Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his socially conscious ministry at 26, an age we now consider a millennial. With that in mind, the Defender sought out four millennial members of the clergy to get their take on the big issues of the day, and how those issues impact how they do ministry.
Rev. Ishmael Barnett, Riceville Mount Olive Baptist Church shares his thoughts.
Defender: What are the challenges unique to a young minister?
Ishmael Barnett: There are many challenges that are unique to a young minister. I think one of the biggest ones is respecting the process. As young people we live in a quick fast and in a hurry society but ministry doesn’t work like that. God takes his time when working on us and it can be very frustrating. The key is to remember God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. I live by Proverbs 3:5-6
Defender: What are the opportunities unique to a young minister?
Barnett: Opportunities that are unique to young ministers are conferences like the Academy of Preachers where young Preachers can go and learn from other Preachers while networking with others. Also social media is also a unique opportunity because it helps us reach a large amount of people straight from our smartphone or computer.
Defender: How do politics and social issues (police brutality, Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, #MeToo, LGBTQ issues, healthcare access, etc) frame and/or impact your approach to ministry?
Barnett: Politics and social issues impact my Preaching in a major way because I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He came to set the captives free, he spent his life helping those who were oppressed and needing a Savior. There are a lot of problems in this world and if there was ever a time to tell someone about Jesus now is the time.
Defender: What is the biggest (most important) political issue impacting the U.S. and/or members of your congregation?
Barnett: The biggest issue impacting the U.S and the members of the church I attend is the power of White Supremacy. This issue has plagued our schools, communities, churches and especially our minds and the way we view each other and the world around us.
Defender: What are your thoughts and positions on the current president, his administration and his policies?
Barnett: I disagree with him and what he stands for. This man has disrespected women, separated families and have said some of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard from the mouth of a president. If Barack Obama did any of that he would have been impeached with the quickness but we let President Trumpet away with murder. This is White Supremacy at its best.
Defender: How big or small a role does your blackness (Black history, pride and heritage) and attacks upon your blackness (white supremacy/racism) have in your approach to ministry?
Barnett: My blackness plays a big role because that is the first thing people see. I want to make sure that my message is transparent and relatable to my audience. Also when I’m speaking to people who are not black I want to make sure I explain my view in a manner that will be heard and taken seriously.D
Defender: With society in general becoming less religious (less committed to a particular denomination; less committed to one specific church home; etc.), how does this impact your ministry?
Barnett: I try not to let that impact me at all. Those that cross my paths are the ones I was supposed to meet. I do my best to try to leave a lasting impression on everyone I meet.
Defender: How do you respond to the criticisms many millennials voice about religion in general, and the Christian church in particular? (i.e. it is anti-intellectual; often treats women like second class citizens; ignores or downplays culture and social issues, etc.)
Barnett: I know first hand that a lot of the criticism is true and all I try to do is do better. My motto is to grow advance and become. I watch, look and listen so that I won’t make those same mistakes those before me have made.