When using the word Black Church in the USA, it should be recognized that I am speaking about all that black Jesus-followers are when the Sunday gatherings in a building is removed. Everything we are outside of a church system. Our Voice. The Church. Black Church is symbolic of how God has used black Christians in the history of the US. To describe this voice cannot be done easily nor can it be done in one blog post. So this post will serve as an introduction to why the Voice of Legacy Conference seeks to empower the Black Church.
I remember sitting in a pew and moaning with the church members of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church as a deacon prayed a passionate prayer that caused his brow to sweat and old church mothers to holler for God’s mercy. There was a genuine passion to see things change in the name of Jesus. I remember my late grandmother, Duera Mae Everett, being the embodiment of these prayers. With a firm belief in Jesus, she was an activist who would chase drug dealers off the corner just as quickly as she would cry out for the needs of our neighborhood at city council meetings. Though she was barely 5 feet tall, her personality and influence stretched into the heavens. Because of her commitment to the community there are sidewalks, new houses, maintained parks and street lights in our neighborhood. She had a voice that came from a small frame but was rooted in a legacy of activism and creativity. Every Sunday she would sit in church, no different from anyone else, except that she was a revolutionary Christian every day of the week who did not wait for permission to be great. My granny knew that Jesus made her great.
Jesus was a creative activist. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be active in fighting injustice wherever we see it. I believe that every believer has been endowed with the Spirit of God and a unique God-given calling to fight a certain evil in the world. The Black Church has often influenced black Christians towards a certain vocation (deacon, preacher, missionary, etc), and I respect and honor this influence but would like to encourage the expansion of this influence to include every sector of life and the evil that lies therein. The Black Church must release missionaries into wall street, lower income neighborhoods, the sex-slave industry, social services, the medical industry, and every other system that makes up our society. And not just by preaching to our people, but by truly empowering them to be great. We are a creative and brilliant people to whom God has entrusted the soul of our country. We must steward this calling well.
The voice of the Black Church has been a strong and prophetic voice throughout history, providing religious sanctuary for slaves, pastoral care and provision for freed black men and women after emancipation, leadership and civil revolution for all people in the civil rights era, and it is now an ever simmering prophetic voice today. As we, the Church in the USA, think about multiethnicity, missional living, and being a sanctified solution to racism, the voice of the Black Church is vital. We, the Black Church, have always seen racism with clear eyes, we are a multiethnic Church that is made up of African-American, African-National, Afro-Carribean, Multiracial and Bi-Racial people, and missional living is in our heritage. Embracing and operating cross culturally while engaging evil in the world is a life experience for us. Our history is a history similar to Israel. We have suffered long but been resilient at the turn of every decade. Our voice is like blues music. The greater the suffering, the louder and stronger our voice is. This is who God has called us to be and we must connect to the divine strength of this calling.
I believe that the Black Church is to be celebrated and uplifted. Recognizing that we are part of a bigger whole that can sometimes dilute or hide our value, we are having this conference in order to celebrate our unique value while “doing business” with our own people so that we can be better as part of the whole Church. We are having this black specific gathering because, though we are a sub-dominant culture, our voice is not sub-dominant, nor should any ethnicity’s voice be sub-dominant. 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 this will be a time of empowerment and “voice raising” that helps us, the Black Church, release the powerful revolutionaries that sit in our Sunday gatherings waiting for permission to use their voice. Waiting for permission to be great.