Get Out!: An Explicit Call for “Black Evangelicals” to Continue their Exodus – Part 2
In the first part of this series, I provided an analysis of the use of biblical and theological concepts among some who promote the notion of racial reconciliation. I argued that exclusive emphasis on texts about unity and oneness functionally operates in a way of discrediting any analysis of or commitment to sub-groups within the body of Christ.
This is relevant in regard to Christians in the United States. Because of the racism of White professed Christians, Black Christians have formed denominations that have come to comprise the historic Black Church denominations. While thinking of unity and oneness, one must consider that there is neither oneness nor unity in regard to economic resources between Black and White Churches.
Because of this, I contend the push for Black people to integrate into White denominations for the sake of racial reconciliation, rather than focusing on strengthening the resources of Black Churches, is wrong-headed and is ultimately destructive to the Black Christian community.
The Economic Reality of Black Churches/Denominations
The health of historically Black Christian denominations is essential for Black Christians and the Black community as a whole. Based on a 2018 Pew Research study on the religious lives of African-Americans, most African-American Christians attend churches that are members of one the historically Black denominations. In fact, 53% of all African-Americans attend one of these churches. It is not an overstatement to say that the spiritual and financial health of these churches should be a central concern for Black Christians.
However, among the 14% of African-Americans who are associated with Evangelical churches, some complain about the lack of resources within historically Black denominations. They contend that White denominations have access to financial resources that will allow Black Christians to further spread the Gospel in their communities and around the world. Unfortunately, some iterations of this notion are couched in the language of the inability of Black denominations to manage funds.
Consider this example of an encounter I had with Pastor Dwight McKissic who shares a similar critique. He is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church; a church that is dually aligned with a historically Black denomination and the Southern Baptist Convention.
In a discussion with me on Twitter, Pastor McKissic asserted that although racism toward Black people is not present in the historically Black denominations, they, however, are weak in regard to church planting, ministry scholarships for college and seminary, owning and operating Bible Colleges and Seminaries, and providing Church support services. When I pointed to economics as the underlying issue, McKissic responding saying that “It’s a matter of budgeting & intentionality. More money would come in if more services to the churches were offered. Young Black Pastors are attracted to the SBC for money & services toward church development & disciple-making.”
The reader should notice at least two things about this comment. First, notice that Pastor McKissic asserts that the lack of aforementioned provisions for ministry is due to the inability or unwillingness of these Black denominations to budget their money properly. He argues that those services are not provided because Black denominational leaders do not intend to assist their churches in these ways.
While one may speculate on the validity of his claims, here are some facts that may shed some light on this issue. According to recent studies, the typical African-American family has one-tenth of the wealth of the typically White family. This gap has been increasing since 2004. Although some are tempted to say that these disparities are the results of bad budgeting or the lack of intentionality in the Black community, others have a different understanding.
According to Irina Ivanova, a writer for CBS News, the most valuable possession most Americans own is their homes. She goes on to assert that African-Americans, however, were largely blocked from homeownership by local and federal policy for most of the 20th century. “When they do own, black Americans disproportionately own houses in poorer neighborhoods with lower home values and get less favorable mortgage terms than white Americans.”
This report shows that African-Americans have been systemically hindered from economic growth within their communities; communities that mostly worship in churches affiliated with historically Black denominations. The economic injustice perpetrated against the African-American community seems to be the most likely reason the ministry services mentioned above (all of which require a substantial amount of financial resources) are not as widespread in historically Black denominations as they are in evangelical denominations.
Neo-Colonialism and “Black Evangelicals”
What Pastor McKissic demonstrates, however, is what I consider as the neo-colonialist relationship evangelicals have with Black so-called evangelicals. It may first be helpful to define the term “colonialism” and “neo-colonialism” before moving forward.
Colonialism refers to the occupation and economic exploitation of a country by obtaining full or partial political control. This was the condition of many African countries prior to the movement toward decolonization in the mid-twentieth century.
However, while colonial powers may have moved away from explicit forms of colonialism, they have found more strategic ways to continue control over former colonies. This new strategy is through the use of economic policies that assist the “former” colonial power to indirectly maintain influence over the “formerly” colonized country. Former president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah explains:
“Faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial territories in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, imperialism simply switches tactics. Without a qualm it dispenses with its flags, and even with certain of its more hated expatriate officials. This means, so it claims, that it is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development. Under the cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism. It is this sum total of these modern attempts to perpetuate colonialism while at the same time talking about ‘freedom,’ which has come to be known as neo-colonialism.”
Neo-colonialism uses the economic dependency of former colonies as leverage to continue to control them. I am arguing that the reality of many Black Christians in evangelical denominations is really analogous to neo-colonialism. This idea brings us back to the second aspect of Pastor McKissic’s statement above that should be brought to the attention of the reader; namely that he states that Black pastors are turning to the SBC for money for ministry.
