Interview with Dr. George Waddles

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 1 which focuses on single parenting in the church, racial tension with the recent events between African Americans and whites, and how “the system” contributes to the culture.

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

EASLEY: Well we are in the studio today with Dr. George Wesley Waddles. He is the pastor of the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Over thirty years, now George?

WADDLES: Thirty one years.

E: Thirty one years. You came out of Wichita, Kansas. You came to know Christ in 1955, that’s before I was born, just for the record.

W: Thank you for that. I appreciate it.

E: (Laughter) Licensed to preach at the Ninth Street Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kansas in 1975. You have a long pedigree here. I won’t read it all. George,the most compelling part of your bio is the nearly thirty sons in ministry, ten of which are pastors. First time I think you invited me to speak at your church to preach, you had this group of young men, junior high and up as I recall and they kind of followed you wherever Rev Waddles went, they were right behind you. Tell us a little bit about those men and your ministry to these young men.

W: It’s good to see you again Michael. I really appreciate you and the opportunity to share with you. I really do. I want to talk about those men, but let me commend you for your faithfulness to Biblical exposition, and I know this is not exactly what you wanted me to say, but I just want to commend you for that. Your faithfulness and your dedication to accurate  Biblical Interpretation is so needed today and thank you for staying the course.

E: And you too brother. We’re dinosaurs, aren’t we? We’re old guys that are still doing this exposition thing.

W: I think it‘s going to have a great resurgence in the days ahead. Speaking of that, those young people that you were talking about, those men, I really believe in discipleship. I believe we build the body of Christ, one person at a time. I know it’s great to have thousands upon thousands, upon thousands, but  I enjoy pouring into these guys. Some of them can have a Demas experience..

E: Went the way of the world.

W: Yes, some of them can fall by the wayside and they need a Barnabas to pick them up, but there are those who are faithful as Timothy and stay the course and you can teach them so they can teach others as the Scripture teaches us.

E: Now, as I recall your church is primarily made up of single moms?

W: Yeah, yeah.

E: So these young boys, you’re not only making disciples, you’re their father in many respects.

W: You know, it’s interesting I have several deacons now. You know I’ve been there thirty one years,and instead of calling me pastor, they call me dad. That’s a heavy responsibility. I think that’s a more important role than pastor and I think that is a key. We look just the other day about the number of women who were raising boys, not just girls or children, but boys. There’s a huge proliferation of young women who, for however it happened, they have young boys to parent. As a matter of fact, one of the things we’re going to launch is Biblical directives for single parenting because unfortunately, women (and I may get in trouble, your show may be canceled), but women often don’t know how to raise boys to become Godly men. It would be difficult for us…

E: That’s across ethnic lines.

W: I would not have a clue how to turn a little girl into a Godly woman. Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife named Karen, who did a wonderful work with Genesis and we are both blessed in that area. But it is important for men to step in and nurture boys, young teenagers. I don’t have one young teenager who has his pants hanging down. I don’t have one teenage boy who’s got earrings in his nose and I’m not trying to suggest that those things are indicative not being a person of faith, but what I’m simply saying we’re trying to model what it means to be a Godly man in a variety of different ways.

E: Something different. Yeah! And again correct me, but I remember the first or second time I was with you in your church there was a young boy and you made him stand up, and he had gotten all A’s on his report card and you made a big deal about this. It was neat for me to watch you esteemed him in front of his family and if I remember his Auntie was the one who drove across town to pick that young man up and bring him to Zion Hill.

W: That was Michael. I remember that and Michael came to me yesterday. Michael, of course is a first year college student now and he is doing tremendous.

E: But you spoke into his life in front of all that family. Probably one of the only men.

W: There’s no question. They don’t receive the support from adult males. A lot of times their teachers are females, the grandmother. And it’s good, it’s encouraging, but they need a model. We do celebrate it.

E: That’s fabulous.

W: We continue to do it. I was almost tempted once. Let me just mention this to you, to kind of reward them monetarily for their grades, and the Lord just really lead me not to do that. To let the reward be the achievement of itself. It is still working. The young girls of course, we acknowledge them too but they seem to achieve, you know how that is.

E: And there again, in the African, American culture, there is a what?  You tell me. What’s the percentage across the board women in churches vs. men?

W: Right now, it’s about seventy, thirty. Seventy percent female, and thirty percent males, which gives rise to a great opportunity for women to do ministry. My wife does a job in teaching Biblical womanhood among the young women, which is very unpopular. They have found it to be very refreshing what they need, and it helps cement them in building a strong family even though the husband is not there. Dad may not be around. There’s some really serious issues that we have to deal with.

