Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, SC
Screenshot: YouTube video

The relationship between black people and the black church is long, storied and full of the type of dysfunction usually reserved for immediate family.

We were fed Christianity during the time of slavery, and since then the church has been both a beacon of hope and an institution of oppression for black people.

Still, every Sunday, people get dressed up in their best clothes and take it to the altar for services that sometimes last upwards of three hours and usually end with the pastor asking everyone to reach into their pockets and give something for this ministry or the building fund and the Sunday School fund.

Because, there is always a fund.

I once went to a church service in North Carolina where they took up three different collections within the same service. I was amazed that the people who went to that church had enough to give three times in the same service, but I’m not here to count other people’s pockets.

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Tithing is as old as the church itself, and it is an expected custom no matter what type of church you attend or the color of the people attending. The church always needs something, and it is expected that the congregation will provide.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, things went a little different at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C. In what the Christian Post describes as “an emotional service,” Pastor John Gray decried what he described as “pulpit pimps” who only ask their congregations to “give, give, give.”

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“For too long people have stood in a pulpit and told you to give, give, give. Very rarely have I seen churches stop and say, ‘Leave the baskets out, let the people get what they need.’ We’ve got too many pulpit pimps who want to get fat off people but don’t want to meet the needs of the poor people. And Jesus said that’s who you supposed to be taking care of. We got widows, we got orphans, we’ve got single moms in here. We might not be able to do everything but we can do something. I wish we could do more but it’s the best we can do right now,” Gray said near the end of his sermon, which he called “Leftovers.”

He asked his congregation to hold off on putting money in the collection baskets until they felt the words he was saying in his sermon.

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He told those gathered: “The role of the church, elder, is not only to receive from the people of God but to meet the needs of the people of God. I ask you to hold your offering until something in your spirit connected with the Word. Did you all hear me when I said that? But the role of the church is also to meet the needs of the people in the house.”

He then surprised the congregation and said, “Are there any single mothers in here? You had an orange light in your gas tank when you pulled up, where are you? Come to the altar. Hurry. Single mothers. Are there any single fathers and you had less than a quarter tank of gas, where are you? Come to the altar, come to the altar.”

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As the congregation cheered him on, he continued, “Here’s what I want you to do. There’s some money in these baskets. You get what you need for you and the kids to eat and get some gas.”

He then called single fathers up, then widows and veterans, and explained that although his church is young and not financially secure, he was doing what the Lord told him to do.

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“These people don’t know what it took for me to do this. We are a six-month-old church with no savings account. We believe God every week but the Lord told me to do this because if I trust Him, whatever is left over would have to be enough,” he said, explaining that as God had blessed the church, the church would continue to bless those in need.

“Just know as the Lord keeps blessing us, we’re going to do it more and more. We’re going to start buying cars for women who are catching the bus. We’re going to buy houses for people who’ve been renting. We’re going to have more than what we need and God’s going to raise up entrepreneurs and they’re going to have so much that they’re going to sow into the vision. And we won’t have to worry about offering. Offering will be extra,” he promised.

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Gray has made news before for controversial comments about single women wanting “to be married” but “walking in the spirit of ‘girlfriend.’” He was also one of many black pastors to meet with Donald Trump this year. It’s good to see him use his position to do some good.