Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The African American Church - Spiritual and Social Leadership

Throughout the history of blacks in the U.S., safety has been sought within the walls of the physical church. It has been a safe haven for speech, a place to plan, to share our resources, experiences, hopes and has provided an economic base of operations. It has offered refuge and advocacy on the larger issues of the day and has been a venue to feed us spiritually and to provide our need for biblical perspective and direction. It has been a gathering place to organize around issues of family unity, safety, economic empowerment and where many types of political and social activities were set in motion.

The African-American church has lent itself to religious entity, combined with the feel of a power station when things seemed hopeless. African-Americans worship in a variety of ways, as do members of most other racial and ethnic groups. Most often, African-Americans worship as Baptists, Protestants, Methodists, Pentecostals, Muslims, Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Although frequently misunderstood and sometimes misrepresented, the African-American church has played a crucial role in our nation's response to the political, social and civic needs of African Americans, and the poor and under served. With this said, we must urge the Black-Church to respond to the many challenges that our communities are facing still today.

As we approach the Christmas Holiday Season and encounter the many social and economic needs of African Americans and the poor daily, a social and spiritual movement must occur concurrently.

Leaders must move their churches from a closed structure to an open one. I have personally witnessed this transition taking place in some of our church's over the last few years. It is in large part a shift that occurs first within the leadership and is then manifested through "The Word." This is evident in churches where the leaders have come to realize that they must attend to social needs to encourage the spiritual needs.

Whether leaders choose to address social needs by integrating outreach and care messages into sermons and church activities or by establishing ministries to offer more formal programs, the takeaway point is that African-American churches must do more to address the many disparities within it's communities.

The opportunities to engage as community partners in reducing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, drugs, violence, HIV/aids and other disparities must be a serious commitment of Faith Leaders and Congregants alike. Communities of faith must help to instill a belief in social transformation in the hearts and minds of the black community as with the civil rights movement.

This is what the movement was all about. It was to redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of racism, war and poverty. It was through organizing, advocacy and giving of time, talents, treasures and sometimes the risking of life in service for freedom and advancement.

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values...

that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Richard P. Burton, Sr., Director

P.O. Box 440248
Jacksonville, FL 32244
Bus: 904-786-7883 Cell: 610-349-3358

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