Monday, July 26, 2010

#176 - Black Evangelism

If your initial response to this blog title is : "What?" Then we're probably on the same page. But let me explain this interesting phenomenon.

I remember walking in to a UPCI General Conference and hearing about Black Evangelism for the first time. I almost choked. Then I was indignant. And then I fell over laughing. It's like racism wrapped up in a package of shiny good intentions. But the unsaid assumption is - if you're Black, you're not like the rest of us - us being the White majority.

Evidently Black people require different tactics of evangelism and forms of understanding and relating to Christianity than do say, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, Caucasians, Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders and any mixture of the above. Because evidently, even if you live in the same city with a Black person (which would be why you'd be sharing the Message with them right?), they probably won't understand you and thus need a whole separate division of evangelism. It seems that being raised in the same areas, attending the same schools, engaging in the same pop culture and being otherwise intertwined, there are some inherent differences that must be addressed. In fact, we need to attend seminars and create divisions so that we can understand you and reach you better.

Because clearly Jesus was White, had blue eyes, no beard and spoke King James English. And even though a lot of Black people have been in the United States far longer than some of the recent White immigrants, White people still don't understand Black people because of their skin color. Because the skin color equals some radically different American subculture that I have trouble communicating with. I think it has to do with those baggy jeans and that rap music. Who understands all that shouting? Maybe we should take a class from Eminem so as to better understand how to communicate effectively. Or from all those suburban White kids who jump on iTunes and download the most recent albums and drive the sales for the Rap/Hip-Hop scene and have made it a hugely profitable enterprise. Maybe they'll be able to translate the Gospel for us.

Wait. Isn't Pentecostal/Apostolic culture largely defined by the loud preaching and call and response type of worship? A style that came from the African American community? As a matter of fact, Black Gospel has become synonymous with Apo/Penny culture - I've even heard people say that it's just more anointed than that Contemporary/Charismatic music. As a matter of fact, purchase any UPCI Bible College album and there will be a recycled version of at least one Black Gospel song. Maybe Mark Yandris, Kevin Howrd and Aaron Sheilds could host workshops, not on music, but instead on how to effectively use Black Gospel music as a means of effective evangelism. But let's not get off on another tangent.

I have a question, do Black people need a White evangelism course in order to be able to share Jesus with them? I mean, I understand language barriers and the need for specialized training for different cultures. But Black evangelism? Seriously? Maybe we should expand this idea to evangelize different economic classes as well? We could have a Upper Class Evangelism department, an Upper Middle Class, Middle Class, Lower MIddle, Low, and Poverty. Because I'm sure we can't truly understand and communicate with each other because we all aren't exactly the same. Makes you wonder how those mixed race couples ever managed to communicate effectively enough to get down the aisle and say "I do."

I would posit that Black Evangelism comes from a deep seated form of racism that promotes the idea of "other" and says that White is normal and anything other than that is not. Highlighting someone's skin color for evangelism is unhelpful, it marginalizes and is oppressive - to the point of prohibiting evangelism.

Should organizations that are made up of largely Black constituents have a White Evangelism division or do you just expect them to know how to have a conversation with a White person. Because that's really what it boils down to. Sharing the Gospel is simply a conversation with another human being. Our humanity connects us. Jesus died for a humankind. And unless we cannot communicate, I do not understand the need for a specialized division to highlight the fact that our skin colors differ. Because my Savior's skin was probably dark brown and in spite of that, I've managed to get the point without too much of a problem.

In an ironic twist, I've had the Gospel Mix on my iTunes shuffling as I typed this. I understood everything almost perfectly.


  1. LOL. I'm not convinced of the racist overtones, but I (generally) agree that "black evangelism" is a bad idea.

    Ryan, I do think you really overstretched to weave racism as the foundation of your premise.

    I see B.E. as simply a well-intentioned, but poorly thought-out and executed product of our culture in this organization. Our culture being predominantly white, and our compulsive need to "headquarterize" programs and ministries.

    The need certainly is not a "black evangelism" program allocated out of Hazelwood. The need is for more UPCI church planters in urban areas. For instance, there are TWENTY TIMES more UPCI churches in the Indianapolis area than there are in Los Angeles (a city that's ten times larger).

