Church Fires Pastor for Attending a Rick Ross Concert: The Questions

More than a question of right versus wrong, theological questions pervade Mt. Salem Baptist's firing of Rodney Wills.

Imagine this…

A pastor attends the concert of a popular rap artist thinking it’s all good until he arrives at church the next day to find his parking sign removed, his name taken off his office door, and someone else officiating worship. He was fired with no warning because he went to a rap concert, fair or unfair?

Rick Ross at Russell Simmon’s Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation 14th Annual Art for Life Benefit held at Fairview Farms (Photo Credit: Rob Rich/WENN.com)

This is not fiction but fact and it happened to Rodney Wills, the now former pastor of Mt. Salem Baptist church in North Carolina. According to a story published on AmericanPreachers.com, Wills attended Rick Ross’s Saturday night concert while, unbeknownst to him, the church deacons were voting on whether they needed his services anymore. The next morning, instead of giving him a courtesy call, they removed his parking sign, took his name off the door, and delegated morning worship leadership to someone else. The way that the church handled Wills’s firing seems unethical and ungodly. Why wouldn’t the deacons meet with Wills to discuss their issues with him attending the concert—the Rick Ross concert and the Lil Wayne concert that Mt. Salem youth spotted him at on a previous occasion–before deciding to fire him? (Unless they were just looking for a reason to fire him.) But the big issue here isn’t how Wills was fired–although it deserves some attention–but why he was fired–which requires us to ask some questions.

Miles Langley, one of the deacons at Mt. Salem said, “We cannot have our leader supporting people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God.” This issue of categorizing Ross and his ilk as “people of this world who are tearing down the kingdom of God” may give too much power to people who may just be innocent bystanders. People who may be believers and lovers of God who don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing. Rick Ross may be such a person and Rodney Wills is more than likely such a person. One commenter on social media said of this, “The funniest thing to me is that church goers constantly think that the world is out to get them. It’s really not.” There may be some validity to this statement. Rick Ross may not be out to tear down the kingdom of God, he may just be here to tear the club up. And maybe, for one night, Wills wanted to tear the club up too and sing-a-long to his favorite Ross songs–we will hope that he stayed quiet during Ross’s controversial verse on “U.O.E.N.O.” Maybe Wills wanted to keep up with what the youth of the church are listening to so that he could connect with them on a particular level. Maybe Wills, being a 26-year-old man himself, genuinely enjoys rap music and felt strong enough in his faith to listen and not be hindered by it. Wills probably didn’t think this would affect his faith or his job and now that it has affected his job, we should hope that it doesn’t hinder his faith either in God or in the church which he may feel vocationally called to despite Mt. Salem’s swift removal of him.

On the topic of “tearing down the kingdom of God” it is dangerous to claim that the faith of a congregation can be endangered because the pastor attended a rap concert. Rap concerts are not the things that destroy the kingdom of God–especially if you have a particular eschatological vision that sees the kingdom of God as that which is “already and not yet.” This necessitates a theological discussion on how we understand the kingdom of God. What is it that we are asking for in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Thy kingdom come” if the kingdom is being torn down? Do we understand what it means to say that someone or something is tearing down God’s kingdom? Do we want to give Rick Ross or any other entertainer that kind of power? Indeed this is a complex issue, but we don’t want to ignore the potential for rap music or any form of entertainment to be a tool of destruction–bracketing talk of the adversary. Rap concerts and/or music, movies, books, et al could destroy the people of God if they lack true knowledge of God and knowledge of self in God. We can’t be glib about the potential of much of this world’s products to destroy us in some way if we don’t first ground ourselves in God. But we should be careful about what we judge as the effect these things have on others before we dismiss them.

This story unearths a lot of questions, so what do you think? Was it fair for Mt. Salem to fire Wills for attending the concert? Is it appropriate for a pastor to attend a rap concert?  How could this situation have been handled differently, on both sides?

 

 

About the author, Nicole Symmonds

Nicole Symmonds is a newly-minted Master of Divinity joining the droves of people with MDiv behind their name who aren’t planning to minister—at least not from behind a pulpit. She views writing as a type of ministry and is happy to have the opportunity to return to her first vocational love while she continues to discern God's call upon her life. Nicole currently resides in Atlanta where she works as a freelance writer and journalist focusing on issues in religion and spirituality in the black experience, sexuality and spirituality, and pop culture and entertainment.
  1. As a young 24 year old deacon at a Baptist church. That listens to hip hop music and work with youth daily. I believe the deacons where in the wrong for firing this pastor. Its a process and reading this article they did not follow the biblical based process. I can promise you that there some deacon that voted that has some skeletons of their own. Its a bad look on the Baptist church as a whole. No one is perfect and everyone is entitled to a personal life. This is case of old deacons seeking out to get a young pastor. It hurts to see that happen in the church. The deacons need to realize that Gods Kingdom cant be torn down, because last time I check my God can’t be defeated and he can do anything , but FAIL.