E: Let’s transition to issues that are in the media all the time right now: Ferguson, N.Y., Michael Brown. You and I have not a chance to talk about this yet.

W: No, we haven’t.

E: But for the record, we both love Christ. We both follow the same text. We pretty much preach similarly.

W: I think so.

E: But you and I are probably going to have a very different perspective on this. I want to hear from you because when we watch Fox, or NBC, or mainstream media, it’s a fever pitch and it’s right and wrong.

W: Yup!

E: First of all how do you begin talking about this in your own congregation? Because you’ve got young African American boys that have gotten in trouble in your neighborhood.

W: Well, I think we own the responsibilities for when we’ve erred, or when we have committed a crime, or when we have put ourselves in a position to be challenged. I think we have to be very honest about what I did to put myself in a position to engage the police in a negative way. I think it’s so important to be really honest.

E: Would that message play well in the media?

W: Oh no, but see I would not end there, I would also continue with saying that we also have to be aware of what we’ve called racial profiling. If you’re driving down the street and you get stopped. This happened to my son Nathan. He was riding in the car; he got stopped; his wife was driving; he was just coming from revival. As you know he’s a pastor. He had a hood over his head, you know Nathan is a big guy. They..

E: He’s a big boy.

W: They took him out of the car and took him to the station and he kept asking, “What did I do wrong?” But I had counseled him and this is one of the things you hear a lot, that if he’s ever stopped by the police, not to resist, not to protest, get to the station and then call me. Because what could happen in a split second, as we’ve witnessed can be life changing. Sometimes these young men don’t have that counsel to say even though you’re right, or you may think you’re right, there’s a way that you have to behave. The reality is you have to behave in a certain way so that you can correct someone else’s wrong. I learned that from when I was a child, my mother said, “If someone does something to you and it’s wrong, just wait call me, and if they’re wrong I’ll deal with them, if you’re wrong I’ll deal with you.”

E: Does the entitlement culture… where does this come from? I mean I was taught the same thing, it’s “Yes sir, no sir, to police officers.” I mean I have browbeat my children. “No sir, yes sir. No ma’am.” Just that simple thing. You know, when you’re pulled over, put your hands on the steering wheel where they can see them. Don’t make any assumptions.

W: But when you’re pulled over and you’ve done something wrong, it’s quite different.

E: You’re not going to.

W: When you’ve been pulled over and you know you haven’t done anything wrong.

E: Ok

W: If it happens over and over again. I’ve been pulled over, and that’s the issue that has to be seen. The thing is in the case that we saw like with Eric Garner in New York, that’s pretty tough pill to swallow. When the coroner ruled it a homicide; when there’s a choke hold being used. I think we have to and this is where the Christian community can come together. When we can agree that we saw something that was inappropriate, let it go to trial. Let’s find out the facts, but to throw it out and to say, “No crime was committed. it’s irrelevant.” I think that’s where we can collectively cry out together.

E: And I would say, and again I watch more news than I probably need to, or should, but it seems as though we were hearing from conservatives alike saying, “That was egregious. What in the world?” And there’s a grand jury question mark there.

W: Correct. Correct.

E: It also works against the idea that a body cameras going to help because if police officers have body cams, we’re going to be analyzing videos like we do an NFL call over and over and over. We’re going to have different sides. Moving as Christian leadership men, who have an opportunity to say something, what do we say to our congregations? What do we say when someone puts a microphone in your hand in South Chicago, and says,”What do you think about this?”

W: That’s happened recently. The first thing I said, “I want to pray and ask the Lord for direction of how to respond to this in a way that gives Him glory.” Now that eliminates a lot of problems and it doesn’t satisfy why they’re putting the microphone in front of me.

E: Controversial.

W: Right. They want to get me to say something that they can show on their little news.

E: Twist.

