Black Americans in 2016 numbered 42 million, or 13% of the populace. The majority live in south eastern United States. Mississippi has nearly a million Blacks, but so do the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago, while New York City has twice that many. At least 40 percent of all blacks are not members of any church. Probably not more than one-half of the 23,000,000 who are church members are included in the evangelical community. Adding the 30 percent whose spiritual needs are not being met in their churches to the unchurched, the total is 70 percent. This definable ethnic group, which is virtually beyond the normal evangelistic outreach of the established evangelical churches, either black or white, numbers 18,000,000.
The population of black Africa totals 558 million and is unequally divided among some 50 nations. Four nations exceed the black population of the US: Nigeria, 100 million, Ethiopia, 53, Zaire 42, and South Africa with 43. Three countries approach the black population of the US: Kenya 28 million, Sudan 29, and Tanzania 28. Forty African nations have a population of less than 10,000,000 each. In fact, only 26 nations in the world have a larger black population than black America.
The spiritual plight of black Americans is partly because there are few, although a growing number, of evangelical black leaders. Most Bible colleges and seminaries for many years would not accept black students, and even now most of those have no active recruiting program for blacks or adequate scholarship programs. Perhaps 500 out of a total of 2,000 black seminarians are studying for the evangelical ministry. Blacks in seminaries equaled 4 percent of the seminary enrollment in 1978, but this has improved dramatically in the 1990s. Keep in mind that blacks are 13 percent of the populace. It is noteworthy that the internet indicates that most institutions of higher learning in the 21st C. now have Black Studies Programs. There is an American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.
Most blacks are not reading Christian material as much as they could, because there is a dearth of literature for the Sunday school and adult reading material that has been written either by or for blacks.
Black youth are not joining the 68,000 black churches, and others are leaving them because there are few programs designed specifically for them. In short, the spiritual needs of blacks are not being met.
The failure of black churches to meet the spiritual needs of their people is manifest in several ways. First, only a few blacks are giving themselves to full-time Christian service either at home or abroad. A survey of the three largest black denominations, representing one-third of US blacks, reveals that they have fielded only about one dozen missionaries. Second, without adequate leadership or role models, many blacks are turning to cults and the Roman Catholic church. Consider the one million who have turned to the Black Muslim movement.
Not only has the black church failed, but, perhaps more critically, the white church has also failed. How can that happen in evangelical America? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the response to the following searching question, Are blacks welcome in the white churches? Or, put another way, are they made to feel as comfortable as anyone else?
If the answer is yes, then could they become members with all privileges and without causing a stir among the saints? Does the church visitation program overtly include black homes in the community where calling is taking place or in a totally black neighborhood? Now, for the most challenging question of all. Would black teenagers be welcome in the youth group? If the answer is even a question mark, then perhaps racial bias is a part of the reason for the neglect. Certainly there is no biblical basis for discrimination. It can only be a decision of convenience based purely on sociological grounds, which is not Christian.
Blacks are a mission field because most evangelical Americans have not seen their spiritual plight, even as they have had no vision of the spiritual deprivation of the native Americans, Hispanics, and other equally neglected national mission opportunities. Christians for too long have been myopic in their spiritual vision. They have not seen beyond their own kind and class to those in the community or country for whom they should feel spiritual responsibility. In the words of William Banks, "There is an appalling ignorance on the part of both the blacks and whites concerning the religion of the American Negro."
Yet, another strange feature about the spiritual vision of the evangelicals is that at the same time it is hyperopic. They can see at a distance the needs of the 1.1 billion black Africans and send nearly 6,000 missionaries, investing $255,000,000. This is not to suggest that such outreach is wrong, but rather to point out its success, for today black Africa is nearly 50 percent Christianized, whereas black America may be only 30 percent. This hiatus is explainable when an examination of the typical church mission budget reveals that nothing is designated for black evangelism or church planting stateside. Donald Canty, missionary to Liberia, contends that there is something insincere about the white church's concern for reaching blacks in Africa and neglecting blacks in our own American cities.
Whenever Negroes, Afro-Americans, or blacks are mentioned it usually evokes an emotional response. The child may remember the first time he saw a black person and his wide-eyed amazement at the difference in color. The teenager may think about the style of clothes or hair that may differ from his in-group. The adult might think of a favorite black athlete. The urbanite may visualize an inner-city slum resident, whereas the suburbanite remembers the anticipated devaluation of property when a black family moved into his area. The employer thinks of cheap labor. The Southerner remembers the plantation or the struggle to maintain what he considered to be his status. Assuming he has even faced the issue, the Christian is embarrassed with ambivalent feelings concerning an issue about which he has found no comfortable answers. The evangelical church leader fears the day he might be confronted with policy-making decisions involving the blacks. Even blacks themselves respond from their own milieu with rapport for those of similar circumstances or distrust for those who have become more successful. Few subjects are more emotionally charged. It is extremely difficult to be neutral. Blacks are a mission field because the emotional issue has not been squarely faced and put to rest with Biblical answers. It is encouraging that Churches are less concerned in the twenty-first C. for society has radically shifted its attitude toward internarriage, however, the Black family is still in great spiritual need.
Black Americans stand in our midst as one of the most resilient and remarkable peoples in history. In a word, they have survived! They survived the rejection of their own West African people who captured them, forced them to march in coffles, and sold them into bondage at home and abroad. They survived the cattle-like haulage on slave ships and the dehumanizing experience of being sold as property. They survived the destruction of their African culture, especially their language and religion, as well as the withholding of the privilege of becoming an equal part of the new society. They survived the refusal of all "inalienable rights," such as justice, education, and even the hearing of the gospel.
They have also miraculously survived emancipation, reconstruction, segregation, mandated desegregation, and welfarism, even that of the Obama administration. They survived denominationalism, cultism, and extremism. They have survived as a highly churched ethnic group (60 percent are church members) while at the same time one of the most spiritually destitute groups. They survive even now with only minimal interest and concern from the evangelical church, for "from the beginning of slavery, there has never been a consistent attempt by whites with the gospel to evangelize the black community." Evangelicals must at long last take a sustained look at the 13 percent of Americans who are black, comprising, in the words of Howard Jones, "one of the largest and most neglected mission fields in today's world."
In the 21st C. the Black folk will need to survive the destruction of the family unit by absentee fathers, a deceptive welfare system, inner city schools, Black Lives Matter Movement, some clergy who promote racism as a cause, Black on Black murder, the Whitey movement of 'open season' & 'killing cops' and empty politically motivated promises. Also the mental attitude that the Black can only succeed in sports. Consider the world's most successful surgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, whose Momma couldn't even read the books she encouraged him to read. Yes, you can survive and how he survived and succeeded as have the myriad of Black Surgeons who are members of the prestigious Society of Black Academic Surgeons!
A study of the blacks as a mission field will include a consideration of (1) their roots, (2) their spiritual condition, and (3) their evangelism.
Eighty-one percent of black Americans today live in an urban, central city setting, whether in the North, where nearly half of all blacks now live, in the South, or the Far West. They live on about 59 percent of what whites make and are laid off from their employment two to one over the whites. That may well be partly because a disproportionate number of blacks (40 percent) drop out of school and only one in six goes to college, even the 107 colleges which are traditionally black colleges in 2016 are seeking to survive. Black students often graduate with the highest student debt. Yet, they have survived.
