The black community has always had a strong voice in the Church at large and in the soul of America. The VOL Conference, sponsored by the Underground Network and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, will be a place where you are challenged to understand your voice as a black leader and be empowered to use it. There will be space for you to hear stories about local young black leaders who are leading ministries, uncover barriers to your leadership, and be inspired to break through those barriers while learning about your gifts and how they are relevant to your ministry context.
This year, our focus will be on Unity within the African Diaspora and Prophetic action. How are these connected? What do we as black people have to offer to the world through our unity? We will explore the answers to these questions, the implications of the answers, and uncover God's call to us as a diverse people at Voice of Legacy 2016.
WHY A BLACK LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE?
Jesus is asking us to follow Him in this way. After gathering core Black leaders from both the Underground Network and InterVarsity’s Florida Bay Area, it was concluded that there are Black leaders that we don’t see but who Jesus wants to call out. This conference is foremost an act of obedience to Jesus open to everyone who feel they will benefit from it.
There is a definite gap in a knowledge as to how black leaders progress in leadership in a multi-ethnic, predominantly white, or traditional black church setting. This is a severe problem as it stunts the servant leadership growth of many black Christians. We believe this problem needs relational investment in potential leaders and in current black leaders.
3. Unify Black Community
Black is Carribean, African, Afro American, Biracial, Multi-racial and so much more. Hearing each other's stories, sharing our pains and successes, and exchanging our best practices in leadership will lend itself to a spirit of unity. We need this type of space; to see, collaborate and be inspired by each other.
We hope that this conference helps black believers enter into or seek out the leadership pathway specific to their context, releasing them to grow in the calling God has on their lives.
Explanations and Language Explaining Our Desire for an All Black Conference
Black: We realize that “Black” has many different connotations. We use this term because it is the most commonly used term and in order to perhaps redefine it to include all people of African heritage.
We are asking that only Black people attend this conference. This includes African Americans, Afro Caribbean, African Nationals, Bi-racial and multiracial black people. Below are a few reasons we are committing to having the VOL conference be for black people only. We prayerfully hope these explanations uncover the kingdom value of an all-black gathering.
There is a legacy of being black in our culture and context that has deep roots. Although the meaning of Black has changed and grown more diverse, God has upheld black people in America as an important part of history. We want to connect to the legacy of blackness that God has preserved and grown, identify it’s unique modern expression and move forward together.
Space for Us
There is very little space in our social circles to just see “us” and to engage God’s heart for us in our diversity. We hope that any non-black brother or sister would bless the black brothers and sisters around them to go and connect with their people and all their beauty and uniqueness, to be empowered, recognized and challenged in ways that can only happen in an all black setting. We ask that you would allow this space for us, knowing that we will return to our places of influence stronger and more connected to our God given identity.
Gains for the Kingdom
Ethnic specific gatherings have a positive effect. There are key obstacles in multi-ethnic settings that hinder black leaders and potential leaders from operating in their full potential. Ethnic specific gatherings have the unique ability to refresh, restore and catalyze healthy black involvement in multi-ethnic settings. Some of the key obstacles are below.
Adopted from InterVarsity Black Campus Ministries’ Campus Ministry Resource
The styles and modes of ministry often differ significantly across racial lines. The tools that many majority nonblack churches and organizations have developed for ministry (e.g. sermons/talks, worship, prayer, leadership style, etc.) may be less effective with many Black participants due to the cultural gap. An ethnic specific gathering gives black people access to effective teaching that is closer to their context.
Many(not all) black people come from Church contexts where cross-racial ministry and fellowship is not a high value. Issues of racial reconciliation and multi-ethnicity may not be perceived as relevant to the gospel, and therefore not a priority for the
black people. We believe Jesus speaks into this issue more potently in ethnic specific gatherings.
FELLOWSHIP & COMMUNITY
One of the most compelling aspects of a Church or organization, for black people, is community. Unfortunately, as fallen human being we have difficulty “loving our neighbors as ourselves” and loving across differences. Frequently Black people do not have as positive a community experience as those in the majority.
Many Black people perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that involvement in a multi- ethnic Christian organization requires the adoption of majority culture. Assimilation dynamics are often a stumbling block to effectively reaching the Black community. Further, given the historical context of Black/White relations, there are negative associations for being a part of a “White organization.” There is often an associated sense that black people lack agency or power in “white” organizations. Multi-ethnic gatherings breaks down this false sense and empowers black people to enter into their contexts more sure of their identity and with a determination not to assimilate but rather to bring who they fully are into their communities.
Though there are similarities between the issues that nonblack and black people deal with, some of the primary struggles, needs, temptations, and sins that black people face differ across racial and cultural lines. The topics and discipleship areas that the multi-ethnic fellowship emphasizes may not address some of the key discipleship needs for many Black people. An ethnic-specific gathering provides an environment that assures black people that their struggles are relevant and also allows them to deal with them with others who can relate to them fully.
Many Multi-ethnic organizations have a challenging time creating positive leadership experiences for Black people. The organization may have low retention rates for Black participants, with Black people choosing not to continue after a short time of involvement. Also, if there are only a couple Black people in leadership, there is often a need for them to “represent” the Black community. This experience is fatiguing, and exacerbates leadership retention issues. Finally, since models of leadership and ministry differ across racial lines, the leadership gifts and styles that many Black people bring may be undervalued or rejected by people with authority. Ethnic specific gatherings give black people the opportunity to share stories with others who experience this type of fatigue and receive necessary encouragement and guidance in dealing with it.