EDITOR’S NOTE: In this week’s edition of Frost Illustrated, we continue our interview with the Rev. Michael Latham, pastor of Renaissance Baptist Church, who said he’s on a God-ordained mission to challenge pastors to be better personally and to be more responsible toward their flock.
Click here to read excerpts from the first two parts of the interview.
The following are excerpts from parts three and four of a seven-part video interview (scroll to the bottom of this article to watch the videos, or click here to view the entire playlist). In it, Pastor Latham talks about the need for pastors to work together—and to realize that they don’t individually have all the answers. He also said that people in the black community are reluctant to tell the professional and spiritual truth about people they personally like and that people must learn that to challenge someone doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love and respect them:
FORT WAYNE—Despite some criticism of clergy organizations such as the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Rev. Michael Latham said such organizations are needed if the community is going to thrive.
“There needs to be a group of pastors that meets together on a regular basis to discuss our community spiritually and what can we do together as African American Christian leaders to decide what we ought to do,” said Latham.
He said those clergy need to pray together regularly and then act on their faith once God sends guidance to the group. But, he also said people had to recognize that God gives everyone talents and abilities and that real leadership opens up to hear what others bring to the table from God.
“I don’t think one person, like myself, I can’t get up and say ‘I believe God told us to do this.’ I think it’s like a piece of a puzzle,” he explained. “People have talents and gifts I don’t have. I have a relationship with Christ. I can surely pray. I can surely roll my sleeves up but I have to bring someone at the table with me that has talents and gifts in other areas that I don’t have. And if pastors believe they have all talents and gifts and God can only speak to them and nobody else, I say that’s a sad indictment on pastoral leadership because we do not. God may tell us things and he does about our church that He has given the vision over—but a community, I believe we have to work together.”
Latham also decried the tendency of the community to let wrongs or incompetence go unchecked because of personal likes.
“In the black community, at least in this town, if you tell the truth you’re the one that looks like you’re the problem and I think black folks ought to quit covering truth. Black folks have a tendency, ‘I don’t want to say that because I like that brother.’ I like a lot of folk. I really do. I don’t know anybody I dislike but I’ll sure challenge you,” he said.
He said he takes that same approach with his son, whom he loves, but whom he sometimes has to chasten as a neophyte preacher.
Me and him go to battle sometimes and sometimes I say things to him that makes him uncomfortable and I say, ‘Son separate daddy from being a pastor right now.’ That’s a difficult challenge but I find him learning how to know the difference between me being his pastor and his father,” said Latham. “Because as a pastor, I’m going to challenge him to become a pastor. As my son, I’m going to love him. I’m going to go on trips with him, I’m going to argue with about ministry and yet as a father, I’m gong to stick with him come hell or high water.”
One big issue he discussed is pastors not seeing themselves in the scriptures and understanding their human failings. He said he wasn’t effective in saving souls until he realized he had to see himself in what he was preaching to understand what people were going through and what they needed to be led to salvation.
“I’ve got to get me straight first,” said Latham. “And I really believe a lot of preachers in the pulpit ain’t got themselves straight. It don’t me they’re not called, it don’t mean they’re not saved, but I do want to share with, I will share with any pastor, you’ve got to examine yourself, brother. Because if you’re going to study that word it’s got to beat you up before you can dare go and tell folk. I don’t know how no preacher can preach now and study and ain’t affecting them.”
This article originally appeared in the July 10 print edition.