Anointed, Gifted, and Toxic

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After nearly 30 years in ministry I’ve come to discover that I have spent a great deal of my ministry life being simultaneously anointed, gifted and toxic. Like many preachers, I spent years developing my craft, shaping my preaching style and personality, and developing a philosophy of ministry that I hoped would be beneficial to those I ministered to. I also discovered that with that development came a lot of personal moral challenges that all my ministry grooming could never quite prepare me for. Because I began preaching as a teenager, I was instructed to take Proverbs 5-8 to heart and “ preserve discretion and keep knowledge on my lips”. I had plenty of ministry mentors who had gone down the path of immorality in one form or another and they did their best to admonish me not to make their mistakes.

While I have never been removed from a pulpit, publicly corrected or rebuked, or ever had any inappropriate behavior publicly exposed and scrutinized, I have had my share of moral failings that have caused me to turn inwardly for reflection and repentance. I went through a divorce that had me emotionally unbalanced for over a decade. I had a relationship at one time that although was innocent, was in hindsight inappropriate. I had been in romantic relationships where I did not maintain sexual purity and continued to preach weekly to wondrous reception. I continue to struggle with general anxiety and feelings of inadequacy despite my training, education, and accolades. I have been the toxic person in relationships that led to others involved being more hurt than helped by me.

There are thousands of other preachers just like me. They don’t make the national church headlines with their routine toxicity. They sit in pulpits or pews with the task of ministering to someone else despite their own misgivings. They are aware of their giftedness and toxicity but are only allowed and encouraged to express the former over the latter. It is quite emotionally ravaging for them. They, like me, are not spiritually or emotionally healthy. They are called upon to be God’s vessels of healing and wonder, leading to the salvific knowledge of Christ the Redeemer, and a life of abundance on this side and eternity on the other. It is a duplicitous life at best and certainly an intoxicating one when the ministry gifts are on full display for people to be in awe and wonder of the individual in praxis but not the toxicity attached.

This is why we find it hard to minister to those ministers who have fallen hard to the duality of their anointing and their toxicity. It’s no different than that of Noah getting drunk and being inappropriately exposed to his grandson after having followed God’s plan of successfully building, servicing, and replenishing the earth. It’s also David having to witness the death of a child birthed out of his coveting another man’s wife and successfully conspiring to have that man murdered. It’ Solomon, who after soliciting the Lord for wisdom, receiving it and the wealth that accompanied it, giving himself over to all the vanities of life and causing his successor to be just as foolish in turn leading to the eventual destruction of the House of David. It’s Peter, the great Apostle, denying Christ before those who sought him executed, or the Peter who chose to be hypocritical in his praxis of faith in front Gentiles or Jews.

The point I hope to get across is that as ministers, preachers, prophets, apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, or any other title one wishes to utilize, we are well acquainted with our anointing and our toxicity. There are those of us who are more disciplined in our concealment of it than others, but it is still very present. Scripture assures us that we have an Advocate in our toxicity. We have a Christ who wholly identifies with us yet can shield the wrath that our toxicity incurs. The author of Hebrews in 4:12-16, reminds us that our Advocate is one who is fully aware of us in our entirety. He through our engagement of the scriptures, can discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. He beholds the nakedness of our humanity, encouraging us to hold fast the profession of our faith and calling, and empowering us to boldly come to Him to obtain the mercy and grace to help in our time of need. It is ok for us to be anointed and toxic, but we must always know that God is our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast of our anointed and toxic lives and ministry, but most of all, He is our Eternal Home.

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Black man rage: A Poem

I’ve been experiencing much grief following the death of George Floyd and the looting and rioting that has plagued cities across this country. I could only find one way to express that grief through my writing. I wrote this poem as a reflection piece to help me articulate what I was seeing and feeling.

Two black boys playing with the trash thrown out of the house

Taking apart a broken chair saying, “Hulk Smash!”

Young black boy playing on the porch with his dogs

While music in the car next to him blasts Nipsey Hussle

Three black children on the playground across the town

Running and screaming not fearing anything or anyone around

One black man on the ground telling his captors I can’t breathe

barely making a sound

More black men gathering around enjoying life in quarantine’s vault

Fearing nothing now until cops roll up and everything comes to a halt.

