The Wizard of Oz and Baptist Presidents

My mother once told me how the Wizard of Oz, in black and white, was horrifying and scary.
However, when she later saw the movie in color, she rather enjoyed it. Beloved, I am an avid
reader of the blogs, and listener of the rumor mills, and sadly like my mother, am horrified and
scarred because we are stuck in a two color rhetoric.

Image result for wizard of oz black and white to color

Who am I ? – My name is Mario Manuel Catalino Melendez. I am Filipino, Cajun-French,
Spaniard, plus I grew up around the deaf community and I married a Scottish-Irish girl.
Furthermore, I am a PhD candidate (awaiting dissertation defense) at New Orleans
Baptist Theological Seminary.

Today I was asked by a slew of minority students to answer some wonderful questions about
the ethnic background of New Orleans and the biblical means of ethnic ministry. Interestingly
we all agreed that it is high time that a minority person speak on behalf of minority people.
Hence, I’d like to remind us all of a few biblical passages which I shall draw into the
conversations of late.

1. We must be people of the GOSPEL (1 Cor. 2:2).
As a minority minister, I encourage everyone to remember what message changes lives,
communities and is the bedrock of the church: Christ and Him Crucified. Many would be
interested to know how low on the priority list, a person’s ethnicity is, to many minorities.
Sure, I’d love to see a diverse ethnicity of the SBC leaders, BUT I desire to see a GODLY
leadership who believes, follows and proclaims the Gospel first and foremost.

2. We must remember the GOSPEL is for the WORLD (John 3:16)
Christ died for the sins of the WORLD. Let’s leave the reformed/non-reformed debate out
of this passage and reflect upon this kingdom reality. The Kingdom of God is reflective of
believers from all around the world. If we continue the rhetoric of “black and white,” we run
the risk of alienating millions of other ethnicities. As one student said today, “when a
person’s conversation is only about black and white, they have just fallen prey to a type of
prejudice by not acknowledging the existence of others.” The USA is a beautiful nation, first
populated by First Nationers, who do not fit the current rhetoric. If memory serves there are
some 52 million Spanish in the USA (vs. 37 million African Americans) who do not fit the
current rhetoric either. Furthermore, if the trend continues, there will be more mixed babies
like me than mono-ethnic people in a few decades. So remember Christ’s sacrifice was for
ALL who believe.

3. We must strive to reach ALL (1 Cor. 9:22)
We must strive to be effective ministers of the Gospel to ALL people. The hermeneutic of
this particular verse has been debated by my friends and mentors. As a multi-ethnic person
I found solace in this verse. Growing up I didn’t know where I belonged, or who to be… but
Dr. Ken Easley finally helped me to realize I was gifted the ability to cross lines and be
effective at sharing the Gospel. Beloved, If you desire to diversify that is great. BUT, my
caution to everyone is do not desire to “become all things to all men so as to reach - two.”
As the decades roll on, I hope that mixed-ethnic people’s such as myself will become
candidates for leadership in the Church, for the sake of the Gospel.

4. We must keep the Word of God as the Word on our tongues. (1 John 1:1-4)
We must not let our rhetoric be dictated by our world, otherwise the Gospel will be diluted
into the story of us. My life, and life story does not change lives. Jesus’ life, teachings, death,
and resurrection do! Yet, the rhetoric I often hear from the pulpit, blogs and rumor-mill is
more akin to secular news organizations. The moment that our speeches, blogs and sermons
sound more like the news than the Sermon on the Mount we have left the realm of preaching
Christ and begun preaching american politics.

I do not know who said it first, but the church is always one generation from dying off. When
we consider leadership positions, we MUST place the most capable candidate into every
office, for the sake of Christendom. If the person is white, spanish, black, asian or native
american that is great on all accounts. But is the person placed in leadership “above
reproach,” and an example to the believers in holiness and conduct? The moment that we
worry more about the color of a person’s skin than we do their walk in holiness with Christ
we place the Church in jeopardy.

As my mentor Dr. Landon Dowden constantly told me and now I tell my parishioners, “If we
are to minister to others rightly, we must focus on the cross constantly.”

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