The church is an institution for the worship and service of God. Too often people want to change a church into something it is not. While a church for example can run a formal school it itself is not. And such a school, if it does exist would have to operate by theological rather than secular rules. While a church can run or finance a social program, it is not itself a social service agency. Thus while the church can and must support community initiatives like economic development, it is not itself a business or at least should not see itself as a profit enterprise. I believe one of our major problems is that we have been misled into thinking pastors secular experts on everything, but that is in general not their training and is not their assigned purpose. If you step in my class, I will teach you about Afrikan political economy and sociological development. If you step in my church, those topics may come up but in the context of spreading the gospel of Christ’ gift of salvation to all humanity and how the ethics of Christ exhort us to support such things as a visible representation of our love for Him and each other.
I really don’t want a church trying to play scholar any more than I want my dentist to do my psychological counseling. He or she might know something related but not enough to execute the task. I find the church and clergy much more useful as exhorters of participation in social uplift than would be leaders of that uplift. They have the potential to add moral authority to such causes but lose a lot of it when they dive into political ideology. We’ve followed too many ministers when we needed economists, political scientists, and finance experts and too many experts outside of the church when it comes to the things of God. Everybody needs to stay in their own lane. Otherwise we will keep crashing. The church in history was not the Underground Railroad but supported it. Not the NAACP but gave it a meeting place. Not the civil rights movement but many encouraged its members to participate as part of their calling.
The Black church is not a community educational institution any more than “whites” would go to their churches for their cultural education. Churches can help build educational institutions and finance them and should, but churches exist for God and for service to God. Some were hijacked for white supremacy and think about what a mess that was. Our churches built schools and left the education to educators. We’re confused because the slavemasters only allowed the church institutions and we had to funnel everything there. Now we think the church is supposed to fulfill all our needs. It can’t and shouldn’t try.
God, the founder and point of the faith, defines a church and its boundaries. It cannot and will not maintain His power if it abandons those instructions.
Churches do not exist to promote any kind of “race” or racism or race based nationalism. A church can and must serve its community but if it is promoting the legitimation of idea of “race” or asking people to do things solely on that basis, “white” or “black,” it is teaching Eurocentrism as theology and that is an abomination. One cannot be a racist of any kind and be a true follower of Christ at the same time because being one will inevitably corrupt being the other.
One of the reasons our churches can no longer play the role they historically did is because they chose the world over Christ. They therefore lost their spiritual power. You cannot go from the world to Christ but you can go from Christ to the world.
We say from scripture “If I (The spirit of God in Christ) be lifted up from the earth, I (same) shall draw all men unto me.” If we lift up the gospel (not a text or theology or institution but the Lord’s message of salvation by grace) then humanity will be drawn together by Him to Him for His purpose. A church is by His definition a group of two or more, gathered together seeking by word and deed to carry out that “great commission” and every word and deed such a church produces must be judged and will be judged by reference to that standard.
I dont think the church was ever supposed to be about teaching culture. There are other institutions that should do that. Expecting a church of christ to teach you who you are culturally is for me an errant expectation and on that score, “white” churches are no better than “black” ones, since I would argue “whites” may be even more misled than we about their cultural heritages and multicultural backgrounds.
Should a “black” business merely because it is one, teach me culture? Churches uplift the spirit in Christ, courts resolve disputes, schools teach. When a church tries to be everything or jack of all trades we see it is master of none, and ultimately a failure on its real purpose.
We seem confused about the history of our own churches. They were never cultural education institutions even during the movement, but spiritual institutions serving the needs of the community as part of a Christian commitment. That meant fighting segregation, but not as a political ideology or cultural efficacy project, rather as evil and a perversion of Christ will in a Christian society. I think this confusion, typical I believe of a more general misinterpretation of the 60s and the motivations for the activist role of the church in the 60’s as a whole, leads to frustration with the church, sadly for being in fact a church. It’s like being disappointed that the fire department does nothing but focus on fire prevention and fighting fires. For me, this is a direct result of the slave mentality in which only the church and clergy had authority and today while others call economists we call pastors. When they call historians, we call pastors and on and on. We can critique churches as failing to push the gospel but when we see them as some kind of social activist Mall of America for the community we will perpetually be disappointed.I too critique the church but for its errant theology, insufficient service, focus on wealth, and so on not for being less engaged with worldly ideologies.
To be honest I don’t think the church abandoned the movement but that the modern movement abandoned the church on the false grounds that it had been anti-revolutionary rather than catalyst, the latter of which was its real role. There is room for Afrikaneity in Christiandom as always but the question is whether Christ’ vision can fit within the ideologies of those who push race nationalisms, ethocentrisms, egocentrisms, and essentialisms.