Interview with Dr. George Waddles – Part 2

Dr. George Waddles, a great thinker, pastor and friend from the South Side of Chicago, was able to join me in studio as we discussed the state of the African American Church. The conversation is rich and so important that we are dedicating two programs to it this month. This is Part 2 where we discuss the Christian calling to connect with our brothers and sisters. Rather than creating barriers, we must look through the lens of our neighbor. Listen to learn more about why we have to take a bold stance on social issues while acknowledging our duty to create disciples.

Miss Part I? Listen here.

About George

Dr. George Waddles is the pastor of the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago Illinois for 28 years. He is from Wichita Kansas, accepted Christ in 1955, and was licensed to preach at the Ninth Street Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kansas in 1975. He has guided and mentored many.

Click to read Transcript

INTRODUCTION: The streets of rage in Ferguson, angry crowds luting, torching scores of businesses, and causing general mayhem after word came that there would be no indictment for Officer Wilson.

Rampaging through the streets in Ferguson, Missouri last week, those who believe Officer Darrin Wilson should have been charged with murder for shooting Michael Brown, brought worldwide attention to their cause. The looters and arsonists sent a strong message that anarchy and destruction are tools to be used in protest.

Shouting of man: There’s nothing more contemptible and offensive to the people of this country than for law enforcement to try to smear a deadman that can’t speak for himself and only want justice.

Another man talking: I have sat here quietly and listened to BS being spewed all over this network and all over other networks. I can’t take it any more.

EASLEY: If you’re like me when you hear this type of rhetoric, your blood pressure goes up; you get frustrated;it’s complicated; it’s complex. It seems like there is no solution, and yet as believers in Christ we are called to love, to embrace, to engage our neighbors, to engage our friends and to think critically about these kind of issues. We continue today talking to Dr. George Waddles and we pick up where we left off in the broadcast about how they’re ministering on the Southside of Chicago.

WADDLES: I appreciate that fact that you keep raising these issues and the sensitivity to the fact, yes there is a difference, but there is a dichotomy, and yes we can have the conservative view and the liberal view, or the progressive view, and so forth, but I don’t think there’s any place where we can turn our face away from those who are less fortunate than we are.

E: And the challenge becomes, and we see this in the local church where people that scam us as pastors, so you know they talk about entitlement and abusing the system. You and I can smell it. After a while when they walk in the door you know. Unfortunately, we can’t always  help the folks who really need it and would utilize it well.

W: Correct.

E: As pastors we’ve got to be able to discriminate a little bit  and I mean that in the sense of…

W: Be discerning about it.


E: Discerning, that’s a better word. This is a good investment in helping this young man, or girl, or problem marriage. We see it in couples all the time, right? They come and it’s way too late when they come to us for a marriage problems, they should have been coming a lot earlier.

As a local pastor, again, African American culture, you’re in a tough spot in Chicago, geographically, right?

W: Let me just say this to you. I did not know, Michael, you are my good friend when you were there as president. But I understood the depths of racism when I was in Chicago. My doctor was black, my postman was black, the dentist was black. Everybody that I interacted with, except when I went to outside that neighborhood. It’s not that I didn’t connect, it’s just that I didn’t interact. Their concerns were not my concerns. They were not in my circle. I understood at a different level. When you and I connected, there was a heart to heart brotherhood, I mean I’ll start crying, that said, “Your pain was my pain.” I remember when you had back surgery and the things that you were going through and the things that was going on with me. We’ve got to never lose that even though my city might be over here and you might be out in the suburbs. We’ve got to never lose that connection that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve got to see your life through your lense. Whatever my ideologies may be, whatever my philosophy, my social perspective might be. I think I’m compelled to see…you know I read your blog and I follow you on Facebook, and I get upset about certain things, but I stop and say, “What is his point? What is he doing? What is he driving at? Where is he going with this?” That’s what we have to be compelled to do. The final analysis is we’re brothers. We don’t disagree on the essential things and so I think that’s what I….you privileged me to preach at Moody one time and that was one of the things that I wanted to say is that we need you to see life through our lense whether you agree or disagree. Walk that path and…

E: Sure.

W: And feel that and then do what you think is appropriate as the Lord leads you. But to ignore it, we don’t have that option, I don’t think.

E: Talk a little bit about if you had a chance to have a national platform and say to the white church these are the top three, four things I wish you would understand.

W: That our preaching is as valid as other persons preaching.

E: So you think the white church does not value a pastor…

W: Correct.

E: Really?

W: I do! Because when we integrate churches, if you notice Moody Bible has African Americans. Most conservative evangelical church have African Americans as members  of church. Flip it around. How many non African Americans are at Ford’s church? At Bo Ford’s church? Bill Blocker. How many people have said, “I really enjoy Bill’s preaching. I’m going to go sit with him.