In their survival has been a lot of hurt. They cannot understand why, as Americans, they were at first refused any education and then offered an inferior education, for separate was not equal. Even busing to force integration into the educational system failed; therefore, in 1996 there is a return to separate and equal. They do not comprehend why there are few jobs available, or why the jobs they are offered are usually for the unskilled, unsecured, and especially for the unequal pay of 59 cents on the dollar. They subsist in substandard housing and collect a welfare check with which they seek to keep their bodies and souls together, but discover that the dole further demoralizes, a lesson the first Black President did not seem to recognize.
Their families deteriorate withmore than 75 percent of the homes having no father, with hight illegitimacy for teens, and with venereal disease soaring above the national average. Alcoholism exists in almost every apartment with "nothing less than the survival of the black family at stake" according to Dr. Jay Chunn, president of the National Association of Black Social Workers. Black youth join gangs for survival on the streets and spend millions of dollars on drugs to escape the dead-ended existence. Then to support the habit they turn to crime, which is mostly perpetuated against their own people. The survival rate for gang life is found to be only three out of ten in five years; for four die and three go to jail. Those who obtain parole often become repeaters.
Drug abuse climbs. Thousands of blacks have become addicts and also seem to be oblivious to the dangers of alcohol and alcoholism, which have been accepted without much question. Jesse Jackson observes, "Alcohol abuse and alcoholism represent a far more severe crisis than is generally recognized by the black community. In fact the misuse of alcohol is not always seen as a crisis at all.
If they turn to the black church, as manyt do, they find an organization that, according to Martin Luther King, either burns with emotionalism, reducing worship to entertainment or spiritual gymnastics, or freezes with classism that thrives on exclusivism. The black church is too ofyen not offering the answers blacks need to face the realities of life. As a result, epidemic numbers are committing suicide.
What hope is there without education, job skills, good government, or a spiritual church? They cast about searching for answers. Many black voices clamor for the attention of demoralized blacks, suggesting causes, both sacred and secular, rooted in the past and present, either non-violent or violent, to which they should give their allegiance and through which they are promised answers. The Black Muslim movement is an example and reaction to the Dr. Martin Luther King passive resistance movement
In Los Angeles that religio-political system has built up a community of 5,000 and is growing. Estimates are that many black Americans turn to Islam weekly, partly as a result of Muslim missionaries from Africa working in the black community.
It is with nostalgia that the blacks turn their attention to their roots in Africa. By so doing they hope to find answers they desperately want, but an honest perusal of the historic situation only adds to their consternation.
It has become popular for blacks to go looking for their roots. Having been transplanted in one generation from a rural South to a universally urbanized setting, the uprooted search for answers to their dilemma is summarized in the question "Who am I?" Having exhausted their obvious sources for answers and having rejected the conflicting solutions as unacceptable, they then ironically look back longingly to the land where, more than 300 years before, their forebears were first enslaved, thus establishing the pattern of denied rights that have haunted them ever since.
In the fifteenth century, Africa was only sparsely populated by a few major tribes in the central and western regions. The western tribes, at least, made a practice of capturing and enslaving other tribesmen. It was no moral issue for them to sell their slaves to the ship captains who put into port with items for sale. William Banks reports concerning this practice using the words of one Dahomian king: "It is the custom of my ancestors; and if the white men come to buy, why would I not sell?"
In the light of the 2001 call for reparations, it is not politically correct to remind Black Americans that it was their own people who sold them into slavery. This fact does not exonerate the slave owners who mistreated the slaves. However, the owners and slaves are all dead. There is a much more demanding agenda now. It is African AIDS and the lack of fathers in the Black home.
Boston Pastor, Eugene Rivers, founder of the Pan African Charismatic Evangelism Congress, is urging…African American Christians: “We were sold into slavery, now God is calling us to go back and save those who sold us.” [Reported in World Pulse July 6, 01]
African slavery began in Europe in 1442 when the Portuguese, having obtained a papal grant, began to import blacks into the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish introduced the industry to the New World, an industry that would ultimately drain Africa of up to 60,000,000 souls. Probably not more than 15,000,000 landed alive. Most were shipped to Latin America with only 2,000,000 coming to the United States.
It was in 1619 that the first blacks were brought to the United States as indentured servants who could earn their freedom working in Jamestown, Virginia. Others were brought as slaves from the West Indies, where by this time 900,000 slaves had already been brought to Latin America from several West African countries. Later they were brought directly to the United States from Africa.
Finally, by 1807 the cruel traffic of human flesh was made illegal in Europe and in the United States. It was England that had started this nefarious business in the same year the Protestant Reformation began. However, slave selling was not over in Africa, for between 1780 and 1880 the "Arabs and Africans began a slave trade on Africa's east coast even worse than the west African slave trade." They were sold to Red Sea and Persian Gulf countries. In 1880 slavery was legally over, thus ending the biggest enforced migration in world history at that time. In the 21st C., wars in MENA have brought about another nefarious migation, this time of Asians.
However, is black slavery over? It is a tragedy that the black does not realize that Islam is not native to Africa [the supposed religion of Africans], nor has Islam been kind to Africans, for Arab slave traders have been and continue to be some of the worst offenders in the traffic of blacks. In a 1996 newspaper article published by the Baltimore Sun, foreign correspondent Gilbert Lewthwaite and columnist Gregory Kane who is black, accepted a challenge by Louis Farrakhan leader of the Nation of Islam, to prove there are presently Arab slave traders buying and selling slaves in the Sudan. They flew to the Sudan and purchased two slaves aged 10 and 12 from an Arab slave trader for $500.00 each. They then sent them back to their parents. A search of the Internet sadly reveals that the sale of African slaves is still a tragic reality in 2016.
What can black Americans learn from a look at their roots? Precious little beyond the fact that their roots are not unique, nor are their problems. One black leader suggests that it is time to sever the "umbilical cord which sends (us) to foreign shores to attain a validity which in the final essence (we) do not need." Perhaps a panorama of their history in the United States can offer some answers.
The early colonists were of a hardy stock who left kith and kin to come to the New World to escape the tyranny of the Old. They threw themselves with vigor into the awesome task of carving out a new existence. They welcomed any and all who came to help, including the twenty indentured blacks who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Indenturing was common for whites and blacks; therefore, it was determined early that indenture would last from four to seven years at which time the indentured would be free to purchase his own lands.
Those colonial adventurers were also God-fearers who baptized infants, including blacks. Baptism also had a particular significance later in life, for adult blacks who had been baptized before coming to the United States were given the right to testify in court in those early years, even against whites. Blacks soon began to own property in significant amounts and also owned slaves. In some states land was offered to the settler on the basis of twenty acres for each male slave and ten acres for each female slave brought to the colony the first year.
It was only a matter of time until slavery was introduced into each of the colonies. In the South slaves were needed for the production of tobacco and cotton. In the North it was for manufacturing, such as rum for export. By 1638 Boston became the main port of entry for slaves even though the bulk of the slaves worked in the South.
As the number of blacks increased, inordinate fear concerning them developed. There was concern about intermarriage and the status of the offspring. There was a question about the morality of holding a Christian in slavery after baptism. One by one laws were enacted settling those issues, which slowly stripped the blacks of their rights. The courts determined that baptism had nothing to do with a person's legal status, insuring continuous slavery; intermarriage became illegal; and a black person was not permitted to testify in court.
Those ideas were fostered by colony leaders, who were directly responsible to the king of England. Parliament passed laws to regulate the blacks on the plantations in the Americas. Their attitude concerning blacks was that they were "of a wild, barbarous and savage nature, to be controlled only with strict severity." The Virginia colony held the greatest numbers of slaves; thus it was there that the British directorates were first put into force.