One elderly black man tending the garden in the yard of the home he’s lived in for years

Raised his children in community without fear

Now seeing scorned earth for blocks where life was once good

Hope all gone has deflated the neighborhood

Streets torn apart not by cops but by black brothers and sisters with ricocheting gun shots

One black man walking his dog in the neighborhood

Vexing less melanated citizens fearing he’s up to no good

His presence evokes fear and threats to others simply

Though he makes no noise or scene he is simply being seen

They avoid him like the flu desperately trying to get away

But he resolves that for his children’s future, it’s a price he’s willing to pay

Yes, people say Black Lives Matter

 but we’re seeing in real time how quickly that black life can shatter

Into a million pieces of brokenness and breaking hope of generations past

Black man forced to be silent

Because he knows if he speaks too loud or too bold he’ll incite a riot

Too many black men and women caged in a cell

Cause a systemically unjust society condemned them to hell

With the same blindness of justice refusing them bail

Let them rot cause they’re better safe where they are

which makes us safe from them

The existential quarantine against the man whose blackness forces him to shelter in place

To stay in his lane and not run the race of freedom..don’t breathe just lie in state

Breathe or not its their own fault some say

The pain he sees and feels replacing the pleasure of a life promised to be lived

Being a black man in a fair-weather world

Trying to make a dollar every day makes you wanna holler

Rage against the machine as its raging against you

Copyright June 2, 2020  Lorenzo T. Neal

My Covid 19 Reflection

My Moment to share my reflection from the last several months

It has been a minute since I have written anything on this page and although I have had many thoughts that have been put to paper, they have not made the cut to publish. Each day of this pandemic and sheltering in place has been challenging for the entire world. Although we have history on our side regarding humans surviving major viral epidemics, there is for us today a more intense sense of uncertainty, unrest, and impatience for this to come to an end soon. Countries around the world are seeing people protest their government’s decision to actualize shelter in place orders. In the US, leaders in some faith communities have been openly defying orders against large gatherings for religious and non-religious purposes and even bringing lawsuits against their state leaders citing the First Amendment right to assemble and freedom of religion. It has also sparked intense political actions with the hopes of one side beating the other with propaganda for or against more government spending and fully opening the country before an economic collapse happens.

On a more personal note, it has made me more grateful for each breath I take and each day I am afforded to live. Hearing of the deaths of acquaintances, friends, loved ones from the COVID-19 virus and the thousands of others who have contracted the virus and are fighting for their lives or have recovered has certainly made life more sobering. The biggest challenge for me has been making the adjustment of being a virtual pastor. While doing video and teleconferencing  is nothing new to me, virtual preaching has certainly been different. I was fortunate to have begun the process of live streaming services some time ago, I am one of those pastors who understood the future of those services but was unprepared to have to begin it under such conditions. The congregation I have been blessed and privileged to under shepherd is thriving and even growing despite not meeting in person. They certainly inspire me to continue studying to show myself approved as an unashamed workman of Christ.

I am certain that historians will look back upon this moment in time and mention the tenacity of the people in the world amid a global pandemic. Even after we are back to some sense of normalcy, it is still my goal and obligation to be an empowering and liberating voice of justice for those who are in need of hearing it. It is my goal and obligation to continue serving this present age my calling to fulfill.

Forging Ministry Partnerships

Today I was honored to have The Right Rev. Dr. John Adiema, Bishop of the Rorya Diocese of the Anglican Church in Tanzania and Dr. Robert W Kisusu, Professor at Kowak Theological College in Tarime-Mara, Tanzania share in the noon Bible study at New Bethel. Bishop Adiema is committed to serving his diocese and empowering them to serve this present age. Both of these men of God are building partnerships to bring greater resources to the rural areas of Tanzania and I and my church family are joining with them in this effort. It’s my prayer that their work will be successful.

A Chaplain on How to Talk About the Right to Die and Death With Patients — TIME

Martha Kay Nelson has had a long career in hospice work. Rather than choosing hospice work, she believes hospice work chose her. Her training was at Harvard Divinity School. She did a yearlong internship as a hospice chaplain during her graduate work. The year after she graduated, she managed to combine her career as a…

A Chaplain on How to Talk About the Right to Die and Death With Patients — TIME

A Poem for the New Year

Another year is dawning and we’re so grateful to be here

Though many loved ones have left us God has caused us to persevere

Through dangers seen and unseen, we’ve traveled through the days

We’ve fought hard life’s battles empowered by God’s grace

We’ll see another year of mercies, of service, God’s faithfulness and praise

We’ll rise in mind and soul and strength to help each other be present

And believe that change is possible as another year dawns for us

We’ll quench the fiery darts of Satan’s bow and quell the roar of our loudest foe

We’ll strive for excellence and achieve the heights no one thought to believe

Another decade is dawning, as swift as time transitions

We dare to accept the challenges knowing not what lies ahead

We’ll walk by faith and not by sight assured that God will keep us right

With liberating freedom filling our soul and

the light of God’s knowledge in our sight

We’ll press unselfishly ahead above the noise of human’s selfish strife

A new decade is upon us. New opportunities to do greater things

Serving our present age with haste our mission to fulfil

With grateful hearts in this new year and decade, we’ll do our master’s will

Black Christian Leaders and Influencers Who Died in 2019 — BCNN1 WP

Rev. Cameron M. Alexander The Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander, who spent more than four decades in the pulpit of Atlanta’s Antioch Baptist Church North, has died. He was 86. His daughter, Maria Hunter, confirmed his death after a brief illness. “He was the most loving, caring and dedicated,” she said. “He loved the Lord and spent […]

Black Christian Leaders and Influencers Who Died in 2019 — BCNN1 WP