What is a matrix? A matrix is a grid, with each location in the grid containing some information. For example, a chess board is a matrix in which every square contains a specific item of information: a particular chess piece, or the lack of a chess piece.
At the National Convention of the Christ Holy Sanctified Church last week in Dallas, Texas, I was blessed to witness the power of the preached Word being transformed and delivered through one of God’s servants. Like a chess master analyzing each move and movement on the chess board, Pastor Anthony W. Wilcots of Houston, Texas brilliantly proclaimed God’s Word taking out his opponent’s pieces not by skill alone but rather so, “. . . that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Pastor Wilcots possessed such an anointing on this eve that I’m not certain if he knew entirely what was about to happen. What is certain God had prepared and ordained him for such a time as this to deliver and preach this sermon not only to this group of people, but hopefully in the future, to churches and congregations everywhere.
Anthony W. Wilcots is the pastor of Bible Days Revival Church in Houston, Texas. He is a nationally known speaker, evangelist, and gifted pulpiteer. Like a young James A. Forbes, he can converse among intellectuals and academia alike, as well as, speak to any group, denomination, or conference with brilliance and with that built-in down home southern hospitality. He is a graduate of Yale Divinity and he also holds several earned degrees from various universities with honors. Pastor Wilcots understands what God has given him and he doesn’t take God’s anointing and appointment lightly. Over the years I’ve watched the man of God literally grow into his own confidence but never arrogant—always humble, sincere, and committed to the preaching moment.
To hear Pastor Wilcots speak was a welcomed change from the previous night’s service where the speaker and sermon seemed to jump in every direction without regard to scriptural context, hermeneutics, or to the need of the worshiper. At the end of the speaker’s sermon two little boys rushed to the altar and danced on cue like someone had fired a starter gun to run the 100-meter race at the Olympics. But this seems to be the norm at most conventions: If it sounds good, makes me feel good, and if it’s entertaining then we had church. God forbid if we paused for a moment to listen and think about the Word being preached.
Prior to the service I had the esteemed honor to sit in the office with the man of God sharing and observing him as he contemplated prayerfully the word God had given him. Humble, sincere, and patiently waiting for the Holy Spirit to inspire and illuminate the text from the pages and outline he had written under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. We shared briefly what the preaching moment was all about. It surely wasn’t about entertainment. This man of God wanted to be certain that laity and leadership alike would be able to receive what God had given him. He takes preaching seriously. He has been given a gift and he is aware of the anointing God has placed upon his life. The pulpit is not a place for standup comedy but to declare “What does the Lord say?”
Our conversation was contemplative and reflective. I thought of Howard Thurman who viewed the sermon as “an integral part of the creative experience which is shared by all the worshippers.” Thurman states,
Ideally, the sermon is a lung through which the worship service breathes one breath and the worship service is the lung through which the sermon breathes one breath. When this is achieved, the worshippers sense that through the sermon, all the meaning that they had been experiencing up to that moment is made uniquely available to each as [one’s] private insight, despite the collective and binding act of the worship experience itself. I think this is what is meant when a worshipper says to the preacher, “It’s as if you were speaking directly to me.”
Pastor Wilcots commented that he did not yet have a title for his sermon. One thing he was certain of, however, was what God had given him to say. This, in my opinion, would be enough. If a title was to be given God would announce it himself. And God did. It was simply amazing to watch the power of the Holy Spirit script the script before my eyes. By this I mean that even though the Holy Spirit had already given Pastor Wilcots the outline He then does a rewrite of His own words so that we might understand the spoken Word. It is pure Divine inspiration. Pastor Wilcots is flowing in the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom while he is preaching. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). And we were all full. A prophetic Word had been released to the body of Christ that would be a message for such a time as this.
I shared with Pastor Wilcots a popular movie I had seen many years ago called, Ghost (1990), starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. There is a scene in that movie where Molly played by Demi Moore is visited by her murdered lover, Sam, played by Swayze. Molly likes to make pottery and while sitting at the potter’s wheel one evening, Sam’s spirit appears, but she doesn’t see him—however she senses his presence. Tears are streaming down her face in memory of her fallen lover. Sam then reaches around her while she is seated at the spinning potter’s wheel kneading clay and places his hands on top of hers. Together the clay is being shaped not by her alone but with the help of her fallen lover. I commented to Pastor Wilcots that the Holy Spirit was reaching, preparing, touching, equipping and anointing him—shaping the clay.
The people came to hear and receive God’s Word. It was not easy for some. It may have been too much for others. As Pastor Wilcots said, “Change is difficult. It makes some people uncomfortable.” Then came the move that put the enemy in check. The Word exploded with meaning and purpose. “The church lives within a matrix of change,” he said. There it is! The Holy Spirit announced the title of his sermon: A matrix of change. He went on to share how frustrating and redundant worship becomes when we are unwilling to change. He illustrated this by using changing technology like the iPhone. He stated that many churches are still trying to do ministry with a “rotary phone” mentality in an “iPhone” changing world.
Here is the sermon’s matrix from my perspective from which the man of God spoke, Zechariah 4:1-6:
Movement 1: The Introduction—“What do you see?” (v. 2)
- The Slave Narrative
- Toni Morrison’s Beloved
- The Japanese WW2 Kamikaze
Movement 2: The Church—“What are these, my lord?” (v. 4)
- Worship Redundancy
- The illustration: iPhone and Rotary Phone
Movement 3: The Conversation—“Do you know what these are? And I said No, my lord” (v. 5)
- The Sixty Year Old vs. the Twenty Year Old
- The Holy Spirit’s waiting
- Honesty of the Prophet, “I Don’t Know”
- Change: Removal of the priest, sacrifice, idol worship
- The Olive Trees
Movement 4: Making Ready for Jesus—“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Host” (v. 6)
There was central theme of this sermon which seemed to emerge and resonate, that is, the honesty of the prophet, Zechariah, who declared, “I don’t know.” It is an honest expression and assessment that is not often heard among leaders in the church today. Most leaders are unwilling to acknowledge or admit that they don’t know everything or that they don’t have all the answers. But the man of God informed us that by being honest and telling God we don’t know places us in the right place and position to have a conversation and dialogue with God.
The Psalmist wrote, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34). Make this our prayer as we move through this matrix of change.
 In 1989, Dr. Forbes became the first African American minister of the multicultural Riverside Church built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1937. He retired in 2007. Newsweek described him some years back as “one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.” Before joining the Church, he was a professor for nine years at Union Theological Seminary.
 Howard Thurman was a graduate from Morehouse College and from Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary. He then became a special student of philosophy in residence at Haverford College with Rufus Jones, the noted Quaker philosopher and mystic. After serving on the faculty of Howard University as Professor of Theology and Dean of Rankin Chapel (1932-44), he moved to San Francisco to help found the intercultural and interdenominational Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. In 1953 he became Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University (1953-65).