By 1668 the number of free blacks was increasing. There was great concern about their privileges; therefore, it was determined that "Negro women set free, although permitted to enjoy their freedom, yet ought not in all respects to be admitted to the full fruition of the exemptions and impunities of the English" The colonies determined that suffrage was only for freeholders. That effectively removed universal suffrage, especially for recent freedmen. Then laws were passed to stop manumission, or the freeing of slaves, unless the slave was given passage out of the colony.
Indenture was very short-lived. The masses of slaves soon discovered that they would never be able to change their status, thus their work suffered and they looked for opportunities to be troublesome or to run away. Where could they go? Some joined "maroon" communities in the mountains or swamps of the slave states. There is evidence that there may have been at least fifty communes.
The designation "maroon" came from the Spanish cimarron, which meant a runaway slave. The camps were to be found in abundance in the Caribbean Islands and South America, where slaves often outnumbered the whites. In all slave states the runaways gathered in camps and lived a nomadic life, often depending on banditry for subsistence. Plantation owners tried to discover and raid those camps to recapture the slaves.
Others sought refuge with Indian tribes, where they often intermarried. The larger number, however, sought to escape to the northern states. So many were running away that fugitive laws were established that enabled an owner to reclaim his property. If a particular slave ran away more than once, he was branded with the letter R.
By the end of the century 28,000 blacks had made the "middle passage." That meant that they had crossed the ocean cramped, supine, in 3.25 feet of space like cord wood between the decks. If the weather was clement, they were taken out "from the middle" for air and exercise. Those who lived often landed in the West Indies. The triangular trade, as it was called, consisted of carrying food stuffs from Boston to the West Indies, where it was traded for rum. The rum was taken to Africa and bartered for slaves who were returned to the West Indies. Then a cargo of molasses was taken on for Boston, whose major industry was the making of rum.
Only a few voices were raised against this nefarious trade. The first recorded protest was made in 1688 by Mennonite Quakers in Pennsylvania. Their leader denounced those within their circles who owned slaves, saying that their number in Europe heard "that ye Quackers doe here handel men like they handel there ye cattel... Pray! What thing in the world can be done worse...than if men should rob or steal us away and sell us for slaves to strange countries, separating housbands from their wives and children... We are against this traffick of menbody."
Evangelization of the blacks was minimal. One man gave himself as a missionary to serve the blacks during that century. John Eliot in 1674 sought to educate the blacks as he did the Indians. As the eighteenth century dawned Dr. Thomas Bray persuaded the British to establish the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to send missionaries to the colonies. Later, that organization became known as Dr. Bray's Associates, after Bray, who for many years sought to educate the blacks. Along with those early missionaries Cotton Mather must be recognized for opening an evening school.
With the advent of the newspaper, advertising for slaves became widespread. Although the Quakers prevailed on the Pennsylvania legislature to ban slave trade, the English crown vetoed their action and encouraged the veritable flood of slaves that followed. During the years 1715 to 1750 an average of 2,500 slaves came annually until they constituted 14 percent of the populous. During the next decade 3,500 per year arrived, raising the proportion to 20 percent. The decade ending in 1770 saw an astounding 7,450 enter annually directly from Africa, raising the total to nearly a half million souls among a total population of 2.3 million.
Virginia still had the dubious distinction of maintaining the greatest number of slaves of all the colonies and never lost that position. However, more important to many was the fact that the blacks were now 40 percent of all the citizens of Virginia. Colonel Byrd II remarked, "The saints of New England imported so many Negroes into Virginia, that the colony will sometime or other be confirmed by the name of New Guinea." Steps were taken by the governor to limit the number of slaves entering. Furthermore, the state passed thirty-three acts seeking to stop the importation of slaves, but England rejected them all. Tragically, the governor also renounced their right to vote.
Benjamin Franklin in 1727 began a long battle against slavery. He published articles and books sometimes written by Quakers. He founded an organization called "Junto" to rally those who were against slavery. It was destined to be a long and hard battle, for the pro-slavery forces were deeply entrenched. Feelings ran deep and fears were fed by calamities that were all too frequently blamed on the blacks. A series of fires in New York City in 1741 is an example. Although there was no evidence against them, eleven blacks were burned at the stake and eighteen were hanged just for being in the area.
By 1774 a series of grievances over foreign involvement in local affairs gave impetus for a number of colonial leaders to emerge and form themselves into a federal government. Among their many proclamations "Jefferson declared that the abolition of slavery is the great object of desire in the colonies." Two years later, when he drafted the Declaration of Independence, it originally included the following harsh words about King George III:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating them and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.
Although Jefferson recognized the wrongness of slavery, it did not mean that he felt that blacks were equal to the whites. He unabashedly projected his bias by suggesting that blacks were "monotonous," that they perspired more," required less sleep, were more adventuresome perhaps because of less forethought, were more ardent after the female, only transient in their griefs, inferior in reason, as well as dull, tasteless, and anomalous in imagination. He quipped that in his experience they were wanting in the arts. In only a couple of instances were they equal to the whites--in bravery and memory. He concluded, "I suspicion only, that the blacks...are inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and mind"
As president of the American Philosophical Society, he was but mouthing the opinion of the scientific and philosophical communities that were heavily biased against blacks. Linne, Voltaire, and Hume for instance "considered the Negro as half animal approximating the orangutan." The first to dispute the "race theories" was Johann Blumenbach who garnered scientific evidence to discredit the belief that there were differences in skull sizes.
It is clear that Jefferson articulated the feelings of most of the fifty-five delegates to the Congress. They were concerned that the colonies not be overwhelmed with blacks like Cuba, which was 79 percent black, or Jamaica, which was 95 percent black. In fact, the whole of the West Indies was 86 percent black and had nearly as many blacks as lived in the colonies. About half of the delegates to Congress owned slaves and were not ready for emancipation.
George Washington, who owned 200 slaves, proffered the idea of gradual emancipation. He wrote: "I never mean--unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it--to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by slow, sure and imperceptible degrees."
But the time had not yet come for gradual emancipation. The best they could do was to legalize slavery for the present, put a $10 per head import tax on slaves, and recommend that slavery be discontinued in 1808. Congress determined that slaves were taxable property and that they would be counted on the ratio of five blacks equaling three whites for purposes of representation.
Abolitionist ideas continued to grow, and by the end of the century twelve abolitionist societies were operating. Vermont abolished slavery in 1777 and Massachusetts in 1783, whereas Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut adopted gradual emancipation a few years later. However, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made the implementation of the idea more remote. Fear of revolt caused slaveholders to severely restrict slave rights.
In 1808 the government officially ended the importing of slaves. but the official attitude changed little. It is estimated that in the following fifty years another quarter of a million slaves were brought in illegally. Several slave states were admitted to the Union after that, although not without controversy, as the Missouri Compromise made clear.
Even the blacks themselves were not universally desirous of being manumitted. There is record of blacks betraying the plans of slaveholders who were about to free them. What would they do with their so-called freedom? They had no skills, education, or finances! Most of all they had no land. Freedom would not give them the right to vote, for 93 percent of the freedmen were disenfranchised. The states even determined what work blacks could do. The Federal government would not hire blacks as mailmen.
Not only were the slaves a problem, but so were the 488,000 freedmen. One solution was the formation of the American Colonization Society, which in 1822 founded Liberia, West Africa, as a homeland for freed American slaves. Many whites heralded the idea as brilliant, for it would, in the words of Henry Clay, "rid our country of useless and pernicious, if not dangerous, portion of its population." Only about 12,000 blacks thought it a good idea and migrated. Others saw it as a way to get rid of them.