E: To push back a little bit. How much of that is regional vs. you know, if you’re in the West suburbs in Chicago, you’re in white, white, white country and if you’ve got a pastor out there and the same way would be true.

W: But how many of us travel to a church that we want? We travel ten, twenty, fifteen miles.

E: You would say that’s true even in South Chicago?

W: Sure. Absolutely.  You’ve got churches downtown. You’ve got churches out in the West suburbs that you can go to if you want to. I think that non African Americans feel comfortable music wise in their social setting and I think African Americans have a tendency to do that too. We’ll cross that barrier, and it’s almost as if to say, “You’re preaching is worth it. Our preaching is not.”  I would tell you that I think that there’s some brothers that preach as Biblically accurate as anybody. Well you know that, I don’t’ need to talk about that. I think that’s number one. Number one is integrate our churches.

E: Billy Graham made the comment how many ever years ago, “The most segregated hour in America was 11am Sunday morning.” You mentioned music and culture because when I attended your church or other African American churches, this an all morning affair. “I mean we’re a family. Sunday School might start at 9 or 9:30, Michael It just depends and it’s going to go a long time.”

W: Well Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not the Lord’s hour.

E: Ok, Ok for the western consumer, white consumer, they’re looking at their watches at fifty five minutes.

W: That’s because of their training.

E: Time out. Time out.

W: How long have they been…? When they go to the game they don’t do that. When they go to the golf game they don’t do that.

E: Oh, listen, I agree. I’m not arguing that, but if I’m in a select church, team or a mall or whatever, I won’t wait in line for two hours for a restaurant. I don’t care, now if I’m standing there with you and Karen and Cindy and I, sure! I’ll stand two hours in line.

W: You were a hit in our church, weren’t you?

E: Yeah, but that was church. They’re great people. They love the Lord.

W: They were in the Word. If this guys in the text, we’ll shout. We’ll go with him.

E: Yeah. After that one woman prayed, “Help him Jesus” a few times. “Help him Jesus.” I knew I had to step up my game. (laughter)

W: You were in it. But the whole point is, that’s kind of a hurting thing, right there. But the second thing is and you were…

E: Don’t rush away from this. The African American worship which I love.

W: Yes! It’s coming more and more together.

E: A friend of mine, a white pastor said, “When I die, I want a gospel choir at my funeral.”

W: Yup!

E: So we understand that. Yet! A sustained diet of that wouldn’t work for the average white American.

W: You don’t think so?

E: I don’t think so, just as a sustained diet of what we do at Fellowship, would not work at your church.

W: (He groans…yeah, in agreement) It would not.

E: Guys that do not shave, and have holes in their blue jeans, that look like they just got out of bed, it wouldn’t go over at all.

W: It would not work.

E: Lets’ just acknowledge that’s a big distinction that it’s not so much that, “I don’t like to listen to George Waddles,” which by the way you’re a phenomenal Bible teacher as is Bo Ford, as are many African brothers of ours, but it’s the culture of worship of and style of, “You know today I want to eat Italian food not…”

W: But answer the question for me. Why is it that many African Americans cross that line?

E:  I can speak from Emmanuel and I can speak a little bit about Moody. It wasn’t a benchmark, but we did have an international flavor there. My African American brothers and sisters who were there came for two reasons: they came for Bible teaching, number one. Many of them said, “We got tired of the gospel music.” It was the same thing, almost like someone could incriminate Fellowship, and say “You guys have the top forty,” which we do. They call them Fellowship songs. We sing this band with the songs. Any church can be in that rut. Emmanuel was in that rut. But my friends who were, one of them was a phenomenal vocalist, he said, “I got tired of singing those same songs over and over and it’s not three minutes, it’s nine minutes.”

W: There’s a culture who identifies more with that, that will cross that color line. But you won’t hardly find anybody, and I’m not going to call her name, but Karen worked with a young lady at Moody who attended an African American church. You know who I’m talking about?

E: Yes

W: But when she got ready to leave and she retired, she went to a predominantly white congregation when she went back to her home state, but when you asked the question,  I would like to see the cross integration and hopefully it feels the same way. I see many  African Americans going to non black churches. I don’t see very many…

E: Ok, point taken. Number one. Number two?

W: I think number two is the integration or the evaluation of Bible classes. One of the things we try to do with some subcommunities is say, “Hey I’ve been working here thirty years. I got a bunch of sharp students, young adults, adults. “Let’s have a Bible class exchange” and on four occasions they wanted to start with music. They said, “Why don’t you send your choir? your children’s choir?” I said, “No, we’re not here to song and dance and entertain. We want to talk about from a Biblical perspective, let my young adult come and share and teach.” Let’s say if you had your young thirties, and our group studies, and we talk about the commonalities, the differences. You don’t see that happening. What I’ve discovered is when I talk to the young people, or the adults, and they talk about what they share at work, they’re astonished at their level of understanding. We try to stress Biblical Exegesis.

