Alliance News Feed – Four Men I Consider Heroes

by Leonard Tanks Jr., assistant pastor at Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, Ohio

My mother abandoned me, and although my father raised me, he lacked the ability to encourage. As a child, I rarely heard “good job” or “I’m proud of you.” As a result, I struggled with belonging. I did not feel accepted and never thought I was enough for my parents or family.

Those same feelings of inadequacy stayed with me throughout adolescence and early adulthood. They even carried over into my walk with Christ.

I overworked myself as a believer, leader, and pastor; took on more responsibilities than required; and overcompensated to prove my worth. Feelings of inadequacy sparked a great sense of pride as I felt the need to get credit and accolades to prove my value to others and to myself.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with great men of faith as mentors and disciplemakers who loved me, taught me, challenged me, and encouraged me. Rev. Dr. Ron Morrison, an Alliance pastor, stands out as the most influential.

Giving God the Glory

Leonard Tanks Jr., assistant pastor at Hope Alliance Bible Church, conducts a funeral for a young man who was shot and killed at a local park. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Ron sought to know me, to understand my past, to understand my issues and hang ups, and to support and love me through them. He knew the worst of me and never stopped pouring into me or believing in who God called me to be.

Ron gently pushed me to identify my imperfections and guided me in my efforts to allow Jesus to work on those secret areas of my being. In the safety of our relationship, I was able to remove my mask and become comfortable with the man God created.

Additionally, Ron taught me humble, servant leadership. By his actions and motivations, he exhibited qualities of Jesus. He proved that African-American pastors and churches are not all focused on fancy suits, buildings, parking spaces, and number of people in the seats for Sunday morning service. He showed me the African-American church is not focused on getting glory but giving God the glory. Ron taught me that success is not depicted by numbers but by faithfulness to God’s will.

If God had not allowed my path to cross with Ron’s, I might not be where I am today but instead leading an inauthentic “ministry” more focused on myself than on God.

Finding Belonging

I’m unable to identify a historic African American who has influenced me. African-American history had previously bored me. I felt it was a repetitive narrative given from the perspective of the dominate culture.

While I acknowledge the key figures and appreciate their contribution to history, I rejected the narrative that painted black people as slaves, uncivilized, uneducated, or buffoons, while painting white people as educated, civilized, and colonized.

A couple years ago, I began to study and understand African history and African-American history outside of the stereotypical narrative. By understanding the left-out history that blacks have had in Christianity, I now know I belong as a black Christian.

Moving Forward

Leonard Tanks Jr. holds his son at a baby dedication at Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Some modern African-American scholars and theologians who have been influential to me include Dr. Eric Mason, Jerome Gray, and Vince Bantu. They have opened my eyes and my heart to a more complete view of black history and black Christian history. Through their teachings, I have guarded myself against assimilation and have begun to embrace who I am as a black man.

With their guidance, I have taken the time to understand and appreciate the worship styles of the Coptic and the Nubians. This knowledge has compelled me to have a greater appreciation for all cultures. It has also enhanced my belief in freeing all cultures to express their love for God within the restrictions of the Bible, while in a way that connects with their culture and doesn’t assimilate to the dominate culture’s expression. The influence of men like Eric, Jerome, and Vince teaches me that I can be unapologetically black and unapologetically Christian without contradiction.

Men like Ron, Eric, Jerome, and Vince I consider heroes. Their lives, teaching, and writings are equipping me to accept my Ephesians 2:10 make up while moving forward in ministry to reach up, reach in, and reach out.

Source: Alliance News Feed – Four Men I Consider Heroes

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