The abolitionary movement finally became a crusade. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, focusing the attention of the masses on slavery, sold over 300,000 copies. Many were willing to cooperate with the Underground Railroad established by the Quakers in the 1830s to help blacks escape to the North. It is estimated that 50,000 escaped until Congress passed a strict fugitive slave law. Then many were forced to flee to Canada. Some northern states countered the law by passing personal safety laws that encouraged the protection of runaways.
When war broke out in 1861, abolitionists in the North urged President Lincoln to free the slaves. Jefferson Davis, the President of the eleven Confederate States of America in the South, declared slavery "as necessary to self preservation." President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was essentially a maneuver to save the Union; therefore he freed only the slaves of the seceded states to urge their return. Those in the four slave states in the Union were not affected. It was the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 that freed the slaves.
Following the war was a time of severe readjustment for the 4,000,000 slaves who were ill prepared for freedom. Most of them had never had to care for themselves and owned nothing. The government made only a token effort to help them resettle and find jobs by means of the Freedman's Bureau, which was notoriously fraudulent.
This period was called Reconstruction. Blacks were caught up as pawns in a great power struggle between the hawks and doves of Congress. The hawks (radical Republicans) wanted the leaders of the South to be severely disciplined. They saw blacks as a power base for a strong Republican party in the South; therefore, they propagandized the "black codes" that Southerners had enacted to regulate blacks after the war and pushed the Civil Rights bill through Congress to counteract the codes. That was followed with the Fourteenth Amendment, which conferred citizenship on the blacks.
Although those gains were moral victories for blacks, they were definitely politically motivated. The black vote was needed to keep the new state governments in power as backed by the army. The black vote was sought by the Northern "carpetbaggers" and the Southern "scalawags." In the end, the blacks really lost, for the Southerners could not be forced against their will to treat blacks with respect.
Not many months passed until the Southerners regained control of state government. Even with the Fifteenth Amendment there was no way of ensuring black suffrage. Whites controlled the land and the jobs. Radical groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellias very effectively controlled the vote by intimidation and violence. States imposed literacy tests and poll taxes to ensure that blacks could not get control of state governments. Reconstruction had reunited the Union but failed in its effort to force the South to accept blacks as bona fide citizens. In fact, "after reconstruction, practically all political rights given the American Negro...were retracted."
Following reconstruction the South continued on its pattern of discrimination. Everything in the South became segregated, including housing, schools, all public services, and buildings including churches. The Supreme Court, with poor bureaucratic insight, gave sanction to segregation by its 1896 decision of "Separate but equal" facilities. This became one of the darkest periods of black history, for there was no way that the court could ensure the "equal" part as history would clearly show. For instance, the South continued to spend two to one for white education over black; therefore, 100 ‘Historically Black Colleges’ were founded. [In 2016 there are 107 HBC, which are struggling financially.]
The twentieth century brought radical changes into the lives of blacks. First, they migrated to the cities. For instance, by 1982 blacks were 70 percent of the population of Washington DC, 66.6 percent in Atlanta, and 63 percent in Detroit. Second, they united for civil action to gain their constitutional rights. Where once the enemy was the white Southerner, now it was whites everywhere!
Two paths were open for them to follow. One was that of nonviolence. Booker T. Washington as leader and educator encouraged blacks to become vocationally trained and educated. He taught them to respect the law and make friends
The other path as advocated by Harvard graduate Dr. W.E.B.DuBois involved fighting for equal status. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed in 1909, DuBois became a chief spokesman. The NAACP's platform included the following: (1) enforcement of equal rights--civil, political, and educational; (2) outlawing racial discrimination; and (3) direct action in various ways.
One of its first campaigns was to alert the public about the violence perpetuated against blacks, especially lynching. Bergman reports that lynching were occurring at the rate of one every six days in 1911 for a total of 1,100 in the first fifteen years of the twentieth century. Following this until 1934 there was still an average of thirty-two per year. At least 3,400 occurred in the sixty-five years before 1947.
Second, he founded the National Urban League to assist the increasing numbers of blacks who were migrating in great numbers to the cities of both the South and the North. They needed help in adjusting to urban life and in finding jobs. Blacks were being pulled to the Northern cities by news of jobs created by the advent of World War II. Furthermore, they were pushed northward by the dual natural disasters of major flooding and the destruction of the cotton crop by the boll weevil plus general dissatisfaction with life forced on them by Southern attitudes. Perhaps 350,000 moved at this time to be followed by 1.3 million in the 1920s, 1.5 million in the 1930s, and 2.5 million in the 1940s.
Third, the Civil Rights Movement focused the attention of the entire country on the problems facing blacks. Black leaders began to emerge through increased opportunities for jobs, education, the military, and the growing black middle class. The public became accustomed to seeing blacks as equals and in some instances as superior as they gained national exposure on television, in the performing arts, in sports, and in Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning. A liberal-minded Supreme Court began to strike down restrictive, unconstitutional laws including its own "separate but equal" fiasco. The time had come for Americans generally to become concerned over racial discrimination. That concern would only begrudgingly turn into action.
During the 1950s and early 1960s Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and James Farmer of the Student National Coordinating Committee began to lead their people in nonviolent, direct action against segregation or de facto segregation by "freedom rides," "sit-ins," "pray-ins," "wade-ins," and "freedom marches.: As those marches spread across the country, they grew in size and received massive television coverage. In Washington, DC, millions heard King speak of his dream that soon a person would be judged by the content of his character rather than by the color of his skin.
Not all blacks were in favor of integration. Elijah Muhammad and Malcom X of the Black Muslims (now called The World Community of Islam in the West) wanted separation of the races. The Black Panther Party, an extremist group, including Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver, was constantly in conflict with the police. But most blacks just wanted to be law-abiding citizens who could attain the American dream.
The decade of the 1970's witnessed great strides in black advancement. There were more opportunities open to blacks in most areas including housing, education, and jobs. More and more blacks were attaining acceptance and affluence in the Great Society, but still the masses languished in the central city with little hope for the future. However, there is movement toward acceptance of the Black and his slowly improving circumstances. As the century closes, Blacks are moving south with little reaction from residents in the cities of the southeast.
In the year 2000, John McHorter, a black, wrote a book called, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America in 2000. In it he proposes that not all the problems Blacks encounter are due to Whitey or Slavery. He talks about the 'self-destructive culture of victimhood'. In his new book, Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America, he reveals that 'institutional racism' is not the real issue, but rather a 'countercultural revolution.' Growing out of welfareism in the 60s came a violent breakdown of the Black family, which was of his own making. In the community, welfare was normal, as was fatherlessness. In 1964 25% black children were born to single moms. By 1976 it was 50% and by 1995 it was 70%. Over the last 40 years black slums have become war zones. What is the cure? He says, certainly not reparations for slavery.
How does this lengthy rehearsal of the black experience in the United States fit into a study of blacks as a mission field? First, the average white evangelical has probably never acquainted himself with these historical facts that so vitally affect the thinking and feeling of blacks.
Second, if whites are to understand blacks to better help them spiritually, they must come to grips with black history and black emotional interpretation of it. Although neither living blacks nor whites have been personally involved in the slavery issue, blacks perceive it as a part of the present dilemma, and whites feel guilty by association.