He then says of himself that he gives to the SBC “so that they can invest heavily in other church plants.” In other words, for him, in order to do ministry at the level he seems to think is necessary, he and some other young Black pastors are depending on the SBC to fulfill their tasks. The dangers of this mentality are numerous, but one is the potential of Black pastors to drag their unsuspecting congregations into relationships and support of denominations that continue to tolerate racism.
McKissic goes as far as admitting that the financial contributions of the SBC during the start of his church causes him to remain loyal to the denomination even when they persist in practicing racism. He says, “The SBC was extremely generous to our church the first 3yrs of our ministry. Although I clearly see dysfunction, I feel compelled to water a ministry, that watered our church in our early years.” Pastor McKissic here immolates the very heart of a person under neo-colonialism; namely the compulsion to remain in relationship with, and under the influence of, an entity that one depends on economically.
I’ve provided information above highlighting the vast economic gap between White and Black Churches. Many “Black evangelicals” who benefit from these financial resources have little incentive to think deeply about their relationship with White denominations. As Trinh Minh-ha argues, “The more one depends on the master’s house for support, the less one hears what he doesn’t want to hear.”
In the next article of this series, I will provide a suggestion for how “Black evangelicals” should move forward with a more existentially informed model for racial reconciliation in mind.
David Masci, “5 Facts about the Religious Lives of African Americans” in the Pew Research Center (Feb. 7, 2018), retrieved 12/18/19 from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/
@pastormack. Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:33am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139028074027266050?s=21
Ibid., Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:44 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139030745064886274?s=21
Irina Ivanova, “If Black Families were as Rich as White Ones, U.S. Economy Would Be $1.5 Trillion Bigger” in CBS News (Aug. 15, 2019), retrieved 12/18/19 from: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/racial-wealth-gap-costs-economy-1-5-trillion-dollars-report-finds/.
Kwame Nkrumah, “Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism,” from www.marxists.org/subject/africa/nkrumah/neo-colonialism/introduction.htm. Retrieved 12/18/19.
See note 7 above.
@pastormack. Twitter, 6/13/19, 1:18 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139039397297475586?s=21.
Ibid. Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:52 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139032769508585472?s=21.
Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Writing Postcoloniality an Feminism” in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post-Colonial Studies Reader 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2006), 246.
4 thoughts on “Get Out!: An Explicit Call for “Black Evangelicals” to Continue their Exodus – Part 2”
I appreciate this article, and I appreciate the complexities of becoming aware of how a particular gift or grant can come with strings attached–strings that are sometimes not quite mentioned but that become clear once an attempt is made to explore God’s callings outside the boundaries of expectation.
I wish it weren’t so. I wish that the Body of Christ was so invested in Christ that they’d freely give to those ministries that are reaching out to people where they are, whether or not the result was the establishment of a pastor-led church with all the trimmings of an official denominational franchise.
Maybe we become too identified to our flavor of structure that we often can’t imagine a family in Christ who doesn’t follow our peculiar ways and who *still* are living out authentic Christians beliefs and behaviors.
I think I can understand why this happens–those who give to a purpose of evangelism and church planting often are prompted to do so through the lenses of their particular denomination, and so see the expected harvest also through the lenses of their denomination. After all, isn’t that accountability?
But from my experience (granted, an experience of one), it seems that these expectations put crushing burdens upon those who seek to bring Jesus to people and to bring people to Jesus. “Have you done your work, brother? Where are the weekly attendance rolls? Where are the contributions? Where is the measurable fruit?” In short: where is the proof that our colonization of your ministry is having its desired effect?
We’re given a great gift in having part of the responsibility to share the gospel. God in his wisdom uses ordinary people to represent him, to embody grace and humility and love. And in that wisdom God chooses to bring a harvest. If we trusted God to do his part of the work, wouldn’t we give those who are doing the work that we’re responsible for simply be given the love and support needed to share Jesus?
I love seeing the varieties of the expressions of faith and ministry. I love how some are identified by silence and contemplation, and others are identified by expressions of praise and joy. I love how some are identified by meticulous attention to grammar and word studies, and I love how some are identified by physical expressions of the Kin-dom in charity and works. There isn’t a Protestant Pope, and there isn’t a single method of living out our callings that is granted some official imprimatur. If our plans to expand the work include a change of plans in how we do it–great. God is good. I rejoice in the gospel and I rejoice in the work, and I rejoice in the harvest.
If God sees fit to build his Kin-dom with beautiful varieties of implementation and expression–then isn’t God great? There isn’t one model, and we shouldn’t feel unease because there isn’t just one model that so happens to be our model.
When I first visited the page, I honestly did not see the reference numbers after the quote or the links at the bottom. Don’t know why they didn’t show up, but they do now.
In reviewing what’s been linked, I believe you’re still misrepresenting his position.
