softly and tenderly—and to gradually increase the volume as he turned up the emotional pitch of his invitation.

I had sat through many altar calls before. But now that I was part of the team, I learned just how well engineered these invitations were. We carefully followed a precisely formulated sequence designed to move people out of their seats and down the aisles.

In 1969, Billy Graham came to Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California, when I was a fresh-out-of-college youth pastor. I decided to take a dozen or so teens to hear Graham preach.

When we eventually found our seats, Ethel Waters was giving her testimony just before singing her trademark tune, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” I remember very little about Billy Graham’s sermon, but his altar call burned itself into my memory.

Read the rest at christianitytoday.com.

Also, Zondervan Publishing released “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story,” by William Martin, Ph.D., Harvard,on Feb. 20. Graham himself requested Martin, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas, for the project. Graham granted Martin unprecedented access to the Billy Graham archives and team members, lending this work the authenticity and transparency of no other.

“As I have written in this book, I have constantly examined what I have said in an effort to make sure that I was neither shading the truth in Graham’s or his associates’ favor out of gratitude for their helpfulness, nor taking an inappropriately negative slant as a way of emphasizing that I had not been taken in by slick manipulation,” Martin writes. “But since Billy Graham and his associates – like all humankind – have weaknesses, I determined not to gloss those over.”

Martin begins the work with a short introduction to evangelicalism and the revivalist movement starting with John Cotton’s messages to the settlers of New England in the 1600s. Other names to follow include Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield through to Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Mordecai Ham, the evangelist under whom Graham came to faith in Christ as a teenage boy in 1934.

Fans of Graham’s autobiography “Just As I Am,” will recognize many of the names, places and events chronicled here, but “A Prophet with Honor” goes further behind the scenes to explain the conditions that made it possible for Graham to achieve his spectacular success and to reveal how sometimes he succeeded in spite of himself.

As Graham explained when approaching Martin about writing the book, “There are no conditions. It’s your book. I don’t even have to read it. I want you to be critical. There are some things that need criticizing.”

Despite Graham’s humble expectations of a biography that would reveal his true self – warts and all – Martin came away from his research with the overwhelming sense that despite his flaws, Graham was a man of rare integrity. Martin concludes that there will likely never be another like him. “Unless and until that happens, William Franklin Graham, Jr., can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did – ‘a workman,’ as Scripture says, ‘who needed not to be ashamed.'”

Any thoughts?