Third, it must be understood that to the extent there still exists the mind-set that allowed slavery to develop and be defended, the present condition of blacks is related to the past.
Finally, blacks believe that the virtual silence of the church in speaking out against the evils of slavery was tantamount to approval. Furthermore, the involvement of Christians in the slavery movement leading them to use the Scriptures and Christianity as tools for keeping blacks obedient has biased many against Christianity. Some blacks believe that "Christianity came to be a prime agency of control in an interlocking system of physical intimidation, legal manipulation, and religious divarication."
This history has very much influenced the black man’s religion.
Only slowly and begrudgingly did established churches begin to recognize the spiritual needs of the slaves. George Washington wrote in his diary about concern for the physical health of his slaves; "there is little evidence, however, of similar concern for their mental and moral well-being. The Anglican church did baptize and take into membership those who were able to pass the catechism classes. It was not until the eighteenth century that it made a systematic effort to evangelize blacks. Even then it was but a small and select group of the more sophisticated and educated who were accepted.
In 1725 the first church of colored Baptists was established in Williamsburg, Virginia. After two religious awakenings much more effort was made to evangelize blacks during the last quarter of the century and the first quarter of the next. Methodists and Baptists did the most to evangelize blacks, who were attracted to their more personal church services and the less formal church polity. Even so, white church services did not really satisfy the spiritual needs of the blacks. They sensed that they were only tolerated in the church, for they were usually confined to designated areas and evicted if there was not room for whites.
Blacks were not permitted to have their own separate churches at first because whites feared that they would become places of dissent and foment trouble. When black churches were permitted, they were regulated by law and mandated that a white had to be present in the services. That practice continued until the Civil War.
Under such restrictions only a few joined the organized churches. At the dawn of the nineteenth century merely 4 or 5 percent of blacks were church members. That was approximately 50,000 out of 1,000,000 people. By 1860 the number was nearly 14 percent. Eric Lincoln suggests that this failure was because of the "inability of blacks to reconcile the faith of the evangelizer to their conduct."
Other blacks attended an "invisible church" where brave souls met secretly such as on the maroons in the swamps and bayous. There they were able to worship in unrestricted ways without what Lincoln likes to call the "religious narcotic" administered in the white church.
In the North the thousands of freedmen formed "quasi-churches," which were more often than not mutual aid societies caring for widows, orphans, and the sick. They did not form regular churches because of their experience with organized Christianity in the South.
2. THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE BLACK CHURCH IN THE PRESENT
When blacks were permitted to establish their own churches during the period of the Reconstruction, they began to leave the denominations and form their own branches. This action was in part a reaction to whites not allowing blacks to worship in ways that were meaningful. However, Lincoln suggests that:
The religious reasons for the founding of separate black institutions was the failure of all but a remnant of the white Christian establishment aggressively to pursue its mission on behalf of Christ among blacks. Separate institutions were in part a response to the failure of white churchmen to treat their brothers with equity, respect, care, concern and love.
Now about 60 percent of all blacks belong to churches that are primarily black. There are four National Baptist Conventions with a combined membership of 16.5 million. The three Methodist Episcopal churches claim membership of 3.5 million. There are perhaps 1.6 million integrated into white churches. Another group is the 3,000,000 who have joined the Pentecostal movement including 522 Type Church of Name God churches. The 16.3 million black Christians belong to about 68,000 black churches which average 200 or so. This would mean that the average church should have 240 members. Because no reliable statistics are available, that figure is probably inaccurate. If all blacks were to attend the black churches, then each would have a membership of 485. It would seem that there are enough church buildings to accommodate all blacks, but most of the buildings would not be large enough to accommodate those numbers.
As the black church evolved, it was at first allowed to be only a carbon copy of the white church. Its theology and polity were prescribed. That was both good and bad. It was good because the church's theological position was evangelical. Herbert Hinkle, a black pastor from Michigan, observes, "The preacher of yesterday was a fundamental, hell-fire and brimstone preacher." Lawrence Jones declares, "Blacks were clearly at one with the dominant religious community in affirming the divine inspiration of the Bible."
It was bad because as the white denominational schools (the only schools that admitted blacks) became more liberal in their teaching, the black graduates became more involved with social issues and less concerned with evangelism. Hinkle observes that "in most of the big-time sophisticated black churches, neither the preacher nor the people ever think about soul-winning." He further charges that many black preachers are more concerned with how they sound than how many are saved. Howard Jones agrees that the ministry of evangelism is not given high priority in the majority of black churches. Ronald Behm, pastor of South Side Bible Church of Chicago, concludes that most personal evangelism is to be found among the Pentecostal blacks.
The black church, therefore, has become highly institutionalized. It has so many auxiliary programs that the people become too busy to have time for evangelism. In fact, as Hinkle declares, there is no atmosphere for evangelism. There is a lot of emotion and religion, but spirit-filled Christianity is missing in many churches. The problems of institutionalization, lack of evangelism, and the emotionalism of black churches have caused some to adjudge that the black church is as liberal as its white counterpart. Others suggest that "it has been erroneously assumed that there is very little true evangelical Christianity within the black church as a whole." Richard Mattox, president of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association, suggests that these churches are basically untaught and, as a result, they do not know the Truth or that they should be evangelizing their neighbors.
Perhaps the most revealing characteristic about the spiritual condition of the black church is its attitude toward missions. Joseph Washington states that blacks are difficult to recruit for anything that requires sustained sacrifice for others. Many black leaders agree that there is largely an absence of missionary vision and programs in black churches.
Another problem within the black church is the limited emphasis placed on Sunday school. Perhaps part of the reason may be found in the lack of interest of blacks in preparing to teach in the church school. Melvin Banks reports from a survey taken that "very few seminarians consider Christian education a vital part of preparation for the minister." Banks further indicates concern that white publishers of Sunday school materials have shown little interest in preparing materials for blacks; therefore, Urban Ministries, Inc., was established in 1970 as the first black-owned independent publisher of Sunday school materials.The need for black-oriented Sunday school literature is critical, because what is available, according to Starlon Washington, is geared too high for adequate understanding and is rarely related to black culture. Martin Luther King once quipped, "If you want to hide something from the black man, put it in a book."
Pastoral education continues to be a problem for blacks. In the past they were only able to attend certain schools that were more broadminded. Reluctantly, the conservative schools began to open their doors. As the cost of education escalates, blacks are finding it more difficult to attend. Few schools have enlistment programs for blacks. This is probably less a problem of racial discrimination than the fact that most of the schools' contacts are in the white community. However, it is also necessary for black pastors to encourage their college-aged youth to prepare for Christian ministries.
In some situations the black pastor may not have any formal education, general or biblical education specifically. This is often true in the "store front churches" in the inner city. At times the pastor is old and retired from secular employment. He may have put his entire savings into the church building he personally owns. It is often attended by relatives or a close-knit group of personal friends.
In many circumstances the small church is not able to support the pastor; therefore he must gain secular employment to subsidize his salary. Obviously, he is not able to give the church adequate attention.
All too frequently the pastor and his church are completely out of contact with the spiritual problems of the congregation. One black put it this way, "Since I had never heard the central message of the gospel, I did not see the black church as relevant to my needs." The church had become the center of community activity, but the people came "to eat, court, drink, and gamble," While the associational meetings were "Disneyland, vacation, the state fair, and the Friday night date all rolled into one."