E: Yes, you do.

W: I think there are a number of congregations that are working in that area. So that’s number two. Number three, those areas in the social arena that we can agree. I understand when we can’t agree, but like you mention the Eric Garner thing. Join us in the large and cry, if I had a national platform, the fourth thing that I would do, is take us back to what the evangelical community was about ten years ago and all the issues that they articulated, that they’re quiet about now. We’re very quiet about those things that are unpopular today. You know what I’m talking about. We’re not saying anything about it because it’s unpopular. It’s like the third rail or something, it’s like if you talk about somebodies lifestyle then…

E: Well, council on Biblical man and womanhood, of course you and Karen are in lockstep with a complementarian view. Those issues aren’t even issues anymore.

W: Exactly! What happened?

E: Well, we won the war in the theological towers, and in a few pulpits, but we lost the church. That’s why I say I’m a dinosaur, George.

W: Wow!

E: Because here we are in Nashville, in the middle of Tennessee and I would be afraid to put our congregation under a truth serum and how many same sex attraction and transgender issues. Now we have the Q you know on the In questioning, I suspect to be twenty plus percent because there’s an artistic community here. I don’t want to be too trite, but right brain, left brain, there’s a right brain orientation to the way we feel about everything as opposed to how we think Biblically, and they come with an experience rather than with truth.

W: What you just hit on right there is frightening to me. Because in the Christian community, people thinking that how they feel is almost authoritative as what God says in His Word and how to apply to it.

E: It is. It is to them. I think their experience, it’s the old pool and,     when you and I had small groups a hundred years ago, you would do your homework, now you read it and go, “What’s that mean to you?” I don’t care what that means to you? What does it mean?

W: I’m still struggling with what happened? Like ten years ago and I shouldn’t say this.

E: Oh you should say it. Just go ahead and say it.

W: I’m upset with you that you left. (laughter) Because you were taking us in a direction that we could hold our heads up Biblically. I know why…and I understand all that. You said, “You’re a dinosaur.” You are a voice of today. If I had a national platform like that, we would talk about these things and we would take the persecution, and the crucifixion, the hostility because our people are being lead astray. I don’t fight that fight in my own congregation.

E: You don’t have to. And, again, not to disparage folks, but I’ve reached out here in Middleton, Tennessee to some African American pastors that I was given, “You need to get to know so and so.” And I don’t get this. I don’t get this. “George, let’s have lunch and you and I take you to your favorite restaurant,” and vice versa like you and I experience. I don’t know all the whys behind that, but after four and five years of trying, you say, “You know what??

W: I understand why. I understand why. Because you fill up your church if you don’t take a Biblical stance. You help pay the bills and put more behinds in the bleachers if you don’t take a Biblical stance. If you sidestep around certain issues. You know that.

E: Remember Dean Kelley’s work? Back in 1991 or 1992, while strict church is growing.  It had nothing to do with conservative. It was strict. This is the doctrine and can you subscribe to it. It was a fascinating study and I don’t think the guy would fall into what we would call a evangelical, Bible believing, fundamental Christian. It was a sociological study, Rose scholarly Publication, if memory serves. But his point was, these are the tenants and those churches grow, which is what Zion is doing and I think what Fellowship is trying to do. That said, beyond filling up the pews and growing, and not offending, what do we do? So we take a look at number 1) why white Americans are uncomfortable? Unwilling? Whatever wording we want to use to be under African American leadership. Attend an African American Church, number 1. Number 2 was?

W: Have congregations African American and white congregations talk about Scripture together?

E: Ok, partnering Bible class, Bible study. Number 3.

W: Number 3, I would think…did I say have Michael Easley have a national platform to tell everybody.

E: (laughing) No, we’re going to cut that one out. Number 3?

W: I would think that we have to regain a bold proclamation around these social issues and take the heat for it.

E: Obviously, this is not the platform, but if we had to choose two or three today, George Waddles and Michael Easley said, “We’re going to go out on a limb and say these are the top three and four issues that we need to address as an evangelical, fundamental, Bible believing church that teaches the Scripture expositorily, that all the checks…

W: Homosexuality is sin, ok?. And it’s not an acceptable lifestyle in the body of Christ.

E: It was probably nine months ago, I made the comment about marriage and I just defined it. I said, “By the way, heterosexual, monogamous for life.”

W: Correct.

E: I may have said four sentences on that. “By the way, in case you’re wondering, heterosexual, monogamous for life.” Afterward, I got inundated in our Learning Center with young women in their twenties saying, “This is all we’re talking about because all our friends are gay. “All our friends are ….the boy has two moms.” This is Middleton, TN, this is not Chicago. It’s frightening that they don’t hear that more often.

