Historically the black church has been a place for creating individual, systemic, and political change within the black community. From its emergence in the late 18th century to its present day relevance, the black church has and will always serve as a safe haven for African Americans, a place to worship God together, and a place where we are motivated to rebuild our communities. You can guarantee that on Sunday between the hours of 7 a.m. (early morning service) to 4 p.m. (afternoon service) there will be a large population of blacks attending church.
Pastors in the black church wield much influence in our community. They fill us up with wisdom, knowledge, and of the Word of God. Our pastors pray with and for us, provide resources and tools, even visit us when we are sick. Our pastors serve as our “elected” spiritual representatives.
Recently, a friend said, “a pastor may mean a lot to you, but what do you mean to them? Are they helping to feed you with the Spirit or are you helping to feed them Ruth’s Chris?”
Initially I was offended. How dare he sneer at the beloved black pastor who serves as a shepherd in our community, who helps to uplift and heal our community! Despite my first reaction, my friend’s question weighed heavily on me as I went to church the next Sunday. I wondered what do these pastors really stand for? Are they more concerned about fancy cars or helping those who are in need? Are they filled with an abundance of spirit or are they waiting to be filled with an abundance of dollars? This is not an attack on the black church or black pastors, but a moment of revelation. Are we making the best use of our pastors to better our community? That is the question that matters most.
With violence rampant in our community, homelessness and unemployment at an all time high, I question what role the black pastor has in helping to alleviate these issues. I believe it is the civic duty of those who are leaders, especially pastors, to lead the charge within the black community to positively change it. Pastors are leaders 24/7. What a pastor says and does makes a difference not only within the church but beyond the pulpit. So often in our community, we hear what is supposed be done, what we should or should not do, but do not see a comprehensive guide to lead us in the right direction. Is it solely the role of the black church to make a difference? No, but it is the duty of those who lead to work towards tangible solutions and encourage others to do and live better.
As someone who regularly attends church, I make it my business to inform my pastor of what is going on within the community (if he does not already know), and how he can be of service. If we are not meeting our pastors and discussing the issues, how can we hold them accountable? How can we expect them to serve us if they don’t know how we should be served? It is up to those who attend church and those who lead the church to come together and work for what is best for the community, how to move forward, and how to sustain it.
The days of complaining should be over; it is time to stop talking and start walking. Our community is on the line. I request that those of you who attend church, address your pastors and ask them what can we all do to better our community. What is our role?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “the church cannot be silent while mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to her mission, he must call for an end to the arms race.” We cannot continue to just attend church and leave; we need to attend church with a purpose and leave with an anointing and an agenda.