The congregants present at Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn received a shocking and scary surprise on Sunday, July 24, 2022. In the middle of Pastor Lamor Miller-Whitehead’s sermon, a group of men entered the church with guns drawn and came toward him at the pulpit. Thankfully, no shots were fired and no one was hurt, but a crime was committed.
The intruders were reported for taking an estimated $1 million dollars worth of jewelry from just the pastor and his wife. After robbing his wife on the front row, they approached the pastor laying face down on the ground beside the pulpit where they took numerous rings from his hands and multiple chains from his neck.
The pastor stated that they “Took off my bishop’s ring, my wedding band and took off my bishop chain, and then I had chains underneath my robe, and he start tapping my neck to see if (there was) anything else – so that means they knew, they watched and they knew that I have other jewelry,” he said.
What is most surprising to you about this story? Is it that the pastor got robbed or what they walked away with?
I don’t think that most criminals would think that great loot could be found in a pulpit during a Sunday sermon. Where did they learn about his jewelry? In addition to wearing these items in the pulpit for those to see in the service or on the church’s Livestream, he also posts regularly on Instagram his purchases of expensive jewelry, specialized suits, and lavish cars. When he recently made the news in his city, he was criticized for being a “flashy pastor.”
“It’s not about me being flashy. It’s about me purchasing what I want to purchase,” he said. “It’s my prerogative to purchase what I want to purchase. If I worked hard for it, I can purchase what I want to purchase.”
(For more on this story and credits for the quotes provided, you can check out this article.)
- All of us would view the intrusion as a crime, but is there another one being committed here?
- Why do you think the pastor bought such lavish items and feels the need to display them in worship?
In James 2, God’s Word teaches that we should not treat someone differently by the clothes or jewelry they wear. In essence, trying to draw attention to ourselves or giving preferential treatment to others when gathered with the people of God is counterproductive to why we come.
My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, 3 if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?James 1:1-4
In this passage above, James teaches that we ought not to provoke or provide partiality in our relationships in the church. We shouldn’t play favorites based on external factors but treat all fairly. It’s surprising that a pastor would be robbed on a Sunday, but it’s more shocking what they got during the crime.
While an extreme case like this one is easy to criticize and differentiate, we must realize that the same heart can be found in smaller displays.
- Do you feel the need to show how wealthy you are?
- Do you find yourself preparing your wardrobe more than your heart?
- Do you find yourself enamored with portraying success to those around you?
There’s a difference between blessings and bling. When we draw attention to ourselves or give it to others for worldly possessions, we lose our spiritual concentration.
Prosperity often leads to partiality, and we must avoid it at all costs. Don’t scoff at this extreme example and overlook a common condition that can be present in your soul.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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