W: Right, they don’t hear that. They won’t hear that. But I want to educate my congregation to do that which is pleasing to God and then also to challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ  who are white, to also say you do that which is pleasing to God as well. I think that’s where we have to live. We can’t allow anybody to divide us. Should the guy have been robbing the store? Absolutely not! Absolutely not! I don’t agree with anybody robbing a store. If a person robs a store, does that mean we can take their life? Those are the questions we have to ask. If a twelve year old boy has a pellet gun in his hand or a toy pistol, can you take his life within two to three seconds of driving up on him? Those are the questions that I want my white brothers and sisters to ask that question of their constituents. I know what I have to do in my community to say don’t put yourself in certain positions. Let’s raise our boys; let’s raise boys to be men. I mean we grew up poor, but there was never room for taking something that didn’t belong to you. But knowing that we’re in a climate now where you could lose your life, you have to start sharing that reality out there. The other thing is, I think we have a chance to call it what it is. Where sin is sin, that’s where we need to call it sin. I think sometimes we try to  put it in a social framework, where it’s because of social injustice or because it was some kind of dysfunction. You know Cain slew Abel and they had the same parents. You know sin is sin and that’s partly how I approach these issues in the context of my church. I don’t meet with gang bangers. I don’t try to help you become a more effective gang member. I’m not doing that and if that puts me in the wrong place. But at the same time, there are other crimes that are being committed in this country that are as egregious as somebody selling crack or cocaine that we don’t address as well. I’m going to call that out too. I think that’s the flipside.

E: But the media is going to be more interested in a white on black crime.

W: Yup.

E: The black on black crime is pase. White on white crime is pase, but when it crosses that line, it’s vitriolic, it’s gas on a fire, and then we get the polarizing issues whether it’s conservative or white, black, Christian, whatever, and somehow they ask you just like they ask me. My response is, well first of all when a police officer pulls you over, you say, “Yes sir.” You don’t get into an altercation with him and then it stops right there, even if he puts you on the ground and hurts you, you’re going to live. Right? I would rather that young man live with a scuff or a bruised chin or whatever then walk away dead and something in all of us triggers. All of these incidents happen so quickly and that’s another part, I don’t think the average viewer understands how quickly those things breaks down. You’re right. It’s a matter of seconds.

W: Do you think there’s any validity to how police officers, black and white, may view black life, vs white life?

E: Oh sure! I look at Ferguson for example: we’re in an African American neighborhood. This isn’t like we’re looking for an individual in the middle of a crowd. “Oh, he happens to be an African American with a hood on.” This is an African American neighborhood so that’s a beat. We know that. New York’s a little different. Each ones unique so that to me is a little bit of a left hook because it doesn’t really matter. We’re in an African American neighborhood. A crime has been committed. How he handled it, all those things we can analyze endlessly. We find a lack of black police officers, right? We find there are few men who want to go into law enforcement and that’s understandable too, to a degree. I don’t know if you knew my friend JT Walker, African American pastor and was driving with his wife and their wedding presents, driving across one of the Carolinas at night and you can fill in the blanks. He’s pulled over and the police has him on the ground and has handcuffs on him, and his little wife crying inside of the car and he thinks he’s stolen all these gifts. This was a Campus Crusade for Christ pastor.

W: See that presumption is….

E: Infuriating.

W: Before proving innocent is what …that’s the issue that I think you assume guilt because of certain factors. That’s the thing that I think, there is, you know Michael there is a boiling rage that comes along. You push it aside; you pray through it; you raise your children right; you teach them the right thing; you want them to be able to walk down the street and not be thrown up against a building.

E: Agreed. Agreed! Alright, lets move to the vitriol. Al Sharpton, what good does this do? Help me as a white person understand. What good does this do?

W: Well, the part of it is, there are certain names that create media awareness: Al Sharpton, Crump, Jesse Jackson. If they show up, the media shows up. Believe me, I know this for a fact. We’ve had issues that we’ve tried to call a press conference and the media won’t come out.

E: Media won’t come out. Right.

W: If I call certain persons and say, “They’ll be here. They’re going to make a statement.” The press will swarm. So that’s the value, when you say value, that’s what Al Sharpton brings to the table. I have a lot of disagreements with a lot of different people, but when you ask what is the value? It’s distressing to me. You and I are close brothers. We agree about a lot. We should not disagree. I don’t think we do and I’d be surprised if we did. We should not disagree about something just because of race. We don’t. You and I, I don’t think we do. We may disagree about something because of a political perspective. You know that’s fine. But I think when directed by the same Scripture, the same text, I think we’re trying to get to the same place, but maybe we see it in a different way.

E: Within the African American community, it’s like anything. There’s a gambit.

W: That’s a good point.

E: Ok, so we have to keep that front and center. I remember watching a special years ago.  Mendenhall.

W: Mendenhall Ministries.

E: They were talking to this pastor, and what struck me George, he had the same books behind his head in his pastors library that I have in mine. And I was going now wait a minute. This guy and I we probably agree more than we disagree, but his view of the white system was the first time I had been educated to hear what he saying. If I grew up in this community, this is all I’ve ever known. My whole perspective was in his case, the democrats “helped my people.” We could debate that endlessly, “what’s helping, what’s hurting.”

W: Right.

