“Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you.”
2 Chronicles 30:7-8 NLT
There seems to be a trend where it’s cool not to go to church. I was watching a popular new show on HBO called, Insecure, where a group of 20-something, single, black women were debating sexual practices and the response of one was, “I blame the black church!” Then Issa said, “You use that excuse for everything!”
It seems to be true. The black church has become the scapegoat for all things wrong. It’s either abandoned for more Afrocentric movements that cast hermeneutics of suspicion towards the Christian faith as being tampered with by Eurocentric theology, or it’s abandoned for white evangelical churches in pursuit of more “diversity.”
When I think of the faith of my ancestors, I think of the old gospel song, “‘Tis the old ship of Zion. It has landed many of thousands. Get on board. Get on board. Jesus is the captain!”
The church’s evolution and devolution at times has mirrored the journey of hip hop as expressed in Common’s song, “I used to love her.” In the song he likens hip hop to a girl he was in love with but through her progressions she goes from being innocent, to getting involved with native tongue, to consciousness, to gangsta… and now she’s in the trap house.
But like hip hop I can’t let go of the church. I still love the Bride of Christ. I love her and all her perfect imperfections. I know she was manipulated by white slave owners but I also know there where African churches in Ethiopia way before slave masters tampered with the Bible’s interpretation. I know the black church was the headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement. People of great faith were martyrs for the movement. There have been some pastors that have fleeced the sheep for material gain but there are countless others like Kevin Cosby in Louisville, KY, Floyd Flake in Jamaica, Queens, Walter Scott Thomas in Baltimore, or Kirbyjon Caldwell in Houston who have built up their people and their communities by starting schools, teaching on cultural empowerment, building affordable housing, doing social justice, advising presidents, and preaching the whole Gospel!
We cannot abandon the faith or the black church during this hour. You can’t change anything from the outside. You can only change it from the inside.
- We must return to our institutions that nurture our communities. The king sent word out to the Jewish people to come back to the inner city to worship God in Jerusalem. The majority of black people in America are the abandoned poor. There are not many churches designed to reach them. They can’t build large buildings and contribute to the bottom line but they are top priority for Jesus. Those of us who are in positions of strength are supposed to come back and help.
- Do not be stubborn as your ancestors were. This is not the first generation to turn from God. Some of the hippies participated in the”God is dead” movement. Sometimes we want God to be dead and the church to be irrelevant so we won’t be held to a higher standard. When the king restored the temple he sent word for the people to come back to worship. They laughed. It’s easy to laugh at the invitation to come back to church until it is you who needs to come.
- Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger can turn from you. Many of the hardships we are experiencing and the chaos that has been unleashed on the world is just the beginning of God’s judgement. God is not pleased with America. We have turned our back on him and his bride.
Some will say, “I go to a church outside of my people. What difference does it make?” It makes a lot of difference when your time, talent, and treasure never impact the abandoned poor in black communities.
Some will say, “I love Jesus but I hate the church.” And I would ask, “How can you love Jesus and hate his bride? Jesus will come back one day for his bride, the church!”
Some will say, “Christianity is the white man’s religion and the Bible has been tampered with.” And I would say, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God and the word became flesh and dwelt amongst us… out of Egypt (Ethiopia) I called my son!”
I used to love her and I still do! What about you? It’s time to come back to worship.