The Church used to be the cornerstone of the Black community. Once considered a moral center for Black American and the social hub for African-Americans, it was the backbone of Black America during slavery and emancipation, a shelter in the time of storm during Jim Crow, and the heart and soul of the Civil Rights Movement. But after the post-Civil rights period, The Black Church feels lost its direction. As a result of this the community has become more and more disconnected from its relationship with God, and brothers and sisters have become disconnected from themselves.
In a community with a 80 percent unemployment rate, 70 percent dropout rate and 60 percent abortion rate, it’s clear that the traditional Black Church is out of touch with the needs of the community, which is why so many brothers and sisters are abandoning Christianity in the African-American community. From what I’ve experienced with the Black Church, I feel it’s their outdated approach to Christianity that’s repulsing people. The “old time religion” of our forefathers doesn’t focus on the needs of helping brothers and sisters today develop a close, strong personal relationship with God in the 21st Century.
Here’s a few suggestions for improving The Black Church experience:
Cut service down to 45 minutes or an hour. Let’s face it Black Church is just TOO LONG. Most services in the Black community clock in at a minimum of 2 hours, while some go on to as long as 3 or four hours, and some go on for five hours! In the past Slaves would spend half a Sunday or a whole Sunday in Church but in today’s world that’s just not feasible. A well-organized service to me should take no longer than 45 minutes to an hour. If the Muslims, Catholics, and White Christians can preach their message to their followers in an hour, why can’t The Black Church?
Focus teaching not preaching. The Black Church is full of emotion and drama, and spectacle. After the Choir sings and then the Pastor gives a raucous performance in the pulpit. People come out The Black Church feeling good on Sunday morning, but wind up participating on the same sinful behaviors on Sunday afternoon. Why? Because they’ve been entertained, not because they’ve received information that helps them develops a closer relationship with God. I feel Church is supposed to be a place where Christians can learn things that help them grow in their relationship with Christ. Teaching to me helps people learn how to apply the Word of God in their lives every day, not just Sunday.
Focus more on Action Oriented Christianity. For me, Christianity is about doing, not hearing. Actions define a Christian’s character more than words to non-Christians. It’s the example we show through what we do that influences others and has an impact on their lives. To me, a good Church service on Sunday focuses on teaching people things they can do to apply the message of Christ in their lives in the community Monday through Saturday.
Make the House of God more open to everyone. When Jesus came, he sat with the Publicans, Tax Collectors, and Harlots. He encouraged people to come as they were. However in the Black Church members are often judgmental and rude towards newcomers. I feel more welcome at a bodega in the ghetto than in most Black Churches in the same neighborhoods, and that shouldn’t be. Church should be a place where everyone feels welcome to hear the Word. In some churches there are rigid outmoded standards for how long skirts are, whether or not shoes should have open toes (scandalous!) or slingbacks (enticing to men!) or what color stocking a woman can wear to attend service. Other Churches throw people out for having sex, being homosexual, having tattoos, or having jobs in fields the Church doesn’t find “respectable”. Hey, aren’t these the people the Church is supposed to be reaching? Didn’t Jesus try show people an example? Isn’t the mission of Church about saving souls? To me these kinds of actions are counterproductive and discourage those who desperately need to hear of the Word of God from receiving God’s message.
Stop Judging people. We’re all not perfect and we’ve all come short in the eyes of God. Our righteousness is like a filthy rag to him. But Most of my fellow Black Christians I’ve run into in the Church are extremely arrogant towards people who aren’t Christians or who don’t agree with what they’re saying. I’ve seen Christians put down, insult people and condescend to people instead of showing them an example of what Christ is like. What they don’t know is that their actions defeated their testimony. Christianity to me is about showing people an example of Christ, not telling. Action speaks louder than words.
Make Church an everyday thing not a Sunday thing. For most in the Black community Church service is on Sunday Mornings. To me Christianity is a 24-hour a day 365 day a year thing. I feel Church is a place that should be open every day with services during the weekday afternoons and weekday evenings. Sure a lot of people are working at those times, but there are others who can’t make a Sunday Schedule. I feel if The Black Church were more accessible every day like the Catholic Church and the Islamic mosque are, more people would be open to it.
Make After Church services more comprehensive. To me Church is not just about a sermon on Sunday. And developing a close personal relationship with God requires support once the sermon is over. With all the problems facing the Black community, there needs to be a focus on more after Church services. Things like counseling, networking, and financial help. At one time the first place people could go for help in the Black community was the Church. Nowadays it’s the first place to turn people away. The Church needs to go back to being the place everyone in Black Community goes first.
Focus on messages that can be applied to real life. A relationship with God is not something Church to me should be about teaching people things they can use Monday through Saturday. I’d like to see more messages focused on things people can use in their real life, not entertainment.
Discuss topics once considered off limits. Issues like AIDS, HIV, abortion, and sex are avoided by the Black out of shame and fear. Meanwhile, the community continues to suffer from these problems. The Church has to take a more active role in teaching how to apply the Word of God tin their lives towards these issues.
Focus a series of services to deal with the issues of Black Men. It’s a fact that a majority of Black men do not go to church. Why? Because they feel the church has left them out. The Black Church has become so woman centered these days that it rarely focuses on the issues of men in the black community. As a result, many young men are growing up spiritually lost and disconnected from God. I’ve heard from many brothers who say they feel emasculated in Church and that there’s no place for them there. Many more feel threatened by pastors in their homes when their women come back from service. Church should be a place that brings people together, not splits them apart.
I’d like to see the Black Church focus on making an effort to reconnecting with Black Men. I’d like to see efforts focused towards teaching services that are man centered so Black men can feel more comfortable in Church. I feel Brothers need to sit down with local pastors and air their grievances and discuss their issues with them. I feel once brothers start having a dialogue with they’ll be a bit more eager to pursue a relationship with God.
Embrace Technology as a way to get the Word of God to listeners. As part of teaching people how to apply the Word of God in their lives every day. Most Black Churches who are on the air are still on the radio- AM radio. Those who are a bit more technologically advanced are making CDs. In an age where there’s internet radio, podcasts and mp3s the Black Church is way behind the rest of the world in getting its message to potential followers. The Black Church really has to start making efforts towards reaching brothers and sisters on the web.
If were a minister and I ran a Church, I’d pretty much implement all these points I’m writing about. Personally I feel focusing on a more action oriented, everyday approach to Christianity would improve the quality of life in the Black community and improve its relationship with God. I really want to see the Black Church overcome its issues and reconnect with the lost sheep of the Black community to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.