Black pastors who graduated from white schools were often taught to be ashamed of their religious heritage. They were taught to make the black service conform to white, middle class norms and see the black community as colored white people. According to Quebedeaux, most black evangelicalism, having more in common with the white than the black community, is distinctively middle class. However, he continues, the new black evangelical pastor is not against racism and building up the larger black community. Many black authors conclude that the black pastor is losing the respect he once held.
The black church and its leaders often became involved in the political arena. The Civil Rights movement was born in the black church, received its impetus, leadership, and funding from black churchmen. The black church is the largest and most powerful organization in the black community; therefore, it is the main vehicle for expression of their felt needs. Sometimes it is their only avenue.
Although there are several black denominational groups, C. Eric Lincoln believes that
the black church evolved, not as the formal, black "denomination," with a structured doctrine, but as an attitude, a movement. It represents the desire of Blacks to be self-conscious about the meaning of their blackness and to search for spiritual fulfillment in terms of their understanding of themselves and their experience of history. There is no single doctrine, no official dogma except the presupposition that a relevant religion begins with the people who espouse it. Black religion, then, cuts across denominational, cult, and sect lines to do for black people what other religions have not done: to assume the black man's humanity, his relevance, his responsibility, his participation, and his right to see himself in the image of God.
Lawrence Jones in his paper "They Sought a City" suggests that blacks who joined the churches in the 1800s were looking for two things: a religious experience and a vehicle to create a new community. The latter often took precedence over the first. In so doing the black church lost contact with the majority of blacks who did not join.
Is there a relationship between the black church today and that of the earlier days? Leon Watts says that there definitely is. He suggests that the black church from its very inception broke with American white Christianity. He questions whether blacks consider themselves a part of traditional white Christianity, concluding that the main thrust of the black church is black liberation, built on the thesis that there are no assumptions that are not built on experience.
Joseph Washington, Jr., has written the book Black Sects and Cults. In it he seeks to discover a common denominator in all black religious experience. He suggests that the groups are all "cults of power for black realization in the here and now." He also suggests that they are too numerous to count, for they come and go as the need arises. "Indeed," he says, "the sole criterion for religion among the black masses was its effectiveness in solving their dilemmas. It did not matter in the least what a religion taught or what the leader believed, as long as he or she demonstrated practical ability." His studied conclusion is that "it is not too much to say that in the mainstream of black sectarianism the social, economic, and political concerns take precedence over spiritual concerns and become real religious concerns."
An honest appraisal of the spiritual condition of blacks and their churches must take into account that black society has its various divisions. E. Franklin Frazier in his book Black Bourgeoisie speaks of a new middle class that has left its youthful religious moorings and become spiritually bankrupt so that their lives are emptied of both content and significance. They are leaving the church, abandoning the faith of their fathers, and becoming a part of the 13 million Blacks who have no connection to the church.The most obvious religio-political involvement of blacks is in the Black Muslim movement. Figures vary, but Usry and Keener in Black Man’s Religion [IV Press 1995] suggest 1 in 10 as the number who are involved [3.3 million] The objective in joining is clearly enunciated as the rejection of America. That rejection included Christianity, English, and the American flag. According to Dr. Mohammed Abjul Rauf, the Egyptian director of Washington's Islamic Center, blacks feel that they are returning to their roots by becoming Black Muslims. Charles Colson in his book, Burden of Truth [Tyndale 1997 p. 279] suggests that one in fifteen African Americans is a Muslim. The tragic truth is that Islam offers no real hope to the Black. He needs to come to grips with the reality that many were sold into slavism by their Muslim leaders in the old world. Jeus Christ is the anwer to all peoples. The God who created mankind was color blind so to speak. He looks at the heart which is the same color in all people. Jesus gave his life blood for all Black people too.
It is difficult to define an evangelical black church since the term evangelical has not been widely used in the black church. Most blacks would consider themselves to be Bible believers without understanding the distinctives raised by terminology. Out of this milieu emerged in 1963 an organization called the National Black Evangelical Association. William Bently has written a history of the movement. In it he traces black evangelicalism back to the 1930s and the rise of the Bible church and Bible institute/college movement. The leaders of the NBEA are a product of that area.
The organization has oscillated between a conservative leadership and a much more inclusivistic orientation. The earlier leaders were theologically fundamental, but Bentley charges that they were not sufficiently aware of black needs and concerns in the community.
In the 1970s the trend reversed and social activists were voted into office. Lines were drawn between "blacks who were identified with a more socially conservative bent, and who, on that account, some felt enjoyed close relationship with the white evangelical establishment, and those blacks who felt that more conscious efforts ought to be made to actively accept their own culture and carefully relate the Gospel claims within that context." Many conservative blacks and whites left the NBEA at that time.
Bentley believes that the majority of blacks want an organization that manifests "unity in diversity without enforced conformity -- a cultural pluralism." This idea he calls "the umbrella concept." He insists that the theology must remain evangelical. A move toward a more conservative leadership was evident with Ruben Conner's election, for the radical black liberation movement was not able to capture the imagination of the blacks nor rally them about a cause they could not define. Conservatives believe they can do this, for they have proffered a Black Agenda that includes the following. We are black. We are Christians. We are members of a community of faith with an ethnic identity. We must develop a program of missions, both national and foreign. We must evangelize our own black people, which we can do best. We must produce black-oriented literature for the "bulk of black studies material is contemporarily produced by liberal white scholarship." We must have a program of social action. We will develop a black evangelical theology that is not societally blind nor identified with black culture, but anchored to the rock even while geared to the times! We must develop our own black leadership, using whites only in indirect or complementary ways, for "it stands to reason that those who are struggling with their own identity are in no position to assist others in attaining theirs." We must establish evangelical black churches which can speak out when necessary, for,
"we are heading back to a past from which many of us thought we had clean escaped, and in all this, the church stands for the most part silent and seemingly blind--mute and immobile against primordial wrongs in which she stands implicated by this silence that gives consent. Bad men triumph because good men choose not to speak!"
Other associations of fundamental black churches have also come into being. One group is headed by Warren Lawrence and is called the Mission Association of Negro Evangelicals. Another is the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association including nearly 100 churches with a membership of between 8,000 and 10,000. Richard Mattox of Name Community Name Baptist Type Church in East Cleveland, Ohio, is the president.
What is the spiritual condition of the black church? William L. Banks summarizes it in this way:
"A black person even now has to prayerfully seek a local assembly which is without gospel jazz, fashion shows, money-raising gimmicks, and condoned immorality, and positively speaking, a church which stresses clean living, preaching of the Word, and the saving blood of Jesus Christ! To find such an assembly is no easy task."
White evangelicals with concern for black America must become aware of the black evangelical and assist him in reaching our mission field of unsaved blacks. Without a doubt, if the job is to be done, blacks will have to do it. But does that exonerate white evangelicals? Obviously not, yet only a few white leaders and churches have been willing to admit that fact and do something about it.
Let us proceed with a survey of missionary activity aimed at reaching the black Americans for Christ, discipling them and establishing them in evangelical churches.
Although there were some like John Eliot and Jonathan Edwards, who were early missionaries to the blacks, it does not take long to summarize what missionary activity was being conducted among the slaves during the Colonial period. Gerald de Jong, professor of European history at the University of South Dakota, says that there was probably a failure among all denominations, for at the end of that period the majority of slaves were still heathen. They died strangers to Christianity.
Later, as the interdenominational ministries began, a new impetus for missions to blacks should have begun, but it did not happen. Samuel Ward suggests that those ministries also had to bow to the interests of those from whom they received their support.
Nineteenth-century missionary activity showed little improvement according to one black. He suggests that it failed to reach into the black community.