    • Lord, if they stsrt getting rid of oeople because they arr not doing what the church think they should do or hanging around a particular kind of group or maybe you don’t eat the right kind of food or mayby you don’t have the right size income or, and I’m just going to say it, you’re not the right race or you don’t have the right statice according to them and I could go on snd on but I the the picture is clear that they forgot over looked or just plain ignored the bible and its teachings of judge not les ye be judged. I’m just saying

      • Didn’t the word of God say lift up a Standard, We can’t Compromise with the world, Paul said you are transformed, by the renewing of your mind, Why do you think the prodigal Son came home, yes he had spent his inheritance .he also remember his father teaching, This young man hasn’t gotten the World out of his system, Why are you going to settle for two World, You need to read Revelation 11 chapter about the two Messengers. Jesus Christ was a good example .He came to do his father Will.to show us how we can be in the World ,but not of the World. Read the 17th Chapter of Saint John . Many Church goers feel they can serve God and the adversary, This is a Mature walk for Mature Saints . People aren’t being taught . this man need to be under Mature leadership . He wasn’t ready to be a Pastor

    • Thoughts from a Pastor: Hmmm, I think most of the people who responded to this story agreeing with the firing of a pastor are very wrong. First not one of you have spoken about your own short comings. So no one above or below has ever been to a concert? Be honest, point blank anyone can make an argument why we as Christians shouldn’t go to any concert Rap, R&B, Jazz etc… Really, what this is about is control, the brother didn’t kill anyone he went out for what ever reason to relax, he is young meaning he has grown up with rap culture and is comfortable with separating the good from the bad. Also we need to listen and know what our youth are listening to, so that we can preach a positive message that counteracts some of the negative music.

      So what would you suggest a young preachers do in their down time? Preach on Sunday then stay in the house all day. Look Jesus hung out in the dives and ghettos, if he were here today he wouldn’t hang out in the church, he would be in the strip clubs and at the Lil Wayne Concert trying to demonstrate to those who are lost that there is a better way. All I have read below is the judgement of those who have no power judge. This was what Paul wrote about when speaking to the Church in Corinth. Do you remember the Pharisees (AKA The Leaders of the Church) judge Jesus for eating with publicans and tax collectors? This is no different.

      Instead of hurling insults and misrepresentations of the scripture to support your arguments why don’t you try to see the good this young brother was doing in his community. He was a pastor, a young black man, and for almost 4 years he served as a leader. He wasn’t a thug, dope dealer, not a convict… He was a leader in a community, but quite often its the people in the church that can be the force of resistance that limits the growth of the church itself.

      We need to stop judging people, he broke no laws all he did was keep it real, he didn’t sneak or disguise his actions, he was in plain site. There nothing bad about his actions at least he kept it real, what about you? What are you hiding behind the door of your judgement? Adultery, selfishness, hatred, insecurity, control issues, low-self esteem, drug/alcohol addiction etc.. Are you always right? If your answer is yes then you need much prayer. That said, If your answer is no, then pray for our churches so we can get back to worshiping, saving souls and loving one another and stop all the hate and criticism of one another.

      Did you ever stop to think, who was it that actually saw him at the concert? It was another church members. So what sort of punishments or punitive actions are there for members of the congregation that violate these unwritten laws of convenience? So this brings to mind this thought: What if Pastors started issuing fines to church members for their sins? Man we wouldn’t even need an offering! LOL!! Yeah and every church would be a mega church.

      P.S. If some wants to send me some concert tickets or a donation to take my wife out I am down, In Jesus name!

      Many Blessings!

      Rev. Young

      • I totally agree with you Pastor Young, your words were on point and hopefully it will help some of the “so-called-self-appointed-judgers’ (putting it mildy ..lol) to take a look at theirselves. Did not the Scripture say, “Speak what you know and testify to what you see”……………..
        Try ths Spirit buy the Spirit and see if it’s of GOD!!!!!!

      • Hmm indeed. I myself have shortcomings like everyone else. The fact of the matter is that I know that the sin in my life must be addressed and removed before I assume that I qualify for any type of leadership role in the house of God. And if I am in a church where the Pastor is struggling with the very same issues, then how is that fruitful for people like me? A drug counselor is best fit for the job when he/she has stopped doing drugs. Are we setting lower standards for our church leaders?

