What Is African American Church Planting?
I never heard the term “church planting” growing up in Black churches. It wasn’t until I got involved in White evangelical circles that I heard the phrase and it took on meaning.
This doesn’t imply that African American churches weren’t or aren’t thinking about multiplication. I remember numerous conversations around evangelism and growing the church body. Talk of non-profits and community-serving ministries was ubiquitous.
But church planting as I understand it now–strategically engaging new communities for the purpose of making disciples and providing the training, funding, and resources to support it (mainly through denominations and networks)–seems to be spoken of in different terms among African American churches.
A study released in 2013 reveals much data about the 290 African American church plants surveyed but raises many more questions.
A recap by Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research highlights six “keys to success” for African American church plants (i.e. churches comprised mainly African Americans) based on the study. These six keys proved significant in both church attendance and new commitments to Christ. They are as follows:
- Church planter compensated for their work (52 percent of the new churches)
- Weeklong Boot Camp or Basic Training provided for the church planter (42 percent)
- Church planter worked 60 hours a week or more on the church plant during the first two years of the church plant (39 percent)
- Sponsor or mother church permitted the church plant to meet in the sponsoring church building (32 percent)
- Church building of their own during the first five years (20 percent)
- Contemporary worship style (13 percent)
I wish I could be a better resource on African American church planting, but I truly just have questions.
I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the following?
1. Is “church planting” a term you heard growing up in a traditional Black church? What about today? Is the terminology more common?
2. How do new African American churches get started? Is it church planting or something else (i.e. splits, planting by a different term)?
3. How are Black church planters trained and supported financially?
4. Is there still a need to intentionally plant mainly African American church plants or do we need to focus on more diverse works?
5. What else can you tell us about African American church planting?
Do you have some insights on any of the above questions? We may need to hear your perspective! Please share your responses below in the comments section.
8 thoughts on “What Is African American Church Planting?”
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Steven Anthony Perry
There are a few issues lingering here and there may take a few points of views to understand it. But, church history and theology kind of explain this. When it comes to the subject of church planting i think it is a little different. Anglo denominations have really put fortg a solid effort to plant urban churches. The challenge to me have been that they send black men and women that are African American and forget that these people are not culturally african american. Secondly, you were discussing this issue of not being able to plant with a white charismatic pastor. Then you experienced this black pastor that did the same thing. Remember that it was African Americans that made pentecostal theology popular in America. Therefore, the charasmatic movement was strongly patterned after the style of the black church. I said all of that to say this. In the black and charasmatic circles period there has always been an issue of planting churches. I personally think it is all about money and significance. With the African American community having limited financial resources it is imperative for one man to control the climate of church structure and order. Significance is very huge… Black pastors will be very important as long as they can feel important. Will do it for free. Not to include this layer of “black churches don’t plant churches, tbry split churches”. So, preachers have become over protective of the flock partly because of these reasons.
I never heard the term “church planting” in growing up in the Black Church which included Presbyterian and Methodist. It was not until I joined a multi-ethnic spirit-filled Charismatic church and began seminary that I became familiar with these words. It is sad to say that even in this church, with my pastor being white, he seemed to be against church planting and sending out those ministers like myself that sat under him and supported him. All of us looked forward to planting a church one day with him sending us out and supporting him. But it never happened. So a few after this, I joined a denomination that one its main priorities is planting churches. However; the pastor I am now under, who is Black has the same issue as my former pastor, in that he does not support Church planting. He has been the pastor since 2005, and our church has sent out NO ONE, but we have adopted pastors and churches that had relationship with us and now we support them. My pastor has no problem with making these churches extension campuses, though they do NOT have our DNA. In this time period, I have come to learn besides my former pastor that was white, many Black pastors are NOT very supportive of church plants, and rarely even hint at it. I would really like to know why so many Black pastors are seemingly against sending out those who feel called to plant. They seem to want to keep everyone around the house, like a plantation owner. It is my perception that they fear the loss of money from the planter and those that may want to go and help them plant a church. Secondly, they fear that the planter may exceed them in perceived ministry success like numbers and finances. Thirdly, they seem to have ego wherein they see people going to support the planter as rejection of them. Fourthly, they seem to see the planter as betraying them and not being loyal to them or the church. I have even heard it said that many Blacks see people leaving the church, especially a minister to start a church as a”rebel and a traitor!” I would love to get more perspective on this subject on Blacks and Church planting.
