The African American pastor has a unique role that must be maintained and continue to develop during this period of uncertainty and frustration in our nation. The political climate, the overall decline in church attendance, and the increasing lack of a cultural moral compass, has left many disillusioned, confused, and lacking direction. The African American pastor is needed and must assume a role that has expanded from the confines of the African American church to multi-ethnic assemblies and culturally diverse lines of communication. There are five essentials that address this need:
1. The pastor must embrace a healthy theology and historical perspective that has served as the catalyst of the African American church.The African American church was the heart of the African American community. However, many leaders have lost a heart for the community. The introduction of the “prosperity gospel” and a health-and-wealth theology has diminished the theology of suffering. People still suffer. Yet, this truth does not align with the message of many pulpits.
2. Within a pluralistic society that celebrates multiculturalism and multiethnic expression and worship, there is a need for the demonstration and full inclusion of African American spirituality and expression. The African American church brings thought, style, passion, and experience that enhances the overall tapestry of spirituality within our nation. Its cadence of preaching, singing, and communication enriches the global church as a whole.
3. The leadership of the African American church and the educational community must realign themselves.Many of the historical African American colleges and universities have their foundation in the African American church. The clergy must see education as an ally in strengthening credibility and as a place to reach younger generations that are detached from the church. The college campus must be viewed as a training ground for our youth, and the church as the spiritual undergirding of our youth. The African American church must invest in scholarship programs, after-school tutoring, and campus ministry that ensures positive affirmation and presence.
4. The leadership of the African American church must explore, research, and speak into the difficult and diverse issues of the community;specifically, the discussion of police and community relations, the economy, incarceration policy, foster care, and health care disparity. The church must not abandon its advocacy role. The post-election culture suggests that there is a more need than ever for leadership to assume this posture of care and support.
5. Character and integrity must be foundational within the African American church. Many have lost trust in the church due to abusive and manipulative components that have allowed scandals to occur and have diminished the efficacy and influence of the church. We must return to being people of the Bible.
The development and strengthening of healthy African American leadership is essential to the ongoing mission that has been given to the universal Church. The uniqueness of such leadership will facilitate prophetic empowerment as the Church navigates through challenging days ahead.