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!