I love the Black Church. I was raised in the Black Church. I was licensed and originally ordained into ministry through the Black Church. I learned about preaching, Kingdom justice, singing, a theology of celebration and suffering, and community leadership all within the Black Church. I’ve met Civil Right Movement workers, former gang members turned community development leaders, school principles, praying grandmothers, theologians, fraternity and sorority members, and committed fathers in the Black Church. I learned how to respect and honor African-American women in the Black Church. In many ways I am a product of the Black Church.
The Black Church today must become a Post-Black Church. This does not mean the end totally of the Black Church. What it does mean, is that for the Black Church to be healthy and missional into the future it must be able to advance the Kingdom of God in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality. We cannot prophetically call the White Church to racial righteousness and reconciliation and in turn let the Black Church off the hook. Both churches are equally held accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Scriptures. The Post-Black Church is one that is willing to share the gifts of the Black Church with the broader body of Christ without losing its soul. It’s a church that provides alternative methods of worship, evangelism, discipleship, and mission to all those within its surrounding community regardless of ethnicity. It’s a church that will provide a more holistic and justice focused model of global missions. In some cases this is already going on.
The Post-Black Church must move this direction by truly becoming even more of an African-American Church. Then it must grow into a multi-ethnic and missional church. This will lift up the fact that race in the form of Blackness and Whiteness are ultimately man made social constructs never intended by God. The Post-Black Church can take the lead in kingdom advancement in the United States and beyond. If this doesn’t happen the Black Church will become enslaved to the same elements that hold the White Church captive (To learn more about this read the book, The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah). In many cases this is already happening.
Too many Black Churches are being held captive by individualism, capitalism, and consumerism. This combination can lead to empire building instead of Kingdom advancement. This happened through the drift theologically into the Word of Faith Movement and the Prosperity Gospel. Some Black Churches have moved away from the theologies of Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Jr., Tom Skinner, and John Perkins, and James Cone. Some Black Churches can’t hear the voices of Vashti McKenzie, Jeremiah Wright, Gardner C. Taylor, Calvin Butts, Floyd Flake, Frank Reid, and Brenda Salter McNeil. Instead some are captivated by television preachers promising wealth, rooted in a “casino theology.” Others want to grow large churches so badly that they’ll follow the theology of the closest mega church. Sad indeed. This has led to an institution that has historically been a champion of freedom, to become enslaved. The Post-Black Church is not just about sharing the theologies and ministry models that have made the Black Church missional and unique, but also the freeing of a church enslaved. I love the Black Church and I want it free.
A freed African-American church can lead to the freedom of the White Church from its captivity. We could use the help of Asian and Hispanic churches as well.
More on this topic in the future.
1.) Don’t avoid conflict.
2.) Find biblical and prayerful approaches to anticipating and resolving conflict.
3.) Practice forgiveness daily.
4.) Embrace “dying to self” as a daily spiritual discipline.
5.) Find mentors of a different ethnicity, gender, and race.
6.) Acknowledge that we still live in a society influenced by issues of race, gender, and class.
7.) Work towards a more missional and multi-ethnic church.
8.) Extend grace to those that you would normally extend judgement.
9.) Find space to experience God’s love daily.
10.) Listen more.
This past June, we as the Evangelical Covenant Church, approved a Resource Paper on Compassion, Mercy, and Justice at our Annual Meeting. This act further guides our denomination into being a Kingdom advancing movement. If one surveys the Gospels, you see Jesus proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Not only does He proclaim this truth, He also performs the mighty wonders of this new community.
Jesus performs these mighty wonders through the forgiving of sins, the raising of the dead, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, and the empowerment of women. In Matthew 25, he speaks to Kingdom advancement including feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, being hospitable to the stranger, and visiting the incarcerated. The advancement of the Kingdom of God is done at the intersection of evangelism and justice.
The evangelism part of this advancement is the new covenant brought and bought by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The justice part is a continuation of the Covenant established by God as he brought the Hebrew people out of bondage and oppression.
In these days of economic crisis, broken families, addiction, ethnic and political divisions, war, and lost souls, the church must increase its urgency around Kingdom advancement. The Evangelical Covenant Church and all denominations that desire to be biblically rooted and culturally relevant must become catalytic and prophetic resourcing ministries. We must do this by equipping the church and developing leaders to be Spirit-led and missional in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality.
Great article by Urban Faith on Denominations and Diversity. Check out link below-
1.) Lift up the Importance of Education
Too many young people have no sense of the lives sacrificed for integrated schools and access to higher education.
