By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Ternae Jordan Sr., senior pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church in Chattanooga, is not surprised at all by the violence he sees in America today.
He has been leading efforts to combat violence since the early 1990s while he was serving as a pastor in Fort Wayne, Ind. During his 10-year tenure there, he presided over the funerals of 105 young African-Americans.
Jordan’s passion for serving God and compassion for reaching people has impacted entire communities. In February, 1992, while in Fort Wayne, Jordan founded Stop the Madness National, Inc., an anti-violence program that provides cultural, spiritual, and recreational alternatives to at-risk youth.
In 1993, Jordan had a front row seat to the violence when his 15-year-old son Ternae Jordan Jr. (T.J.) was struck by a stray bullet while he was sitting inside the YMCA waiting for his mother to pick him and his sister up from a piano lesson. In what Jordan calls a miracle of God, T.J. recovered and is now assistant pastor at Mount Canaan.
Through it all, the elder Jordan has seen God’s hand at work. An example of that is a community prayer service held on July 16 that had been planned for some time to commemorate the four Marines and a Navy sailor who were killed last summer in Chattanooga when a terrorist opened fire on two military installations in the city. Approximately 800 people of all races and nationalities attended the service held at City Church in Chattanooga.
Jordan was on the planning team and was one of the speakers for the event which was based on II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (KJV).
During the week leading up to the Saturday solemn assembly, two African-American men — one in Louisiana and another in Minnesota — were killed in video-taped police shootings. Then, on July 14, five police officers were ambushed and killed in Dallas.
“We were devastated and horrified looking at the videos of the two young African-American men being killed,” Jordan recalled. “At the same time, two days later, we were devastated that those who serve and protect us were gunned down,” he continued. “You start asking, ‘What is our world coming to?’ ”
The question that needs to be asked, Jordan said, is “What role is the church playing in setting an example for the world?”
As Jordan planned his message for the prayer meeting on Saturday and worship on Sunday, a single word from God kept reverberating in his mind: “If.” Jordan observed that murderers will murder, thieves will steal, and sinners will sin. “That’s what they do,” he said. God did not say “if” sinners stop sinning, murderers stop murdering, etc. He said, “If my people … .
“We, the church, are His people,” Jordan said. The church is the one “called by His name and the one that is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.”
On Sunday, July 17, Jordan preached to his congregation on that one simple word — “If.” He dealt with each aspect of the verse which began with “If” from II Chronicles 7:14. He noted that churches today are filled with pride which keeps them from accepting responsibility for the condition the country is in today.
“It’s easy to blame the Democrats, or the Republicans, or poverty,” he acknowledged. Those may play a part, but they are not solely responsible, he said. “We must accept the responsibility of what role we play rather than continuing to be critical and casting blame on the world because the world is only doing what it does.”
Jordan also asked if Christians are truly humbling themselves in prayer before God. “Have we really turned to Him to seek His heart instead of His hand? In times like these, we really need to be in the face of God, seeking His heart for guidance and direction.”
It basically boils down to the admonition given in Proverbs 3:5-6, Jordan noted. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (KJV).
Jordan stressed that even in challenging times God is faithful. “If we turn back to God, He is able to heal our land.”