It would appear that missionary activity among blacks has never had a high priority in most white churches or even among blacks. But there is a growing recognition that blacks are indeed a mission field. The American Missionary Fellowship reports that several million blacks in the deep South offer one of the most fertile fields for evangelism, Bible teaching, and church planting in America today. Howard Tannahill, camp director for Cedine Bible Camp, notes that many blacks in America are religious but do not know Jesus Christ personally. Gordon Mumford, president of Southern Bible Institute, suggests that their purpose is to prepare blacks to carry the gospel into the black community, which is virtually without the Good News.
When Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. McMullen, could not return to the Central African Republic for health reasons, they looked at the American blacks and exclaimed, "Oh, what a need there is for fundamental Bible-teaching Baptist churches in the black community." They settled in the southeast corner of the District of Columbia and planted the Beracha Baptist Church of Washington, D.C.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has established a Black Campus Ministry to minister on the thousands of campuses across the United States, and the growing metropolitan campuses with their concentration of blacks. Campus Crusade for Christ has a black ministry entitled, Here’s Life Black America.
Black evangelicals are also concerned that their people are a mission field. William Bentley decries the "traditional practice of exporting abroad what was not practiced at home" and notes the growing concern over "making the forces of missions to consist entirely of foreign ministry." Howard Jones agrees:
If white fundamentalist and evangelical churches would have been just as dedicated in evangelizing black America and other non-Caucasians as they have been in evangelizing the great masses of people on the mission fields abroad, America would probably be a different nation today.
He is also concerned that "black evangelicals have not evangelized the unsaved and unchurched masses of fellow American Negroes--one of the largest and most neglected mission fields in today's world."
Christian Research and Development, Inc, conducts seminars entitled ‘Developing the Christian Family’. The seminars were developed by Willie Richardson who can be reached at 1822-68th. Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19126. Phone 215-877-1530.
Cedine Bible Mission, located in Spring City, TN, which is north of Chattanooga and west of Knoxville, began ministry in 1946 with a primary ministry to blacks. They conduct camps for black youth and once conducted a Bible school ministry when blacks found it difficult to get a Bible school education. Now the Bible school is no longer needed, but the Bible conference ministry for blacks is second to none. It is necessary to register early to hear the best black Bible expositors in the nation.
Open Door Ministries, located in Seminole, FL, conducts a ministry for black pastors who want to enhance their preaching ability. The mission maintains a large cassette tape loaning library of great preaching and Bible studies by a variety of expositors. The ministry also produces and publishes black oriented literature.
3. A COMPLEX PROBLEM FOR MISSIONS
There are a number of complexities to be considered in a survey of missionary activity today among blacks. Thomas Sowell points out in his book American Ethnic Groups that there are really three black groups in America: the descendants of the "free persons of color" of antebellum America; the descendants of the emancipated slaves who are the largest group; and the West Indian immigrants. Each has his own ethnic identity to be considered for evangelism.
A second complexity to take into account is the great variety of conditions under which blacks live. Most blacks live in the cities; that is, the inner city, or what was once called the ghetto. However, the central city is no longer growing because blacks are moving to the suburbs almost as fast as whites. Nearly one in four metropolitan blacks lives in suburbia, while some whites are moving to exurbia. It is also to be noted that since 1970 many blacks are moving back to the South; others are living in the rural South under circumstances not much different from African apartheid. These complex conditions demand a variety of missionary programs.
Third, many blacks themselves are filled with rage. Bill Maxwell, a black columnist, wrote in 1995, that the “black man’s most serious problem is not without, but the rage within.” He continued suggesting, “there is an unshakable hatred that many black people harbor for one another...especially for black women.” Maxwell fingers ‘gangsta rappers’, as an angry group which degrades black women and strongly influences young black males in hip-hop circles. Such actions drive blacks to drink, drugs, prostitution and suicide. Black-on-black crime, he says, is “endemic and we must condemn the atrocities we commit against ourselves. “
Fourth, the single parent black home. US News & World Report,May 30, 2005 reports that 75% of black births occur outside of marriage and that 86% of black children will spend some time in a single parent home before they are 18. Nearly half of black children live below the poverty line. This kind of insecurity leads to membership in surrogate-family gangs to survive on the streets, high crime which generates a super high murder rate of one in three in prison, on probation or parole, somewhere in the criminal-justice system during their 20s. Those figures represent more than 827,000 black men. Fully half of black males between 18-35 are involved in America’s criminal justice system. Tragically, still in 2007, we have a majority of black children born out of wedlock, and unacceptable crime rate in the black community, an unacceptable welfare rate and finally, an unacceptable educational dropout rate. The high-school dropout rate is 50% and for college only 30 to 35% of those who go to college, graduate within 6 years. Studies show that this drop out rate is primarily due to a lack of a “culture of learning” in the home, which should instill in the student a positive attitude toward schooling. He must go to school having been taught traditional values. Such values include morals, responsibility and respect for authority. They should dress neatly, arrive on time, pay attention and avoid fighting and foul language, [World Feb 3, '07]. Good students are accused of acting white. Going to jail is celebrated as a rite of passage. Pimps, dealers and criminals are too often glorified as heroes by the musicians and comedians as authentic black culture. Some are accepting of a culture of corruption and excusing wrongdoing. Juan Willams opines, "real damage is done to poor black kids who are told that their place in American life is living out the stereotype of the black criminal, black clown and black stud." He further says, "blacks must speak out and the modern minstrel show which caricatures black people as overly violent, over sexed, and stupid." Rap culture denegrates anyone who holds to those virtues as a chump.
Blacks have the highest abortion rate in America. Although they represent only 13% of the population, the abortion rate is 36% of all abortions or 3 times white rate. In fact, 43% of African-American pregnancies end in abortion. In Mississippi, Blacks represent 37% of the population, but the abortion rate soars to 73% of the state's abortions. It is tragic that 94% of abortion centers are in urban areas and 7 in 10 near minority communities. Since 1973, over 15 million black babies have been aborted. [see 11C]
Fifth, there are at least three sources of missionaries. There are the American white missionaries, black missionaries, and foreign black missionaries who are seeking to evangelize the American blacks.
Sixth, the black denominations have only a minimal missionary activity, but faith missions sustain a variety of programs including Bible schools and camps, literature production, evangelism, inner city work and church planting, to name a few. World Pulse [April 2003] reported that there is an estimated 300 black Americans in the missionary work force of some 35,000 long-term missionaries. The number is growing with some 200 black college evangelicals participating in short-term missions in 2002.
Another problem to consider is that there is no centralized coordination of all of those efforts. A variety of white national mission organizations are doing what they think is necessary. American-based foreign mission organizations are experimenting with bringing blacks from overseas to work in the American black community as well as carefully and quietly fielding some of their missionaries here at home. Black evangelicals are beginning to do something through their associations like the National Black Evangelical Association and black mission societies such as the Black Evangelical Enterprises. They are also sending black missionaries through white mission societies. For example, the Fellowship of Baptists for Home Missions now has at least thirty-two serving in church planting in the black community. It might be helpful to have some coordination, but that does not appear to be very likely, considering evangelical history.
4. MISSIONARY OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH
Perhaps the place to begin to assess the need for missionary activity among blacks would be to look at one's own turf. Is there a black community within the determined target area of the church? Is it serviced by a fundamental black church? If there is not a witness, then does that church have a program to reach blacks for Christ? Is there a long-range plan to establish a fundamental black church? Is there a fundamental black church servicing the black community of the nearest major city?