    • Brother, I agree with you to some extent that we all have skeletons. But the fact is that this man was entrusted with a position of leadership in the house of God. The bible tells us that teachers and leaders will be judged more strictly. So anyone who considers themselves called to be a teacher had better count up the cost. For Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good and perfect will.”

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  3. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ”

    Doesn’t sound like that got followed.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. And I would also question the reasoning behind a Christian radio station running a commercial that publicizes an event(Saviors Day) where minister Luis Farakahn (A renown muslim leader) is headlining. Knowing who Christ is to the muslim, this man has know business speaking at ANY Christian based event.

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  5. It is impossible for God’s Kingdom to be “torn down” by anyone. How do I know?

    [From the LORD through His prophet Nathan to King David] “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant(Jesus) after you, who shall come forth from you, and I will establish his Kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My loving kindness will not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed before you. And your house and your Kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-16). So for these men to say that the young man is “tearing down” God’s Kingdom, teaches that 1)The scriptures lie, and 2) God isn’t able to maintain HIS KINGDOM!

  6. Here is another clear example of when the deacons have overstepped their bounds. The pastor does not report the them, they report to the pastor. This is yet another example of the power struggle going on within the black community. People let get it together and get it in order~!

    • So the Pastor is accountable to no-one? So who has the power to remove the pastor, if not the board?

      Church-boards/Deacon-boards are there to look out for the church’s best interest, and hold the pastor accountable.

      Sounds like the deacon board did the right thing.

  7. I personally don’t believe that a person that young should be pastoring a church, I know that some young people do well at running a church, but the sacred and the profane doesn’t mix. I believe that they should have went through the proper channels to fire him, I have no problem with people in the world doing what they want, in fact the bible already let’s us know that everyone is not called to follow that lifestyle, and with all of these money grabbing pulpit pimps already giving into things of the world, everyone thinks that it is ok to do what you want with no consequences, I fault them for even hiring him, nothing against the young pastor, I believe that everyone should be allowed to make mistakes, but the head of a church should not be at a Ross concert, and then preaching and teaching……….Shalom

  8. A Deacon is a person called along the side of Pastors to serve. Since when do Deacons remove a Pastor. This is the church we all should stay away from. Did the Disciples remove Jesus for hanging out with the tax collectors and such! To me it sounds like PRIDE is in the church. Mt Salem NO MAN CAN EVER TEAR DOWN THE KINGDOM OF GOD! Your membership shall drindle if you do not remove these Deacons. It clearly shows you are a church of tradition and not of the New Testament! Lord please guide and restructure the minds of these people in the name of JESUS! Go to Pastor Wills and comfort him!

    • Deacons and elders ALWAYS run the church. A new pastor is voted on by the deacons/elders in most churches (except possibly Catholic or Episcopal churches). Conversely, when the deacons or elders decide that a pastor is not serving the needs of the congregation, it’s the deacons/elders who make that decision and vote to replace the pastor. The deacons, by the way, get to be deacons by vote of the congregation in most churches. Don’t know how your church operates, but that’s how it works everywhere I’ve ever attended.

  9. There are absolutely no theological questions raised by this issue. If the deacons actually cared about discipline in the church, they’d also be taking action against the youth who attended their concert, or against the parents. Since a deacon is supposed to “manage his house and children well,” (1 Tim 3:12), theological seriousness would dictate that any deacon whose children attended this concert should be removed from office. This is an act of a dysfunctional church, and I’m sure there are plenty of other ridiculous conflicts with pastors in their history.

  10. The Deacons did the right thing. Thank God for men in the church who stand up for the people. As Christians we do not compromise our relationship with God. He never compromises with us.
    These deacons are to judge righteous judgement. They are not judging his heart but his fruit.
    To the person who said Jesus “hung around” with sinners–He came to seek and safe those who are lost in sin> He did not partake of their sin. Quit judging the Deacons.

  11. I think the pastor should be removed. As a leader of the church, the youth are following his lead and looking up to him. You can not serve two masters and clearly, little Wayne and Rick Ross preach to our youth in a negative manner and lead them down a path of destruction. If you are a pastor and you are called to spread the truth of the gospel and lead souls to Jesus Christ, then clearly there is contradiction when you support people like Little Wayne. As I grew from a baby in Christ, I no longer found interest in that type of music. I believe that a pastor should not be a babe in Christ and should be seasoned enough to know the tricks of the enemy. One can not serve to master’s. I agree with the deacon’s on this one.