    To me, it's not necessarily an issue of race, it's an issue of certain regions with large black populations (LA, NY, Chicago, Oakland, etc) being grossly underchurched by our organization.

    When the majority of our churches are in rural Lousiana, Texas, Indianapolis, Missouri & Ohio, we are going to be a white organization. Not sure that makes us racist, it's just who we are.

    The fact of the matter is, we aren't empowering urban church planters in the way that other organizations are. The cost of planting a church in Los Angeles is astronomically higher than planting (another) church in Louisiana, and our organization doesn't really offer assistance that's relevant to someone wanting to plant in a major urban center.

    So are we ignorant about the real problems facing our organization, probably. But to blankly say we're a bunch a racists is about as foolish as saying "we need a program called black evangelism".

  2. I agree with David on this one.

  3. What about when David said "Ryan, I do think you really overstretched to weave racism as the foundation of your premise." Weave racism?? hahaha

  4. The many Davids commenting on this post is funny.

    To David #2 - I think racism can be well intentioned and poorly thought out. I think it is still racism. Also, If my blog came across that I thought (as you stated): " blankly say we're a bunch a racists..." is not my intention. My point is, a Black Evangelism division is racist. I don't care how you try to spin it or justify it or wrap it up in warm fuzzies. To try and reach a group of people based on the criteria of their skin color is problematic.

    It seems that you would agree with me that the division is at best, poorly thought out. So if your critique of my blog is that I called the UPCI a bunch of racists, I'd hope you would read the blog over again and reconsider.

    Also, (and correct me if I'm wrong), but the UPCI isn't based on planting or assisting people plant churches, but rather an organization of ministers based on common doctrine. I was involved with a church plant that the UPCI didn't even attempt to help -at all, in any way. There was no support, financial or otherwise, no attempt at fellowship, and a request from a neighboring pastor that we not fellowship with his congregation because some of them might be tempted to leave his congregation.

    So if the point of the organization is to plant churches, they're going to need to start over because the current model is: If you feel called to start something - go do it and let us know how you're doing after a few years and you've acquired some measure of quantifiable success and a preaching point for ministers.

  5. That was an awesome post. Great twist on it when you think of a white evangelism department.

  6. "... the UPCI didn't even attempt to help -at all, in any way. There was no support, financial or otherwise, no attempt at fellowship," <-palm on head->
    "and a request from a neighboring pastor that we not fellowship with his congregation because some of them might be tempted to leave his congregation. " <-head thumping on wall->
    So what is the point of an organization?

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  8. In a group that realized it was primarily white/hispanic, I'm sure the intentions were noble. "We need to reach out to a multi-cultural group."

    Corporations do this all the time. The Latina Caucus, Black Caucus, Women Leader Caucus. Check with friends working at these companies that celebrate diversity in this way.

    While I definitely don't think it's the best way to go about sharing the Gospel, I definitely want to challenge some of the monolithic thinking on this post. One Apostle was sent to the Jews, another to the Gentiles.

    Someone, I heard, rebuttal this post by talking about Deaf Evangelism. Of course, I don't think that's a fair comparison, since our deaf brothers and sisters have a physical impairment that requires specific training.

    Hey, when you go fishing, you should know what type of fish you are luring TIC #failedandoverusedanalogies

  9. @John "... the UPCI didn't even attempt to help -at all, in any way. There was no support, financial or otherwise, no attempt at fellowship," <-palm on head->
    "and a request from a neighboring pastor that we not fellowship with his congregation because some of them might be tempted to leave his congregation. " <-head thumping on wall->
    So what is the point of an organization?

    Yeah, that was disturbing to read for me as well. Only because of how much we know it's true. Would having multiple leaders in a city, non-building-centered, and sprawled out communities help resolve this issue of little kingdom mentalities?

  10. @lee "Would having multiple leaders in a city, non-building-centered, and sprawled out communities help resolve this issue of little kingdom mentalities?"

    I don't know. I would love to see it tried.

  11. (This is David #2 LOL)

    Ryan, what you said about church planting... is, unfortunately, exactly spot on.

