Anticipation is building around the upcoming release of a book that analyzes and criticizes what the author describes as a crisis directly affecting millions of African-American Christians. “Wolves in Shepherds’ Clothing: The Decline of the Black Church and the Role of Charlatans, Counterfeits and Other Scoundrels in the Pulpit” examines the history of the Black Church as a unique cultural institution and how it is threatened by a rising tide of spiritual laziness among the laity. But it takes its sharpest aim at destructive congregational leaders—pastors the author characterizes as wolves in shepherds’ clothing.
“The Bible warns Christians to beware of wolves in sheeps’ clothing, a sinister threat to the church from within,” says author LaMont Jones Jr. “However, many believers have forgotten the caution against wolves in shepherds’ clothing, a much bigger threat to congregations in the new millennium. The majority of pastors are responsible leaders trying to faithfully live out their calling. But a growing and increasingly visible contingent of corrupt phonies constitute a cancer on the church. This book was written to sound the alarm and to call congregations and their leaders to account, specifically in the Black Church tradition. At a time when its prophetic voice is as critical as ever, the Black Church has steadily eroded from a bulwark never failing to a sinking ship sabotaged from within. And the damage extends beyond the congregations.”
The book begins with a discussion of the rich history of the Black Church and its roots in slavery, followed by a chronology that charts the institution’s spiritual decline in recent years. Subsequent chapters describe various species, or archetypes, of wolves: the millionaire CEO, the control-freak COO, the sexual predator, and the crass careerist, to name a few. The book concludes with specific recommendations for pastors and congregations to counteract the influence of destructive spirits in pastoral positions.
“‘Wolves in Shepherds’ Clothing’ goes beyond a title and cover that deliver a literary punch in the face,” says Jones. “It squarely and unapologetically addresses unpleasant realities and inconvenient truths about what’s happening in too many Black churches. Some readers may be tempted to stone the messenger, but I’m confident that most will be honest and caring enough to want to discuss my assessment of the situation and consider the solutions I recommend. The reaction so far from many Black and White Christians who have heard about the book is, ‘I’m glad somebody is finally addressing this problem!’”
While the book describes some incidents in detail—drawn from Black Protestant churches across the country—the author does not name the actual churches and pastors. “I want readers to understand that although the real-life situation occurred at a specific church, the spirit behind it is active in many congregations—possibly even their own.”
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones, 48, is an ordained fourth-generation minister and long-time church member and leader in the Baptist tradition. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and government from Western Kentucky University and a master’s degree in theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Jones also has completed two-thirds of his coursework toward a doctorate of education in pastoral community counseling at Argosy University. An award-winning veteran journalist, he has worked in various secular and religious settings and resides in Pittsburgh. Jones also is author of 2003’s “Living in the Winner’s Circle: A Meditational Journal.”
(The public can pre-order reserved copies of Wolves in Shepherds’ Clothing at a discounted price of $12.95 per copy through Jan. 15 at http://www.pneumapublishing.com.)
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