Black History and the Local Church
Another Black History Month is upon us and I’m looking forward to sharing, reading, listening, and learning more about the significant contributions and the rich heritage of black people worldwide. As a pastor, I’ve asked myself repeatedly how black history should be celebrated within the context of the local church. Should local churches, regardless of ethnic composition, acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month? The answer is an emphatic yes. I’ll explain why.
In Scripture, elders are charged with the task of shepherding the flock of God. We do this by faithfully preaching the Word of God and teaching sound doctrine. The Church is nourished by sound doctrine and grows by its faithful proclamation and real-life application. So how does the celebration of Black History Month intersect with sound doctrine? It does so by reinforcing the doctrine of basic human dignity or what some call the Imago Dei.
Celebrating Black History Month is an affirmation of human dignity. The Bible is clear that all human beings are created in the image of God. Believing this truth guides us in how we treat our fellow man. It compels us to recognize the dignity that God himself has conferred upon everyone.
We can’t give dignity to anyone because God has already done so. It is our place to recognize that God-given dignity and treat one another accordingly. When we refuse to recognize the image of God in a person or in a group of people, God is dishonored.
So, recognizing the dignity of black people means embracing the narrative of black people. It means learning from black people. It means drawing encouragement and wisdom from black people. It means coming alongside and championing the cause of black people in a manner that brings glory to God.
The unfortunate truth is that the history of black people in America has been tragically oversimplified and underrepresented. This is painfully obvious in the American church. Black history is filled with struggle, redemption, diversity, beauty, perseverance, and substance. Black history is a wonderful thread that is woven into the tapestry of the nations. Black history is American history. It is world history. If you want to see shining examples of God’s sovereign grace at work, I challenge you to study Black history.
You will find story after story of men, women, and children who had important roles in shaping art, music, poetry, theology, politics, agriculture, science, the military, academics, sociology, sports, and much more. Our brave and gifted ancestors should not be among our best-kept secrets. There are countless figures waiting to be discovered and have their stories told. This endeavor would benefit us all. Any exploration of Church history that excludes Africa and people of African descent is woefully incomplete.
Celebrating Black History Month in the local church will also serve to fulfill the responsibility to be multi-generational. Our children need to know the richness of their heritage. The assault on the dignity of black children starts well before they are born. The world that our children encounter is filled with subliminal and deliberate messages that aim to instill complexes of inferiority and perpetuate subjugation. Black dignity should be non-negotiable in the life of the Church at large. It must be part and parcel of the legacy that we pass on to the generations to come.
Pastors and church leaders, sisters and brothers, let us not neglect such a worthy endeavor. Be intentional about incorporating black history into the life of your church (not just February). Be prayerful and strategic in how you preach and teach concerning human dignity. Generations will be impacted by it.
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