    And like I said, THAT is the real problem. To me, it's not an issue of racism, it's an issue of our organization's leadership (by and large) remaining completely (possibly even intentionally) ignorant of the real reason we haven't effectively evangelized the black community. We haven't empowered urban church planters (or as you mentioned, any church planters for that matter).

    I guess what I'm getting at is this - our problem isn't racism. Our problem is laziness. "Black Evangelism" and the extra boards & committees that it entails, is an easy answer for old-guard leaders who are comfortable with the status-quo. Again, not sure it makes the UPCI racist. It makes it lazy. And honestly, I'm not sure which one is worse.


  12. James: You really think that Black Americans and White Americans are as different as the Jews and Gentiles in Jesus' day?

    Also, let me explain myself a little bit more clearly. If you have a Spanish Ministry based on a language barrier - you then have a Spanish daughter work or Spanish services. If this is the case, in a Black Ministry would one also have a Black daughter work with Black services? Do you see how this type of thinking leads to segregation and apartheid?

    As far as your "celebrating diversity" moment with corporations - I've got a lot of issues with that comparison on a completely structural level - I'll call you and we can talk about that cause I'm interested to hear more of your perspective on it. And please feel free to explain the "monolithic thinking" a little more clearly. Also, in those corporations you still have a truly diverse working force in the same company - they are not sent to different divisions because of their skin color.

    To McGovern:

    The idea of a Black Community is interesting to me - I've been to your church and know that your congregation is very diverse - and to my knowledge, the methods used to communicate the gospel to them have been the same, yet the vast diversity and multicultural makeup of your congregation would suggest that all those people have managed to comprehend the same message and it has been effective to each of them in spite of their varied cultural backgrounds.

    I guess what I'm wondering is, where is this "Black Community" that you guys are talking about? Do they live somewhere specifically that I'm unaware of? Or are they in the same states, cities and communities that the rest of us inhabit? Is it a pervasive subculture that exists everywhere around us that I'm unaware of? What tactics do you think are different that are required to reach a Black person rather than a White person?

  13. I just got back a couple weeks ago from New Haven, CT where we were on a Metro Missions Trip helping Bro and Sister Perry get their new church building up because they have started a new work there. The new church building (almost store front) is a 2 minute walk from the Ghetto. Though the area is majority black there are white folks and hispanics as well.

    Our out reach efforts were not geared differently due to skin color because the gospel does not see color or race. We talked with anyone and everyone. Though I am white I am no different from any other people of color.

    I will give you 2 instances of what happened in New haven. I was able to pray with a white homeless man on the street. I was not quiet about it and I let the Holy Ghost out when we prayed. at the end he had tears in his eyes. Also there was a black man who pulled up in front of me on his bike. I gave him a church invitation and began to talk with him. He began to cry and weep in front of me and we began to talk about God. Color didn't matter PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY!! (I wrote about our metro missions trip on my blog. Feel free to read it

    In the mandatory reading that the UPCI has one do to become a license minister I first caught wind of Black Evangelisim and I too thought that name was rediculous.

    It's time every church in every city in every nation become a Multi Culture Church!!

  14. Wow! Great job. This is my first time on this blog and I am very impressed. Hmmm...

  15. Have you ever thought that maybe black evangelism was started by black people because black people want to reach other black people? "Black" isn't about skin color; it's about a culture. It's no different than someone feeling a call to the Japanese culture, as opposed to Caucasian culture (me). Sure, I'll reach anyone and everyone I can, but my burden specifically is for Japanese. According to you, I'm racist.

    The more I read of this blog, the sadder I feel. I don't mean to be rude. But it's dissension disguised as discussion.

  16. If you don't want to be part of the UPCI, you could always leave it. The worst part is that this blog is entirely public, so before someone encounters the beauty of the saving message that the Apostolic faith preaches, they will encounter the flaws of the organization. That's so sad. I understand you're concerned about some things, but is this really the place to vent?

    1. If you don't want to read our bitter backslider blog you could always leave the page. The worst part about this comment is that you just left ten comments in a row and have been on for at least an hour and a half. So, before aggressively defending your bass ackwards organization and the heresy of the evil apostolic faith, recognize that this isn't the place for people who are going to be receptive to your logic? It's so pedantic and typical. I understand you're angered by people who've escaped your movement, but is this really the place to spend your time browsing?