The much-anticipated Oxygen series, Preachers of Atlanta aired last night and judging from the Twittersphere, it was quite a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had the opportunity to watch it, which is ironic because I did so much cheerleading for Pastor Canton Jones, whom I interviewed in preparation for the series premiere.
But I did watch this video last night. I stumbled upon it as I was conducting research on Pastor Le’Andria Johnson. Le’Andria, of all of the Pastors from the cast, seemed to be the subject of most people’s ire. I couldn’t help but be intrigued.
From the show’s previews, I came to understand her methods of reaching the lost to be rather unconventional. She is bold enough to step outside the church to reach people who might never set foot in a sanctuary. I find that to be commendable and think we need more like her, in that respect. In her stepping out, however, she even passes out condoms and cigarettes to gain the attention and trust of prostitutes and drug addicts. If I can be frank, that aspect of her approach isn’t at all acceptable. It undermines everything the Word teaches us about the restorative power we have through Christ, who HEALED, CLEANSED, RAISED and FED (Matthew 10:8; 14:18) . He didn't give the leper a bottle of calamine lotion or the blind walking sticks. The woman with the issue of blood wasn't presented with a box of Always with wings. Her approach also enables sin, as it is from a position of carnality and worldly wisdom, not the POWER and AUTHORITY of the Spirit (Matthews 28:18). (I hope to expound on this topic in a future post.)
For now, though (since I’ve yet to see the series for myself), I want to address her behavior in the referenced video. It's from September 2015 so, certainly, by now God has had the opportunity to minister to her and prayerfully she’s had the chance to repent. All is most likely forgiven and understood between she and God on this matter.
But with Preachers of Atlanta now on the airwaves and her being the most controversial of the bunch, I’m sure others will stumble across this video just as I did. It’s now out there for all to see...probably FOREVER! Again, I’m sure she’s already repented for this piece and I don’t bring it up here to shame her or drag her through the mud. Instead, since it exists, I wish to use it to illustrate a point to new believers about what being sinners saved by grace really means (and what it doesn’t).
In the video, Le’Andria is agitated that the public is “judging” her for cursing and drinking in a recent “Drunk in Love” Periscope broadcast – which she’s adamant to note SHE purposely made available to the public. She justifies her decision to share herself cursing and drinking because she wants to be “real” with her fans. Her defense was that by putting her cursing and drinking on display she was showing that she isn’t fake – that she, too, has flaws… that we’re all human…that no one is perfect, and that we’re all sinners. I regret she even said this, as this application of doctrine is twisted and runs counter to the entire purpose Christ was sent to serve in our daily lives.
Philippians 3:12-14 is my FAVORITE scripture. It seems to neatly sum up everything we need to know about living and growing as Christians.
Yet, both (immature) believers and non-believers alike seem to be confused by its meaning. They can't reconcile the idea that we were born sinners but were forgiven of sin. They often wonder, "Well, doesn't this free me to do whatever I want? If I'm forgiven of my sins, can't I continue to sin?"
The answer is an emphatic, “NO!”
When we say "we were born sinners" or "born into sin," it means humans were born with a sinful NATURE as a result of the original sin. It means that the perfect, God-image in which we were created got stained when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. It means sin draws a wedge between us and God. As a result, it means we have the potential to operate outside of the will of God. Because Adam and Eve were the first of all human creation, this stain became imprinted on us all – it is forever a component of human nature. Our minds became carnal (Romans 8:6).
BUT Christ forgave us of our sins so that so that we could reestablish a relationship with God. When you hear people say "covered in the blood" or "His blood washes us clean" it means we now have a renewed opportunity to be that perfect, God-image creature in God's eyes. As far as God is concerned, through Christ, the barrier that Adam and Eve created with their original sin is now removed so that we can freely and directly commune with Him again –we are reconciled with Him! One who believes in the sacrifice of Christ and has repented of sins is forgiven and becomes a new creature.
As a new creature, you are to grow towards operating from a higher standard - God's standard. The more you grow in your walk with Christ, the LESS and LESS you should want to actively sin or make decisions that could lead to sin. The carnal things of the world that once made sense to you, or the things you once desired to do, should no longer make sense or be your desire because your mind is renewed (1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20).
