BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part One in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series for Black History Month. These diverse posts all share in common a passion to help us to learn from the legacy of Black Church history. Today, in Part One, Dr. Charles Ware helps us to learn from Black Church history how to live wisely in a world hostile to Christian culture.
The Great Cloud of Witnesses
How do you live in a culture that increasingly marginalize and criminalize Christianity? Mainstream media, major education institutions and the powerful hand of government seem to have a concerted mission to unearth the biblical and spiritual foundation upon which the United States of America was founded. Can Christians survive in such a culture? Does biblical counseling have any relevancy in a culture that at best denies and at worst detests the authoritative and moral claims the Bible makes upon our lives?
There is a historical institution that created hope and community for a group of people who were perceived as unworthy of equal respect and opportunity. During a time when many white evangelical were enjoying affirmation by the culture, at large, most blacks were marginalized and criminalized. It was the Black Church that helped many blacks to survive and, in many cases, to thrive within a hostile culture.
The Black Church created a community that affirmed dignity, instilled confidence, and fought for justice for a people who were slaves in the land of the free, segregated in the land of plurality, and denied equal access in the land of justice and opportunity.
The journey of blacks throughout American history had one consistent advocate in the society—the Black Church. During slavery, the Black Church called for freedom, during segregation it called for equality, and during discrimination it called for justice. Some Black Churches were drawn towards a social gospel. Others called for a biblical addressing of social issues based upon the power of the gospel and the authority of the Scriptures over all of life.
Could the Evangelical Church, or the Biblical Counseling movement gain some insights from the Black Church? Should not the church be the pillar and ground of the truth their communities? Should we, like the Black Church of the past, become the voice of personal worth, the place of community, and the prophetic voice for the people of God?
Personal Worth: Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5
In a society dominated by Darwinian evolution that devalues human life, both temporal and eternal, there needs to be a place that reminds human beings that they were created in the image of God. They have value simply because they are created in the image of God, even in the womb of their mother!
During a time when blacks were considered mere property, second class citizens, etc., many Black Churches spoke of their dignity as a child of God. God, not education and/or economic position, was the source of one’s dignity.
There was a focus upon the God who knew the plight of His people and would “make a way out of no way” for them to endure extremely difficult situations.
Biblical counselors must continue to encourage churches to proclaim and teach God’s view of humanity. Humans were created by God, in His image, sinned against God, and offered salvation through Christ. This flickering light must burn brighter in a culture darkened by unbiblical views of humanity.
Place of Community: Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13:8; Hebrews 10:23-25
During a time when blacks had little to no political voice, were denied entrance into the better education institutions and prestigious positions in society, they had the church.
Many blacks turned to the church for a sense of community. The Black Church was an oasis in the desert. Blacks barred from the larger society found in the church spiritual, social, economic, and political community. The church became the center of their lives. The black pastor was their leader.
Marriage and family are affirmed through sound biblical doctrine. Root problems are discerned and transformational answered are shared. People rejoice and weep together. Needs are met, and a sense of being part of a larger loving family is experienced.
It is exciting to see churches committed to biblical counseling quietly emerging as centers of hope for true community and change. Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana is a great example. We need more!
Prophetic Voice: Luke 4:18-19; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Peter 4:10-11
The black pastor was the prophetic voice, not only to those in his congregation, but to the entire nation. He was the conscience of the nation.
Who will be the voice for the unborn, the poor, the morally marginalized, marriage, the family, and freedom? The Black Church of the past simply did what God calls the church to do! Biblical churches present and proclaim a comprehensive biblical worldview and biblical community for the body of Christ. This message, while encouraging the believers, should also challenge the culture. The church, both by message and model, should represent truth and transformation.
Society attempts to relegate the church to an irrelevant and outdated institution in today’s progressive society. The biblical voice of the church must not be silenced. May the church be the church! The body of Christ and society need you!
The following quote has been attributed to de Tocqueville.
In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
I believe that American history would affirm this to be true of the Black Church in years gone by. May it be true of the church of the 21st century!
Join the Conversation
1. Is the church a critical ministry in our communities?
2. How can we become perceived by the members of our church and the community as a model of hope, community, and transformation?
3. What role does the church have in addressing the social and moral ills of our communities?
4. How can we collaborate locally, nationally, and globally to become a prophetic voice within our communities, state, nation, and world?