Sorry I haven’t been able to blog much this week. I’ve been swinging from the chandelier, going from one deadline to the next. I’ve had to do something I haven’t done in while. Study. Research. Read what the experts are saying.I have to do a presentation next week on leadership in the 21st century Black Church and decided that it’ll probably be wise not to depend upon anecdotes with this crowd but look at what experts are saying.
Here’s what blogging has taught me, however. Folks like to talk a lot about the Black church, especially its miserable failures. The sexism and heterosexism it espouses. The flawed politics of its preachers. The crazy antics and moral lapses of ministers. The obscene amount of money churches pour into building grand edifices. All of this is true. And I’ve done my share of criticizing. Even though I’m a minister I’ve even let people air their grievances against the church here on the blog and have sat by and allowed a few to leave comments boasting about how evolved they are for not needing church and for not going. Talk about evolved? I’m evolved for permitting this dribble and not bothering to challenge it. But, hey, I’m evolved.
In preparation for the presentation I’m giving next week I thought I’d share some interesting insights and findings by experts on what church means to many others.
America’s 65,000 African American churches are the most valuable institutional assets that exist in low-income minority communities.
Poor people live among poor people. They don’t limited contact with people who are not poor, or with institutions or organizations that serve as bridges into a broader world beyond the poverty they see every day. The church is the one bridging organization found in high poverty neighborhoods that through programming and Sunday worship routinely bring together the poor and not-so-poor, the poor and the middle class, and the poor and the upper-middle class. Outside of the school where they attend, the church is the one place where poor children are likely to see and routinely interact with people who have achieved a modicum of success and who can talk to them about what it takes to escape poverty.
What separates lower-income and higher-income families and individuals is their ability to access services. For many lower-income families the Black church is the first place they turn to for advice and referral on where and how to access the complex world of social services available to them.
Black men who are religiously involved, in this case we’re talking about Christian men, are more likely to be more sensitive husbands, more attentive fathers, and the kind of men who tend to ponder about the ethical and moral implications of certain choices.
Most youth in low income neighborhood have rarely witnessed marriages that have lasted 10, 15, 20 or more years. Long term marriages are unheard of in the families of lots of today’s youth. Where they are most likely to encounter in-tact family life, and see men involved in the lives of their families, is in the Black church.
People can live with the conflict, stress, disappointment, losses, setbacks, and broken promises that come with living in family. What people cannot live without is the hope that things can and will get better, and the hope that there is a way out. What the church offers people is hope, the belief that things can and will get better, and in the case of the Black church skills for improving one’s life.
Strengthening the safety nets around children so that they can have a chance at growing up and becoming productive citizens has long been an important part of the work of the Black church and its members.
So, maybe you, Reader, are one of those who find yourself fed up at times with the Black church. Perhaps you are even affluent enough to be able to thumb your nose up at the church and choose the Style section of the newspaper on Sunday as your devotional reading. It must be nice. There are others, however, who lack your (and my) advantages. They need the Black church and need to be in relationship with those like you (and me) who are well off enough that we can spend time reading blogs.
And quiet as it’s kept, you (and I) need those folks. We need to be reminded that the world is larger than us and that attending church is not just about our listening tastes. It’s also about showing up, being accountable, being available to those who need to see evidence that what God has done for you God can and will do the same thing for them.