W: So that would be…

E: But then we’re not embracing the gay community. Then we’re intolerant.

W: We’re not embracing adultery either. We’re not embracing fornication, pediphilia. We’re not embracing any of those issues. We’re not embracing stealing.

E: We’re not embracing sin. Well this is my point all along, why do we let identification with a particular affinity, I mean if that’s the case, you and I as a womanizer. My identity is whatever. That’s not my identity! My identity is either in Christ or not from our grid, but then how do we speak that from a non believing world? Your identity is in? Your identity is not in?

W: Should we speak to a non believing world?

E: I think it’s both, don’t you?

W: I’m concerned about the believing world. I do agree we have to speak to the unbelieving world.

E: You’ve got twenty percent that don’t know what they believe, right?

W: I need to do that study again. Yeah, probably. (laughter)

E: When you look at the RCA dog expressions on their heads when you’re saying things going, “Pastor Waddles, I don’t know if I agree with you on that.”

W: I had a guy that I just baptized two weeks ago who told me he was a seller of exotic weed.

E: Hello

W: He does not sell heroin, or cocaine. He specializes in marijuana. He’s not going to shoot anybody; he’s not going to hurt anybody, but he came to me at thirty four years of age and said his daughter’s a member of my church, his little ten year old daughter. Of course, he’s not married to the mother of the child. “Something is wrong in my life. I’ve had it all. I’ve had stacks of money on my desk of my office,” he said. He describe some very physical, intimate experiences.

E: Lurid.

W: Yes, all that kind of stuff. He said, “None of that has been satisfying to me.”

E: You know isn’t that the issue of sin? It is insatiable.

W: Yes!

E: Otherwise one affair would solve the problem.

W: Yes, exactly! And on top of that, not only is it insatiable, it takes you further.

E:  law of diminishing returns

W: Yeah, he said, “I need something, someone else.” I sat there and talked for an hour in my office and lead him to Jesus. Tears…here’s a guy 6’5”, I’m 6’ 21/2.”

E: You’re a lot taller than that to me. (laughter)

W: 6ft 5, big muscles, I was a little concerned if he didn’t particularly, if he got angry.

E: Care for your message? Right.

W: He has not missed worship since I shared Christ with him. He said, “I don’t want a slick church. This is what I want. I don’t need you to sugarcoat. I know what sin is. I know what wrong is. I know” …he didn’t call it fornication, but he knows “I know what that is,” He says, “I need truth.” He said, “My mama can’t help me because she’s still drinking. I don’t know where my daddy is.” So what I’m saying is yes, we have to speak to the unbelieving world, but those people whose hearts are ready to hear the truth of the gospel, rather than try to…

E: That’s a valid point. Within discipleship, I was interviewed earlier this morning, by a young man and he wanted to know what’s the greatest need in Christianity. I said, “Well if you begin to answer that question, you’re never going to find it because you may be drilling wells in Vietnam,Sudan, you might be giving out Aids relief. I mean to me the biggest need is making disciples.” That’s what Jesus told us to do. You’ve heard my story before about the American pastors got it all wrong. We’re building churches and hoping someone else is going to make disciples. Jesus said, “No, you make disciples and I’ll build the church.”

W: The advantage I have as President of the National Baptist Congress is our theme is making disciples for Jesus Christ. Isn’t that revolutionary that…?

E: And why do we have to have a new vision every six years? I mean why in the world can’t we say, “Jesus said “Make disciples?”

W: That’s it. That’s it.

E: When you have made all the disciples that can be made, you’re done. You don’t need a hundred year Japanese plan.

W: Right.

E: You don’t need a business model. You need to make disciples and reproduce, reproducers. Isn’t that freeing to some extent?

W: It’s certainly freeing.You know how I came to that? I was trying to figure out what to do and I realized here is the Son of God who is trying to walk on water, raise the dead, but when He was here He didn’t overthrow the Roman Government.

E: Right.

W: What was His task? What was His focus?

E: Eleven men.

W: Exactly. It’s very clear what our responsibility is: to make disciples. So I don’t really get caught up in a lot of social justice stuff. I’m not a liberation theologist person. I call it as I see it.

E: Phew. I was worried for a minute.

W: (laughter)

E: You’re not an open theist, are you?

W: You know I just think that, that is key in terms of what we must do.

E: There’s neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man; there’s neither male nor female, you are all in Jesus Christ, and if you belong to Christ than you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs, according to the promise. You and I George, have been given a promise. That promise preceded the divisions of Western views of race and slavery and all the atrocities of our histories and I’m thankful you’re my brother and my friend and I thank you that you gave us this time to be on inContext.

W: Michael, thank you so much. I love you and I appreciate you so much. I pray for your strength, and your continued perseverance, in proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

E: We’ll do this again.

W: Please.

E: Blessings.

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