The Black Church Dilemma

“Church” is the English translation of the Greek word Ekklesia, which originally meant “to call out” and was later changed to mean “assembly.” According to the Bible, in Matthew 16:18, the church was introduced by Jesus the Messiah and developed by His chosen disciples (followers/students) who later became Apostles (messengers/sent forth ones). In Romans 12:5, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body. Based on these references, I will define the church as a group of people who have been called out by God to believe in Jesus Christ and assemble together to fulfill God’s mission in the earth. God’s mission is to bring salvation and reconcile the world back to Himself through Jesus Christ. According to scripture, this is done through,

  • Evangelism sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Discipleship equip believers to grow and serve (Ephesians 4:11-13)
  • Christian living a life that is worthy of God’s calling (Romans 6)
  • Service Helping the less fortunate (Matthew 23:11)

For Blacks in America, our experience with church dates back to slavery in the 18th and 19th century. “The Black Church: Its Impact on Black Culture” by Vanessa Taylor explains the system of slavery was built on the dehumanization and exploitation of Blacks. Taylor writes, “The dominant white culture of the time accomplished this through a system of forced acculturation, which included forced religious conversion.” While Blacks knew God, their experience was limited. Their one-on-one intimacy with God was infringed upon.  It wasn’t until slavery was abolished and Blacks were no longer criminalized for learning that they could actively participate in church. However, due to rejection and the inability to worship with Whites, they were forced to worship among Blacks only. This birthed the inception of the “Black Church.”

The “Black Church” is a term used to describe Protestant churches that have predominantly black congregations. The Black Church serves a myriad of functions for Blacks in America. Historically, the Black Church has provided social service functions and is responsible for the eventual formation of African-American seminaries, Black colleges and academies, insurance companies, banks, the NAACP, and the civil rights movement of the sixties. For many years, the Black Church has been the cornerstone of hope for the black community, especially off the heels of slavery. Although it is great how far the black church has come, I believe we stand at a crossroad. I believe we have a dilemma and it’s rooted in the ramifications of slavery, segregation and inequality. Additionally, societal issues such as LGBTQ equality and mass incarceration are creating pressure for black clergy and challenging the very core of the Black Church. Are we able to address growing issues, such as:

  • How will the Black Church respond and minister to homosexuals in an increasingly homosexual-friendly society?

  • How will the Black Church handle the decrease in church attendance and the increase in participation in social justice movements without the church?  

  • How will the Black Church respond and minister to the non-traditional family structure that doesn’t reflect a mother, father, and child?

  • How will the Black Church handle the endangerment of Black boys in America?

  • How will the Black Church handle and respond to the burden of mass incarceration as a new caste system for Blacks in America?

  • Will the Black and White Church unite despite our cultural differences?

If you’re reading this, you may have a solution, what are some ways the church can address these issues?

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