Recovering the Gospel….in the Black Church

I remember a conversation that I had with a friend shortly after I got saved and started serving at my former church. I had begun serving in the youth ministry that culturally didn’t look anything like me. I had my concerns initially, but those quickly subsided when I pondered the reality of the gospel and got to know those kids, who accepted me unconditionally. I treasure those days and lasting relationships. My friend said, “Dave, how come you don’t do youth ministry at a black church? You could be so useful there because they would be able to see a young black man who loves the Lord. You could be a role model.” Perhaps, from his perspective, I appeared to be some sort of sellout. My primary defense then, which would be appropriate now, was that I was serving at the church I attended. Seems simple enough, right? Being as astute as you are, I bet you guessed that his next question was, “Why don’t you go to a black church?”  Even as a relatively new believer sitting under expository teaching, I knew that I couldn’t get that in the black church. Yes, I said it.

I grew up attending an all black Baptist church in southwest Houston and as I recollect there was a lot of tradition, I did hear the gospel proclaimed, but I didn’t see the implications of the gospel. “Big Mama” falling out in the aisle, smiling deacons, great choir, Cadillacs, church hats, chicken dinners, and Sunday school is about all I remember from those days. It was definitely social and as a young boy, I couldn’t figure out why only black people went to my church. I lived in a very multicultural neighborhood, went to school and played Little League with the children from my neighborhood. Church was vastly different and I really didn’t care for it too much.

So why didn’t I gravitate toward a black church after my conversion? Or why didn’t I try to find one after some time?  The overarching reason was that I was not going to sacrifice sound doctrine for cultural comforts.

I’d rather sit under sound doctrine among people of a different ethnic composure, than sit under a deficient gospel among my own ethnicity. The gospel trumps ethnocentrism and cultural comforts.

However, I must be fair.  All doctrinally deficient chuches aren’t black churches and all black churches are not doctrinally deficient. There is a remnant, but generally speaking, we need a return to the biblical gospel and a turn from one of the fruits of a racially divided nation.  That fruit is Black Liberation Theology (BLT).  It is the dangerous fruit of a racially charged era that prohibited blacks from attending doctrinally sound seminaries, and instead attending liberal seminaries like Union Theological Seminary, Chicago Theological Seminary and Crozer Theological Seminary, later to be named Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.  In summary, BLT teaches that the gospel is that God will deliver blacks from white oppression and injustice.  Ironically, that “gospel” can’t be preached globally.  That “gospel” is comprehensively irrelevant in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Unfortunately, many black churches today are preaching a message of social liberation, rather than the liberation from sin through the atoning work of Christ. Liberation theology is a blasphemous distortion of the true gospel and we must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Contributing author to Glory Road, Anthony B. Bradley, visiting professor at King’s College New York, provides a clear analysis of Black Liberation Theology and the hope for those who may be held captive by it  in his new book Liberating Black Theology. I strongly recommend it!

 

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8 thoughts on “Recovering the Gospel….in the Black Church

  1. thank you SO MUCH for addressing this issue. so many folks are so deep in this BLT web that they act like they don’t even know sound bibliocentric doctrine even exists!!! they’re concerned about making sure the Gospel is practical and relevant … but they MISS that it’s more important for us to be relevant to GOD than to an ethnic experience. and “relevant to God” is ROOTED in repentance/faith to be followed through in the way we treat our neighbor … NOT rooted in the way we treat our neighbor solely, and then missing the work of Christ on our behalf.

  2. Eve, I’m with you 100%.

    I’m very thankful for brothers like Anthony Bradley, Anthony Carter, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Eric Redmond for risking cultural acceptance for the preservation of the gospel.

    d.

  3. D… Sounds like a good read… I totally agree with you that I am more willing to sit under sound teaching at the exspense of being around my “people!” My prayer is that I can see “my peoples” eyes become open to the gospel of Christ and learn what it teaches and pass it to the next generation…

  4. David,
    Thanks for sharing your blog. I’m really enjoying it. Your comments on the black church and BLT in particular are on the mark. I am encouraged to pray for their deliverance and for the Gospel to invade black churches across the country. As Pastor Juan preached Sunday, the Gospel is the main thing and should unite all believers — not race, ethnicity or culture.

    Grace and peace,
    Kevin

  5. Kevin,

    Absolutely, sir. This is why I am particulary grateful for ministries like the Gospel Coalition and others in the same vein that stress the importance of expositional preaching of Scripture, thus the preaching of the gospel.

    d.

  6. This is such a good post. I knew someone from High Pointe, and her mother specifically referred me to your blog; I’m glad to find it. Not only do I see the need for reform in the black church, but I especially relate to what you said about having felt like you were “selling out.” Regardless of what anyone else thinks, when attending church, one thing is important: faithfulness to Christ and His ways.

    Aside from liberation theology is also the historical fact that church used to be (and maybe for some people still is) the only place where blacks could be “someone.” The showboating, pastor worship, and lackadasical church discipline have a lot to do with church attendance in the black community not necessarily being about coming to lift up Jesus.

    Interesting blog.

  7. Pingback: The Black Church | Life in Return

  8. I have the exact same problem. I was attending a black church in the morning so that I could hear an encouraging word and socialize with the people there. Then I would have to attend a white church in the evening to get the word of God and the spiritual food that I needed for the week. I too volunteered to work in the children’s ministry at the black church. The Youth minister would preach about self-esteem, having fun, and obeying one’s parents. He never mentioned the gospel. When I would try to find ways to include the gospel, he would tell me that “this is not a part of our curriculum..” Once my uncle got sick and I saw the need to travel to Louisiana to see him, I took this as the opportunity to get out of the “apostate” youth ministry. The Lord gave me a peace about writing a letter explaining to the minister that “if you are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified, then you are wasting time. Kids get motivational speeches from parents, teachers and TV personalities all the time. Kids need to be introduced to the Word of God at church.”

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