  12. The way that the Deacons proceeded in removing their Pastor says much about their lack of understanding about God and His righteousness. An example is the way in which Jesus included and even honored the man whom He knew, later would betray him. The Deacons did no honor or give opportunity to understand why the Pastor went to this concert. As they stand before Jesus, what will He write in the sand about them. They had an opportunity to live out forgiveness and compassion but chose the world’s way of judgement without discernment.

  13. I believe what is being missed in all of this, is the fact that the young man was HIRED by a board and that very same board FIRED him. The deacon said, “they decided that they no longer needed his services” North Carolina is an “at will” state. They can fire you and not notify you. Until people start to understand what God’s Ecclesia is, we will continue to see things that mimic world standards. It ought NOT be, in the Body of Christ.

  14. well I am just gong say this we all hve a life.and because he step out of his box doesn’t not mean he doesn’t belive in god.god no what you gone do before you do it. and if they had sences.they would not juge.but to the pastor that could be god open up yours eyes to show you ,that you didn’t nd to be at the church any how.

  15. I was fired from my church as well by my Deacons, this may be the best thing that happened to this pastor, so that he can once again live his life like a human being. The church folks are hypocrites who expect their pastor to live his life in bondage while they live theirs in freedom, this is the problem with churches and religion, it kills those who are there to save it.

  16. It’s good to see deacon’s standing for Truth. Morally bankrupt entertainers like Rick Ross and Lil Wayne continue to lead our youth astray and do their part to destroy black culture. A Christian pastor has no business there just like he has no business in a strip club. When he is seen their by the youth he is leading, he presence affirms to them the negative messages being spewed from the stage. Make no mistake, he is leading the youth…but where are they headed?

    Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

  17. OMG in heaven! what in the world is going on in these new age church? The deacons where right to let that pastor go. We are the church epistles of God. The church has to stop feeding their flesh and be worldly minded, thinking they are pleasing God. If the pastor was standing out there ministering to the lost, then I could understand him being there. But to be a part of the secular world and promote the world rap music I don’t think so. We are royal priesthood, an holy nation, particular people. We stand out for the Kingdom of God! Brethren of the calling, stop letting the world into the church! Satin is out to kill, steal and destroy. We are not ignorant of Satin device;

  18. 1st Of all…. Baptist Methodist blah blah blah, are already wrong for “voting” a pastor in… or any denomination for that matter. THE DUMB DEACON(S) Probably messing around on his wife, or getting drunk, or anything else!! How do they know the Pastor wasn’t there working as a seat filler, secret shopper, maybe he’s friends with Rick Ross and told him he’d support his concert, but come visit my church since you’re in town!!!! Bottomline THE DEACONS ARE WRONG!! ALL THE WAY… God called that man not u deac. SMH!!!!! It may have even encouraged the youth to see him.They may have felt like they could open up to him. He may have been looking to use it as a tool for evangelism ……

    • You clearly aren’t very well versed on how churches are run. . . God may (or may not) have put the idea in this guy’s head to become a pastor, but the deacons of the church are the ones who do the actual hiring and firing.

  19. The church is entitled to hire and fire anyone they want to be their pastor. Clearly the elders at this church didn’t feel that Willis was a good fit for their church. That’s their prerogative. Not really any discussion required as far as that goes.

    As far as whether someone should be fired for listening to the sort of crap done by Rick Ross, I’d say that doesn’t really require a lot of thought. Rick Ross can’t even use the word “ain’t” correctly! His fans can’t be all that intelligent. . . If Willis wanted “to connect with the youth” in a particular way, he could have bought the album or looked up Ross’s illiterate lyrics on the Internet.

  20. Very interesting turn of events! When it comes to freedom and perferences it must be handled with scripture/Spirit, prayer, wisdom and discerment. What does the scripture say about going to a rap concert? It seems this church goverment is deacon lead is that biblical? Was the pastor honoring scripture in being blamless, abstaining from all appearances of evil? Enough of the questions for now! I do think their concern is correct I think it would have been honorable to talk with him before the decision though. Just would have to hear from the pastor on why he went before I come to a conclusion. Can or should christians go to rap concerts that promote ungodly living? I think its a freedom issue for each individual but the aim must be for all can I give glory to God while attending this concert with a clear conscious. But if he finds enjoyment in the ungodly that begs more questions! Would love to hear from the pastor?

  21. I am deeply disappointed to see that deacons responded in such a way. These men are called to be armor bearers to the pastor; their role is to pray for their pastor and assist him. I feel the deacons should have met with their pastor and expressed their feelings to him; as a deacon, I know the importance of communicating with your pastor. Furthermore we as Christians have to stop being so quick to judge others, when we too have work to do in our own lives.

