The Faithful Preacher: A Book Note

Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2007), 191 pages. Like far too many church historians trained in the West in the past thirty to forty years, this book made me realize that I am woefully ignorant of the spiritual experience of African-American pastors and congregants. Rightly does John Piper state in his foreword to this volume by the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman Islands, that it “mines the unknown riches of the African-American experience” (p.9). Now, I had heard of one of the figures treated in this book, the Edwardsean Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833), but the other two men—Daniel Payne (1811-1893) and Francis Grimké (1850-1937)—were completely unknown to me. And what I knew about Haynes could have been told in less than a minute!

What makes this volume especially useful is that Anyabwile combines his narrative discussion of the lives of these three pastors with three or four of primary sources from each of their writings. This work is ideal as a source-book to be included in any study of American Christianity. But it is also good for the souls of those called to be pastors and leaders in the Church of the living God.

Here, for instance, is a deeply challenging statement from the Methodist Bishop Payne: “…it is not the omnipotence of God that constitutes His glory—it is His immaculate holiness. And such must be the fact in the moral character of the Christian minister—not his talents…not his learning…but his holiness” (p.95).