2.) Lift up the Importance of Participation in Democracy
Lives were also sacrificed for the right to vote for all citizens
3.) Lift up the Beloved Community
This was Dr. King bringing the vision and values of the Kingdom of God into the mainstream of the nation. It’s also a wake-up call to the church to connect evangelism and justice.
4.) Plant and Develop Multi-ethnic and Missional Churches
11:00am on Sunday morning still remains a segregated hour in too many churches
5.) Study Matthew 25:31-40
Develop an understanding that the first drum major for justice was Jesus
6.) Teach little children the stories of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges in church Sunday School classes.
(Especially in non African-American churches)
7.) Go to Washington D.C. with your family and see the monument in his honor.
Hold me accountable to this one.
8.) Develop a serious and fruitful friendship with someone of another ethnicity/race.
9.) Explore deeply and confess your own racism, prejudice, sexism, and neglect of the poor.
10.) Thank God for how far we’ve come.
We’re not where we should be, but don’t act like God hasn’t brought us a mighty long way. Balance your lament with praise.
Maybe like me, you felt today as if the weight of the world was upon you. In your own power you were trying to provide all the answers, take care of all the business, and find time for your family as well. As the day comes to an end there’s still an opportunity to do what should have been done at the beginning. Approach the God of the universe with the weights upon your shoulders. Allow God to lighten your load. None of us have the ability in our own might to handle the full load of life’s journey. Find the rest and the strength your soul desires.
Right after I posted, “The Art of Discipline”, I began to think about being disciplined verses being driven. My thoughts were based on my reading about Gideon in the book of Judges within the Old Testament. Even though he was used by God to bring great victory in war on behalf of the nation of Israel, his victory soon turned into idolatry.
I would think that it took great discipline and submission to follow God in only taking 300 warriors into battle against thousands and come out victorious. The discipline comes in terms of putting yourself in position daily to hear from God and then the discipline to follow all instructions when all odds seem to be against you. Then there’s the discipline of being a trained and ready warrior as well as providing leadership by example to those following you into battle.
When your in the position of leadership discipline can soon turn to a state of being driven. This is when the purpose and plan moves from being about God, to being about you. After deliverance and victory brought about by God, Gideon was driven to receive the credit and to be rewarded. Instead of worshipping the One who brought victory, he became self wanting.
Where being driven can become self-centered is when we seek to gain power for ourselves instead of living a life of discipline, empowered by God. Leaders who are driven must be cautious of the power-seeking nature of wanting to be in the driver’s seat. Be careful that in being driven, you desire to drive life by your own power. This driven life is about wanting power and control verses being empowered by God and under the control of the Holy Spirit for a larger purpose. I desire that my life be bigger than me, but I fight the temptation daily to be driven to make life all about me.
Gideon in making victories brought on by God about himself, took riches and built what would become an idolatrous shrine. Within the next generation of his family there was murder in the form of one of his sons killing all of the rest of his sons except one. This murderous son was driven by the desire of rulership over the family and the nation. This murderous son lost sight of the disciplined life of being led by and empowered by God. Instead he was driven by seeking power in his own might.
May we seek the life of discipline over the life of the driven.
I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings football fan. This usually causes me to become sad year after year with the disappointment of another year without a Super Bowl win. Those who know Super Bowl history know that the Vikings have lost four Super Bowls and have not been to a Super Bowl since the 1970′s. We have lost 3 NFC Championship games over the last 20 years as well, with the 1998 and 2010 games being the most painful (At least for me). I provide this introduction because the Vikings released a Pro-Bowl offensive lineman last week for being overweight. He reported to training camp at about 400 pounds. This has made me wonder about discipline. Wasn’t making millions of dollars a year enough to keep him in shape? The answer is no. The next question becomes then, “What drives one to be disciplined?”
I began running about a year ago. I now run about 4 days a week. I never thought I would like running. To be honest there are days when I don’t. What causes me to get up and run? Discipline. I don’t say this to brag because all of my attempts at discipline are not successful. Some of the enemies of discipline are procrastination, distraction, discomfort, and challenge. You can pursue something that takes discipline and the moment it gets hard, give up. I have many examples of this in my life. The question now becomes, “What fuels discipline?”
Discipline is ultimately fueled by something beyond ourselves. For me that is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides an empowerment and equipping beyond what I can manufacture on my own. The Holy Spirit is a counselor (John 14). As a counselor, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the true character and values for living life more abundantly. The Holy Spirit reminds me that you can’t separate discipline from discipleship.
