Studies show that the American people, especially millennials, are moving away from religion and church affiliation with break neck speed. Black folks have joined the exodus. The predominate religious institution in our tradition is the Black church. It has been the bridge that brought us over the “troubled waters” of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. However, in this new age of Black consciousness the Black church is under extreme criticism for being absent from the fight for justice. Some are now saying the church is no longer relevant. Any institution that does not meet the needs of the people is not relevant. To say that NO CHURCH is doing any good in the Black community is a grossly unjust misstatement. There are many churches doing progressive things for the people. I see them and I applaud them. Unfortunately, the vast majority of churches are out of step. Based on my many conversations with our people, here are 10 things that I believe can help. Let me say that this article applies to mosques, temples and other religious houses of worship, as well. I point out the Black church because it’s where the majority of our people go for spiritual strength and has the greatest potential to impact the everyday lives of our people. These are 10 keys to increase the relevance of every institution in our community, as well.
1) STAND FOR JUSTICE: The Black church has traditionally minded its own business when it came to social justice issues. What they don’t tell you is Dr. King caught hell from Black preachers. They said he was stirring up too much trouble. The burning of crosses was a psychological way of instilling the fear of White supremacists into the Black church. The masses of Black people are rising in consciousness. The demand for justice has never been so critical. Choosing political correctness over the principle of Justice will render the Black church irrelevant. Black youth want to be a part of a church that’s unafraid to take the gospel to the front line.
2) BLACK ECONOMICS: Black America has taken its fight for justice from the courtroom to the banks. The #BankBlack movement has shifted millions of dollars from mainstream banks to Black-owned institutions. The youth are asking “where is the Black church” in this process. The Black church has collected over $420 Billion dollars from its members in the last 30 years. The Black church must lead the way in circulating Black dollars in the Black community. Spend church dollars with Black owned businesses and contractors. Latino, Asian and White churches are already doing this. The Black church is under heavy criticism for not participating in the Buy Black movement. We can change this overnight.
3) UNITE WITH OTHER BLACK CHURCHES: There are often dozens of Black churches in the same neighborhood that never unite for the benefit of the community. Our power is in our Unity. Traditionally, churches have done their own thing. We might come together on some things, but very seldom for community-related efforts. What if 5 churches came together to make presence in the neighborhood to rid it of prostitution? Pastors must put their egos aside and stop seeing religious houses of worship as their own little fiefdoms. The church belongs to the people and must be used to serve the people. BLACK CHURCHES UNITE!
4) RECRUIT STRONG MEN: Make the church attractive to men who are willing to protect and defend the church and its members.
5) CREATE JOBS: Our young people love the Lord, but they also want to make some money. The church must be creative in building businesses that equal jobs for our people. Many churches are already doing this.
6) TAKE IT TO THE STREETS: Religious institutions must join forces to address the issues of Black on Black murder, drug addiction, gang violence, prostitution, etc. The respect for the church can be restored when the people see us genuinely addressing the needs of the least of Jesus’ people. Every church must have a ministry that’s equipped to go into the trenches.
7) POLITICS: Faith-based initiatives have made the relationship between preachers and politicians interesting to the masses. Our people don’t trust American politics. This is why the Black voter turnout is so low. Churches must unite to develop a Black agenda that benefits Black America. Then DEMANDS must be made on any politician who wants our vote.
8) PREACH & PROMOTE GOOD HEALTH: If the Black church is to remain relevant, it must first remain alive. Too many of my preacher friends suffer from poor health due to poor habits. (This goes for Muslim Ministers and Imams too.) The sheep generally follow the shepherd. Let’s change the culture of the church to one that promotes health, wellness, eating organic food and exercise. Let’s be honest. Way too many boxes of fried chicken end up in the fellowship hall. And, too often, we’re eating at the repast of someone who just died from heart disease. Jesus promised us life and life more abundantly. We can’t achieve that at Popeye’s Chicken. Let the church lead the way.
9) INFILTRATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Since the legislators have removed prayer from schools, the church must develop programs that make sure the spirit of God is a part of our children’s education.
10) DEVELOP YOUNG LEADERSHIP: The survival and success of the Black church is dependent upon the development of young, fresh leadership. Pastors can’t be too insecure and ego-driven that they don’t secure the future of the church by recognizing God’s spirit in the youth and pushing them out front.