As the church becomes aware of the needs of the larger black community, what can the local church do to become involved in a missionary program to reach blacks? First, it can encourage its own young people to see the need and dedicate themselves to serve as missionaries in the black community. It can further prepare to support them financially in that ministry and determine what mission agencies have a black ministry in this country to which they could direct them for missionary service.
Second, it can become aware of schools where special ethnic studies programs have been developed that include blacks in the teaching. On the Bible institute level, Moody Bible Institute is an example. On the seminary level, Dallas Theological Seminary could be mentioned.
Another avenue of involvement is to become aware of Bible schools that are primarily concerned with training blacks for Christian service. Although blacks are generally gaining admittance to white Bible schools, the black Bible school still has a vital ministry. There is the economic factor. Those schools operate as a mission; therefore, they can offer the training at a subsidized price. The staff, either white or black, are dedicated to knowing and understanding blacks and offering courses that are designed to meet the needs of blacks. The educational level and ability of blacks is a vital factor. Every effort is made to help blacks apply the education to their unique circumstances.
Although the teaching medium is English, Bible schools can take into account black English, which is now seriously being studied as a distinct dialect. J. L. Dillard, a linguist, holds that this dialect is rooted in various Creole and West African languages. The purpose of recognizing black English as a dialect is not to begin to teach in it, but rather to better understand blacks and help them communicate in the larger society the glorious truth of the Word of God. In Detroit, the teachers have been told to learn this dialect that they might better teach standard English. Jeffrey Hirshberg, an associate editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), indicates that they have discovered fifty words or phrases that qualify as long-lived black vocabulary.
Fourth, the church should alert itself to the need for literature that is written by qualified blacks for blacks, using illustrations meaningful to them. Although white publishing houses such as David C. Cook, Scripture Press and Union Gospel Press have made efforts to include blacks on staff, their materials are primarily targeted for white audiences. It is necessary then to fund publishing houses that are dedicated to producing black literature. Finally, the church can acquaint itself with the growing number of evangelical black organizations and leaders that need prayer and support
It should be noted that the evangelical church will need to consider some seemingly difficult issues as it seeks to assist the black church win black America for Christ. As an ethnic group, many blacks will feel more comfortable in their own churches where they can worship the Lord in ways that are meaningful to them. Willie B. Jemison, a black pastor, says,
People have to be able to identify with our message and our concern. That is part of ethnicity of worship--we are different, and not just in color. Some folks don't want to accept that, but in a worship service, we just don't act the same.
Must blacks act the same as whites in their worship services? Can they have their own music, emotionality, active involvement, and length of service? If it can be different, how different can it be and still be considered evangelical or fundamentally acceptable? Remember, America is not a melting pot. It is more realistically a stew! We have accepted differences in worship services in black Africa. Can we do the same in black America? Other blacks may enjoy participating in a white church. They should be acceptable within the fellowship family. But how should the service be conducted? In ways acceptable to the majority, or in ways all can participate?
Finally, how involved should the church be in social issues? Traditionally, the evangelical white church was only obliquely active, but in more recent times even fundamental churches have become overtly vocal and militant in establishing political organizations such as the Moral Majority. The black church in the past has been condemned for its political activities. Is a new precedent being set? A case in point follows.
John Perkins, a black fundamentalist preacher, in 1961 established the Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi. Born in a sharecropper's shack in southern Mississippi, he was trapped, like all other poor blacks, in the "cycle of poverty," including unemployment, lack of education, and poor health. Somehow he escaped to Californiaand there found Christ as Savior. Although he had vowed never to return to Mississippi, Christ prevailed, and he went back to Mississippi to preach the gospel. As blacks were saved and a church was planted, he saw nothing being done to break the cycle of poverty. The Voice of Calvary Ministries operating in Jackson, Mendenhall, and New Hebron include educational programs, a chain of thrift stores, a bank, health centers, a farm, and a Bible institute, all designed to help his Christian blacks improve their lot spiritually, physically, socially, and mentally. Is this to be considered national missions in rural Mississippi? It is amazing how much of this kind of ministry is carried on in foreign missions in primitive areas. These are far-reaching questions that will not be easily answered, but they will require an answer.
On the other hand, is the black really looking for answers? One illustration in 1995, of the black man’s search for reality may be seen in the phenomenal ‘Million Man March’, as it was billed, on Washington, DC. Actually only 400,000 were involved, but it did reveal a growing recognition by the black male of the deplorable state of the black family and that he needs to show more responsibility to his family. However, the leader of the March left much to be desired. An editorial by Waldo Proffitt of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes that Louis Farakhan, vitriolic leader of the Nation of Islam, frequently indulges in rhetoric which is racist, sexist and religiously bigoted. E. J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post, observed, “the crowd was better than its leader”. Cal Thomas of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate observed that the big media elevated Farakhan and ignored responsible, real black leaders who serve large evangelical congregations.
The Southern Baptists, since 1988, have taken a real interest in the Black by establishing a Black Church Extension with a Black director. They have planted some 2200 National African American Churches.
Another question haunting everyone is why more than 80 Black churches have been torched since 1990, half of them since January 1995, and 28 in South Carolina, alone.
It should be obvious that blacks are a mission field as attested by both black and white leaders. There are many organizations that stand ready to assist the church walk beside Evangelical Black pastors to reach their communities. The church must face the issues and answer the questions so that blacks for whom Christ died may hear, for as evangelist Tom Skinner has observed, "The black man in America is more open to the Gospel now than ever in history."
The 21st C. is highlighting numerous serious issues for the Black: The death-rate of Black Americans is the highest in the nation. Blacks are killing blacks in the cities. The "Black Lives Matter Movement" can morph into a 'Black Spring' international movement. The 21st C. welfare system appears to contribute to the destruction of the Black family [the missing Black Male or Father] and create a new kind of apathy toward a desire to acqire the American Dream. Politicising of the Race Card. Jesus is still the answer not any of the above.
1. Bay Ridge Christian College, P. W. Box 726, Endleton, TX 97451 ( Type Church of Name God)
2. Carver Bible Institute and College, P. O. Box 4334, Atlanta, GA 30302
3. Name Emmaus Name Bible Type College, 2570 Asbury Road, Dubuque, IA 52001
4. Manna Bible Institute, 700 Church Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19100
5. Southern Bible Institute, 830 Buckner Blvd., P. O. Box 17734, Dallas, TX 75217
6. Voice of Calvary Ministries, 1665 St. Charles Street, P. O. Box 10562, Jackson, MS 39209
1. American Tract Society, Negro Division, E. B. Lane, Director, P. O. Box 402008, Garland, TX
75040. Producer and publisher of black evangelical literature written by blacks. A resource
catalog is available.
2. Open Door Ministries, Inc., P 0 Box 4248, Seminole, FL 34542
3. Urban Ministries, Inc., 1970 (assisted by Scripture Press and Zondervan Publishers). First
predominately black-owned independent publisher of Sunday school literature, developing and
distributing literature relevant to urban youth and black youth in particular. Sunday school
lessons based on International Lessons in the idiom of black experience and life-style.
4. Washington, Raleigh and Kehrein, Glen. Breaking Down Walls. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.
Africa Inland Mission - N. Amer Div
Baptist General Conference - Home Missions
Campus Crusade for Christ
Cedine Bible Mission, Inc.
S. Afro-American Mission
Fellowship of Baptists for Home Missions
Inner City Outreach
International Teams (US Urban Ministries)
University Black Campus Min