Are we perfect, though? No. Because we remain human (in the flesh), which has a sinful nature. We continue to have the potential to step out of God’s will. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). This is why God has to urge us to CHOOSE Him and His path (Deuteronomy 30:19). This is why the Spirit of Christ has to circumcise your heart (Romans 8:6), and why you should take care to “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2-3, emphasis mine).
This transformation takes place both through Christ’s Spirit that lives within you AND your willingness to allow Him to complete His work. We are reconciled to God because Christ's blood is our covering and gives us the grace to “get it together”. Though we aren't yet perfected, Christ is, thus we should make an effort to GROW TOWARD perfection, which means we should strive each day to be like Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15). As we mature in our walk, God continues to work on us and, along the way, God moves us from glory to glory. The most BASIC things (actively cursing and public drunkenness, for example) should fall off early on in our walk. You should be able to exemplify the Fruit of the Spirit more and more each day (Galatians 5:22-23). The things that made you stumble on day one shouldn't STILL be your stumbling block 10 years later, assuming you've been intentional with maintaining your relationship with Christ (Hebrews 5:12-13).
Put a simpler way: One who continues to operate in sin AFTER accepting Christ is like a student who's been promoted to the next grade, but instead decides to either remain in the lower grade or go to the next grade but not even attempt to learn anything new. They have access to this next level of knowledge, but they've chosen not to study, grow or mature. They don't honor their promotion. They don’t even care to behave as one who has been promoted. They’re not about that ‘to whom much is given, much is required’ life! As a result, when graduation day comes, they are unqualified to walk with the others because they lack the discipline, knowledge and maturity they SHOULD have attained along the way to prove they are ready for "the real world" (certainly, you know this was an analogy for salvation and reaching the Kingdom of Heaven).
In the video, Le’Andria repeatedly claims that others shouldn’t judge her because how she conducts herself is part of HER process. She asks for the public’s understanding because God isn’t done working on her.
While I get that, it’s important to highlight that God is also a God of decency and order. He most certainly is still working on Le’Andria - as He is on all of us. The issue, however, is that (from this video) she’s operating as a babe, if as a believer at all. She is behaving like the student who was promoted but remains behind her classmates – yet she is also somehow their professor! It doesn’t add up (1 Timothy 3:1-7). I don’t say this to be cruel. I’m simply trying to convey a point through analogy.
Le’Andria’s desire is to show the world that SHE is real, when in actuality her job as a pastor is to demonstrate that CHRIST is real! The best way to do that is to show others how much SHE’s grown as a result of her walk with Him. If this video is any indication of how she currently pastors her flock or demonstrates Christ to the world, that's gravely problematic for her, her congregation and, unfortunately, any non-believer who happens upon her ministry.
I honestly love her zeal and think she has a gift to reach those who are lost. It's just not yet refined. It appears she's moved to operate in her gifting prematurely. I get that by cursing and drinking on camera she believed she was connecting with those who smoke, drink and curse. I get that she was trying to demonstrate she's relatable. But the truth is, she’s instead telling the world: ‘greater is he that is in the world than He that is within me.’ She’s confusing those who are babes in the faith, being an inadequate witness for Christ to non-believers, and causing dissension in the church. And from what I’ve seen so far, she’s not accountable to anyone to bring her back to center. (Which could be the root of this entire issue.)
God is most certainly still working on her, and people should certainly be patient with her and love on her to help facilitate her growth. We’re all there. But, she should truly consider resigning as a leader in the church until she’s reached full deliverance from those basic areas that may easily cause her, and babes in her flock, to stumble. If the leader falls, everyone behind her will also domino down. If she’s going around preaching that she is a sinner and God forgives “70 times 7”, but stops there, she undermines God’s refinement process. And, sadly, she’ll stymie the growth of those she leads. Instead, they’ll settle with living in a continuous cycle of DRINK – CURSE – REPENT – REPEAT. Where in that cycle is there evidence of God moving people from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)?
At the end of the day, I know God will get the glory from this. If nothing else, Le’Andria’s example proves that, once and for all, we Christians really need to grow up…for Christ’s sake!