E: His point was, there were FDC for these folks. There were assistance for a single mom, there was assistance for this and that, housing and so forth, for individuals who were in a system. It was pretty closed, you probably weren’t going to finish high school, very few went to college. So what do you do? You grew up in a community where you were fortunate to live with a family member or maybe get assistance, and live in a HUD apartment.That’s life! That was striking to me because I had not seen it that way. He articulated the system, I thought, in a fair way. Now, that makes sense. When the African American, like you, breaks out of that; you went to high school; you finished; you went to college; you went to graduate school. What’s the difference?

W: Well see you just struck it? How did I get there though? See that was the point. I was in high school and I had a very good grade point average. But they weren’t counseling me to go to a particular college. A guy from a Mennonite college saw my test scores, and came, his name was Sprunger, came to the school and offered me an academic scholarship. I was the second leading score in basketball in the city of Wichita, but my coach who did not like me. I was a mouthy…

E: I can’t imagine that. But you put points on the board because you were big. (Laughter)

W: I would have done probably what he did, but he held all of my scholarship offers until after the signing day to show me what real power was.

E: Yeah, that’s real helpful.

W: But this other guy comes from a Mennonite college and says, “I have an academic scholarship for you.” So the hand of God was working. All along.

E: Did many of your peer get out of the system?

W: I was the only one out of my ….we lived in a little enclave called Plainview right outside Wichita. I was the only guy out of about fifteen African American males who started kindergarten that graduated from high school and got to college.

E: My word.

W: One out of fifteen. I wouldn’t have gotten to the college I went to, which is a Bible college, if it hadn’t been for the Lord orchestrating this guy. Now at the same time there were programs in place to help poor students. What if those hadn’t been there? By the time I got to graduate school, I finished college and getting ready to go to graduate school, the National Institute of Mental Health said they had grants. Those were democratic sponsored…my path.. but I attribute a lot of that of course working behind the scenes of course.

E: Right. You and I are looking at government to solve problems, but yet you had a way out.

W: Correct! That’s the issue. Here’s the passion for my heart. Let me just digress for a moment. Because of where I live and who my parents are, can largely determine my future. I look at the kids today in the city of Chicago. This boy just happens to be born to a woman who isn’t working or whatever, and they’re cutting head start programs, so by the time he gets to kindergarten, he can’t read or write. He gets to first or second grade. He’s behind. You can say well it’s the parents’ responsibility, but the parent is out here working at McDonalds.

E: Or she’s a young teenager with no education herself.

W: Or even if she has it, she’s working…I’ve seen it. Two jobs and she doesn’t have the opportunity to sit down and say, “Johnny how you did you do with math?” So he’s off fending for himself, but here’s another kid who happens to be my son, and my wife is able to stay at home. So “Dick, did you get your homework done? Let me see it.” To me that is blatantly,well  you can say that’s the way the system works or whatever you want to say, but we need to make sure every child has the same opportunity. Now if you mess up that opportunity, that’s a different thing.

E: So at Zion Hills Missionary Baptist Church…

W: Yes, we have tutoring. We are trying to fill in that gap. We’re trying to make that difference. But what about the ones we don’t touch? Some fifth grader some kid comes along and says you’re tired of sleeping on the floor, you’re tired of not having this. Here’s fifty dollars, just stand on the corner. It’s awfully tempting.

E: After a little bit of that, it’s…

W: I think you might have been there…his name is Terrance. Terrance spent a year in prison, not in jail, in prison. Because at eighteen he was a look out and got caught. He was a great kid, but his mother didn’t have any money for him. His daddy didn’t know who he was and he had been broke for five or six years, so he stood on the corner after school and made two to three hundred dollars a week which is more than he could have made at McDonalds. So consequently when he got caught, he got thrown in prison, has a felony record. We helped turn that thing around.

E: On the next broadcast, Part II, you will hear more about this young man and Dr. George Waddle’s story of how they are ministering in South Chicago. One of my hopes with inContext is that we continue to engage in issues like the white and African American tension, the racial tensions, police issues. As believers in Christ, how do we respond when we see culture doing things? We know it’s wrong. We know it’s horrible, but do we sit idly by or do we get on one side or the other cheering these groups on. To be salt and light, to be Christ to the world, is very complex in these difficult issues, so that’s all the more reason I hope you look at your life, is how you live out your faith in Jesus Christ, in the context where He has placed you. You have an opportunity to love like Christ would love, to speak truth as the Word speaks truth in a context where He’s placed you and you are uniquely poised to be used by God. This is Michael Easley inContext.

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