The Holy Spirit is also the place where we find communion with God. This is where we experience God’s great love for us. This makes discipline not something we pursue because of law, but because of love. Discipline is not a checklist, but an art. Discipline is a dance whose rhythm comes out of intimacy. It’s connected to a Covenant with a loving God. When I dance with my wife, I experience the art of our Covenant together. I’m reminded of our love and commitment. We must be willing to dance with our God daily. Discipline is part of this glorious dance.
Last night I watched the major cable news channels’ coverage of the deal to address the budget crisis within the United States of America. The President and the Speaker of the House both announced that a deal had been struck to keep the government from defaulting. This deal for many critics is too little and too late in terms of action. There is still a long way to go in terms of a longterm solution. Add to this that the dysfunctional division and extreme ideological politics of the two major parties continue to be a problem. Right now the Tea Party and the Congressional Black Caucus are two groups that could throw a monkey wrench in the whole process of a real solution. To try avoiding major cuts in expenses in the budget and the raising of taxes on the most wealthy of Americans is hard to understand. An ugly situation is going to take ugly answers that include major compromises. Looking at all this political division and dysfunction led me to some thoughts about the church. My thoughts began with questions.
Is this the right time for the church to do what government can’t? Is there a need for a reconciling church like never before? Here are the thoughts at the core of these questions. One, there is a need for Christian evangelicals and mainliners to do what Democrats and Republicans can’t or won’t. Evangelical and mainliners need to come together and forge a national faith-based agenda for life and community transformation. This agenda must remind our country that first and foremost that church is about life transformation. It also must show a connection between life transformation and community development. The community development portion of the agenda must have measurable outcomes addressing issues that are concerns in Scripture such as the poor, the lost, the stranger, and the marginalized. The church could become a major Kingdom force in America like never before thru such a move. Second, the increase of multi-ethnic and missional churches must become a top priority of every major Christian denomination as well as evangelistic organizations. The political division in this country is connected to historic racial and class divisions. The church has no credibility if it continues to be the most segregated institution in the nation.
There is a great window of opportunity for the church as both the government and economic institutions live in crisis and dysfunction. This move would also be the solution to the crisis that the church of the United States of America is currently in.
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.” (Judges 2:10-11, NASB)
As I’ve been studying the book of Judges lately in the Old Testament, it’s hard for me not to think of the Hip Hop generation of which I am apart. I also think about the generation that we have produced, which I will call for now, the Rap generation. For those of you who are not African-American, Hispanic, Asian American, or come from an urban background do not make the mistake of ending your reading here. Hip Hop culture and rap music have a global influence on all of youth and young adult culture today. Though the church is in denial about this to a large degree, the corporate music industry is not. Even churches that don’t deny this primarily see Hip Hop and rap as the enemy of the church. Let me go back to Judges and then I will work my way to the connection with Hip Hop and rap.
The book of Judges is about a people disconnected from their heritage and their God. The initial chapters of Judges shows us a younger generation who do evil because they have no sense of the God who brought them out of Egypt and delivered them into the promised land. Out of this ignorance they become an idolatrous people, serving the gods of the people around them. What is very interesting to me is that we see a cycle within Judges. The younger generation does evil in the eyes of the Lord, the LORD sells them (or allows them to be sold) into slavery and oppression, and then delivers them through Judges when they cry out to the LORD for help. If only they would desire a knowledge of their heritage and a covenant relationship with God, they would not have to live within this cycle. Why doesn’t the older generation take greater responsibility for making sure their younger generation knows their history that they might stay in covenant relationship with God?
My generation has not taken the type of responsibility needed with the youth and young adults below us. You could also argue that the generation above me made the same mistake. The tiredness of promises unfilled during the Civil Rights movement caused many African-Americans above me and with me to give into individualism and consumerism. If I gain enough stuff, at least I can become apart of that smaller group of African-Americans that made it.
I must say that I’m very concerned that too many African-American and urban churches have not seen the value of having a full-time pastor to children and youth on their staff. This is a key strategy to reaching a rap generation influenced by the gods of others pursuing them daily. Will senior pastors be willing to sacrifice some luxury in order to have a staff person and a comprehensive strategy for the younger generation enslaved by commercial rap music? Michelle Alexander in her book,” The New Jim Crow” does a great job in connecting commercial rap music and the mass incarceration of African-American males. She also wonders why this issue isn’t a top priority of civil rights organizations. I wonder why it isn’t a top priority of the church.
Commercial rap music today is full of idolatry and mainly is about serving the gods of the people around them. These people around them are corporate heads that are mainly European-Americans who have no interest in the health of the African-American and urban community. They are using the worst of this community to sell a product to a suburban community. I believe that if the African-American and urban church would take responsibility for its own enslavement to idolatry today, we could reach a younger generation that does not know the LORD or the work He has done to deliver African-Americans out of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.