In your replies to him, you even admit he doesn’t state what your saying directly, which means you’re reading into things, rather than simply respecting and addressing his position.
Why can he not have the freedom to give to the NBC, SBC, or any other denomination he chooses?
Are the flaws of the SBC or any other so great that Jesus hasn’t redeemed them that you can judge others on their involvement with them? And by what measure can you accuse such at this point, if so?
I will merely point out one thing to help you reflect on how you seem to not have read my post carefully. You say “ Secondly, as you do not provide a link to your twitter discussion, we are left to assume your interpretation of Pastor McKissic is accurate.” The actual links to the discussion are listed at the end of the post. This response in itself makes me unwilling to engage with you because it seems that you have not taken the time to truly understand my statements.
“some complain about the lack of resources within historically Black denominations. They contend that White denominations have access to financial resources that will allow Black Christians to further spread the Gospel in their communities and around the world. Unfortunately, some iterations of this notion are couched in the language of the inability of Black denominations to manage funds.
Consider this example of an encounter I had with Pastor Dwight McKissic who shares a similar critique. He is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church; a church that is dually aligned with a historically Black denomination and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
It would be to your benefit to actually quantify how many this is, which you do not. Is it 1% of the 14%? Is it 2 guys you once heard on twitter? Often we look for what we want to hear, and then filter it through our preconceived world view. You can find anyone who will say anything, but what is the reality of your “some”?
Secondly, as you do not provide a link to your twitter discussion, we are left to assume your interpretation of Pastor McKissic is accurate. However, based on the quote you share, I totally understand why you assume what he means, rather than consider its simple meaning. I on the other hand read his quote as the reality of where Black churches have chosen to minister, as in budgeting for those choices and not others he mentions.
You’ll notice in the quote that you provided that there is no assertion of poor management of budgeting of funds. Yet, this is part of your take away, largely due to your mind reading and your dissonance in wanting to make a point out of a pastor in lieu of your neo-colonial columns you wanted to right about.
The reality for anyone, including black christians, is that if another church or denomination offers a ministry that you want to be a part of, you’ll go looking for that ministry. That’s OKAY. It’s entirely okay for Church A to have A, B, and C ministries, while Church B has X, Y, and Z ministries. The church is entirely made up of hands and feet, this includes not just us as individuals in the body of Christ with our variable gifts and interests, but churches and denominations. You see this in Revelation with the 7 churches in their differences.
“First, notice that Pastor McKissic asserts that the lack of aforementioned provisions for ministry is due to the inability or unwillingness of these Black denominations to budget their money properly.”
Again, he didn’t make the claim of improper management or imply that. If you are not budgeting for an education ministry, you’re simply not budgeting for an education ministry.
Whereas a large denomination will certainly have more resources and money, I’ve seen an independent church entirely support a native missionary to start an entire bible college, day care, and hopefully one day a k-12 in their third world country.
In addition, I go to a church that houses a private christian school. This school is dedicated to low income families in the community. Does it get its primary funding from the church? Nope. It has donors from outside that readily believed in the mission and opportunity this school would and does provide.
“While one may speculate on the validity of his claims, here are some facts that may shed some light on this issue.”
All this says is that you did ZERO research on what Black churches are appropriating their money to, nor do you then have any foundation by which to judge the claim the pastor made.
His argument wasn’t mismanagement of monies in what you quoted. So wealth disparity isn’t an argument or analogy that can be a counter argument in this case.
Therefore, your conclusion regarding the pastor is largely based on a strawman and mind reading fallacies.
And before one jumps to another false conclusion, I’m in no way denying the colonial/neo colonial aspects of white and american past. Even under Obama, the USA continued its use of the its military and wealth to bend other nations into line. This is wrong.
“McKissic goes as far as admitting that the financial contributions of the SBC during the start of his church causes him to remain loyal to the denomination even when they persist in practicing racism.”
It’s one thing to break fellowship and exit a church when there is a lack of repentance, but denominations like the SBC and others have been acknowledging their sinful past in regards to racism and are working forward. The expectation that they will be perfect in this as they move forward and esp on the basis of voting habits is an absurd bar to justify “getting out”.
You should learn from McKissic, because what he’s saying is that he’ll continue to fellowship and have that bridge, because he knows their wanting that fellowship too. White people want to progress toward a kingdom church, that isn’t defined by color, and they are supporting blacks left and right in however they can and are asked to, to work toward that end.
“Many “Black evangelicals” who benefit from these financial resources have little incentive to think deeply about their relationship with White denominations.”
Judgmental, mind reading assumptions of black christians.
You, Tisby, and others who have adopted this “get out” posture toward their white brethren on the basis of who they might have voted for, is prejudiced and wrong. You’re suggesting segregation, unless your legalistic hoops are accepted. I would suggest that you and others alike, think deeply about how you’ve committed sin in your prejudices against your own brothers and sisters in Christ, who refuse to think like you.