Black Church Strategies for the Twenty-First Century -- By: T. Vaughn Walker

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:2 (Summer 1997)
Article: Black Church Strategies for the Twenty-First Century
Author: T. Vaughn Walker


Black Church Strategies
for the Twenty-First Century

T. Vaughn Walker

T. Vaughn Walker is Professor of Black Church Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he holds the W.M.U. Chair of Social Work Education. He has contributed to several journals and periodicals, and is a frequent speaker at conferences on both the church and the family. He also serves as the pastor of First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. This article is an abridged version of a faculty address first presented in the fall semester of 1996.

Dr. Sid Smith has written that one of the greatest challenges facing the church in the next century is ministering to the black family.1 No church will be relevant unless it implements an effective program of family ministry. This is especially true of churches serving the black community, so black church development must respond to the needs of the black family. In his The Strengths of Black Families,2 Robert Hill points out five bulwarks of the African-American family: strong kinship bonds, strong work orientation, adaptability of family roles, strong achievement orientation, and strong religious orientation. These strengths have enabled the black community to survive in a society scarred by racism and social pathology. The black experience has necessitated the development of specialized behavior for survival. This paper deals most extensively with the last of those strengths.

When one analyzes the multi-dimensional role the black or African-American church plays in society, no simple definitions or conclusions emerge. Much of the scholarship generated concerning the black church has tended to over-simplify or misinterpret this last institution outside of the family that remains influential in all arenas of African-American life. One finds an expression of the black Christian religious heritage in practically every community in this country, regardless of its population or location. Thus, the African-American church must take a leading role in creating solutions for African-Americans in the twenty-first century.

The Black Church and Liberation

The black church has always provided the moral and ethical leadership for the African-American community. The black church modeled empowerment before the term was used in its present context. It was (and is) the black church that provided hope for the hopeless, faith for the faithless, joy and celebration in the midst of much pain and degradation. Major J. Jones, speaking of the black church as liberator and in an attempt to adequately understand the dynamic role which it has traditionally played in the black community’s l...

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