  22. For the deacon board to take such an extreme–and swift–action makes me think there’s a lot more to the story than, “the pastor attended a couple of rap concerts.”

    And yes, pastors are held to a higher accountability than their members. 1 Timothy 3 outlines the personal attributes of those called to lead. Different translations call them different things, such a pastor, bishop, deacon, etc. But it basically says if you are responsible for God’s people you should act (morally) responsible.

    Rap music in and of itself isn’t bad. But the amount of cussing and the immoral lifestyle much of the popular stuff–especially that of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne–makes it unappealing for a pastor to support. If I saw my pastor in a strip club, I would hope to God that he’s there saving souls, but spiritual maturity would dictate that the locale may not be conducive to ministry. Yes, Jesus visited the homes of sinners to share God’s love. And Paul ate with Gentiles to further the ministry. But they weren’t there for the bawdy talk or forbidden fruit, they were there for the mission–and the fruit of their efforts was evident. Sounds like this pastor was interested in getting turned up, not tuning in others to the Word of God.

  23. There has got to be more to this story. He most likely did not get fired from attending an rap concert. First how were the deacons able to call a meeting so quick and already have another preacher lined up the next day. In most churches this would take a week at a min. He was going to get fired regardless of the fact attended Rick Ross’ concert.

  24. When my husband received the call to the ministry, we were so excited and humbled by GOD’S ASSIGNMENT. The first Church who selected him had two deacons. One of the deacons was determined to keep a tight reign on everything about the church because HE wanted all of the control. He tried to convince my husband that we should not have services through the week because it was not necessary. “burning them lights cost money”! He balked at my husband’s decision to turn the poor treasure collection over to a needy person each week . “it needs to go to the bank” ( when my husband checked the finances with the bank, he found out that that there was $10,000. 00 in the poor treasury! This deacon, took a petition around to people who were former members of the church or members who seldom attended and had them sign what they thought was a petiton to put up the church banister. once it was signed and he had about 40 signatures, he removed the top of the petition and replaced it with a page that called for the firing of the pastor. at the end of service on the next sunday, he presented the petition to my husband and had several vocal members of the community vote to remove over the protest of the active and supportive members. My husband chose not to be a catalyst for a split of the church and stepped down… It is unfortunate that people forget that God is in control of his church. Whom HE called, HE WILL PREPARE… the deacons were wrong, arrogant and judgemental. NO ONE CAN TEAR GOD’S KINGDOM DOWN..!! But the deacons may have torn down the confidence in their church. Who would want to Pastor a church like that ?

  25. Sister G your husband and you are indeed blessed to have each other. Y’all’s ministry will be fertilized by many such sad and hilarious attempts by the lost sheep IN THE HOUSE to destroy the church bequeathed to us by our forefathers. It is abysmal, unscriptural ignorance to ascribe unlimited administrative authority to an ad hoc committee CREATED BY PASTORS whose tasks were defined BY PASTORS and whose limited if not temporary authority was conferred upon them FROM pastors. The deacons job is to see to it that WIDOWS who have no man to support them do not lack food clothing shelter and protection. That’s it. And deyoneenknowit! God bless and you both have a friend and brother in Birmingham Al. Keep growing with each other an IN HIM.

  26. 1 John 1:17 read this and tell me how MAN can tear down the Kingdom of GOD? This is foolishness if I ever heard it the only kingdom man can tear down is his, the kingdom of heaven within. I live in North Carolina and let me tell you the Baptist churches is packed with old holier than thou senior citizens. I can only agree with him being fired if he knew how they would feel about choices in his life. Now, to be clear I said choices not conduct Rick Ross and no other rapper can tear down the Kingdom of God they need to read the Holy Bible the world is passing away yet God, the ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, will be known in the earth as in heaven the deacon needs to be in Sunday school talking about “tearing down the kingdom of God” that is the problem the blind leading the blind in fact the blind is pushing the blind into the world with this foolish talk. John 2:19 they are just like the Jews found in John 2:19 false notions of the Kingdom of God can you believe a deacon made such a statement! The church is in need of the Holy Spirit!

  27. Why is this even a debatable issue within the body of Christ? Does anyone read their bible anymore? 1Corinthians 5:12-13 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? Expel the wicked man from among you.”

    • Why is this even a debatable issue within the body of Christ? Does anyone read their bible anymore? 1Corinthians 5:12-13 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.”

  28. Why is this even a debatable issue within the body of Christ? Does anyone read their bible anymore? 1Corinthians 5:12-13 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.”