As I am planting churches and seeing this paradigm of church planting there are a few things that disturbs me.
Everywhere I have been there has been such a focus on discipleship and not what black people consider a church. Here is what I mean. If your having bible studies in your home with our people to many that will be viewed as a cult or a para ministry. Which means that they can join somebody else’s ministry until you can become serious. Maybe you should sit under another pastor until they release you. In our context just by the definition of church planting sounds weird and crazy. In terms of money it has a whole lot to do with appearance and worship. I have watched countless plants in the African American context become more about what white denominations says it is than what black churches know what it is. Just my observations.
Kenneth J Robinson
I am a leader of one of the few African American church planting networks in the country I would like to talk with you and share some info that can be helpful to you in this context. Here’s my email Pastorkjrob@gmail.com
I guess, I’m just assuming if you plant a church using traditional methods in a predominantly black neighborhood, with a black church planter (or one who knows the culture), you’re likely to end up with a predominantly black church. No?
The term “church planting” is becoming more common among
young African-American men and women who have a background in the traditional
black church, but I think that their exposure to the term and their understanding
of it (that you shared which I think is on point) still is the result of exposure
to white evangelical circles. I never heard this term until I connected with a
friend who went through a church planting residency program that was the product
of a large evangelical, predominately white congregation in our state. My
limited experience in dealing in the church planting world for the past three years
has been that most African American churches are only accustomed to church
splits being what starts a new church and not necessarily an intentional church
plant. This is unfortunate because usually church splits are the result of some
fallout between an aspiring pastor and the current pastor of a church. There are
few instances that I have been exposed to where a prominent African American
church and pastor has rallied behind an aspiring pastor who felt called to
plant a church, and has supported them financially and even through sending
people out of the existing congregation to go help start the new work. Therefore,
most African American church planters that I know have ended up being supported
by large, predominately white evangelical churches and have received little to
no support from the African American church community.
I do think there is a need to still intentionally plant
churches targeted to African Americans, but these churches need to be
biblically faithful and healthy. If you do that, then it will necessarily yield
a prioritization of the church endeavoring to become diversified. Because if
the pastor(s) is preaching and teaching the gospel and the bible faithfully,
African Americans attending will see
that they are not the only race in need of the gospel and will prayerfully develop
a heart and passion for preaching the
Good News to all that are in their circle of influence, regardless of their
color or creed.
The one exhortation then that I would have of majority
culture is this – learn to embrace the culture of the traditional African
American church. There are a lot of things that take place in many of them that
are not biblical and that should be dealt with. But there is also a lot that
does take place that is biblical and that should be embraced and celebrated.
Thanks for beginning this discussion. Much more can and needs
to be said about this topic. Thanks for getting it jumpstarted!
I know the Holiness church I grew up in was not affiliated with any formal denomination organization – not even the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. They were independent and had a large regional network of other independent churches. My church, started in Detroit, MI in 1929 and planted a suburban church in Romulus, MI in the early 1970’s. The pastor preached at both until 1990 where he gave complete oversight of the “City Church”, as we called the Detroit location, over to one of the Elders while he pastored at Romulus. I never knew why they went to Romulus, MI in the first place.
I just knew that the two churches were closely connected and supported each other. I did not view this as a church planting method until I came into the White evangelical world myself and then I began to match the concept to the phrase “church planting”. Albeit, my old Holiness church is a black church that planted a suburban church…so it happened, though not under the phrase “church planting”.
Amid the research you are referring to, it sounds like what you are seeking is an historical analysis on the planting activities of the traditional black churches. Just a word of caution – and I am sure you are aware – that the phrase, “traditional black Church” is too general a phrase and do not touch the dynamics of black churches across denominational or geographic lines. How has the National Baptist Convention, or the Progressive Baptists historically engaged church planting? Or the AME? – Were their plants denominationally led and supported (including leadership development)? Or did they just acquire churches that were planted independent of any denominational affiliation? How do that compare to the PCA or other mainline denominations, who did not have very many, if any, African American
congregations? Why churches geared toward African Americans are being planted by mainline non-black oriented denominations today? And what does it suggest about the current church planting practices of black denominations? I guess I am asking as many questions as you are on this one. What DMin. student want to tackle this for a dissertation? Or who has already? I would love to read
it! God Bless.