The Biggest Risk Facing Young, Reformed Black Men

Jemar Tisby

The biggest risk facing young, Reformed Black men is being thrust into ministry too soon.  The acute need for the unique blend of theological and cultural gifts these young men offer sometimes causes churches to send them out before they’re ready.

Sincere and Sincerely Misguided

The landscape is littered with the crushed hopes of churches and ministers who sent their men out too early.

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I can see how this happens. I personally have been approached by numerous individuals and organizations who have offered church planting and pastoring opportunities to me all around the country.  Well-meaning folks are eager to get a Reformed Black man into leadership and help them become more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.

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But these sincere offers are sincerely misguided. Most people present me with leadership positions having only just met me. They have no idea what my biblical qualifications, skills, or reputation are.  They simply see a Black guy with good theology, not a sinner whose call needs to be confirmed. And the enemy delights in devouring would-be ministers who are sent into battle without the proper training and resources.

I know churches are excited about any prospective leader, especially if he happens to be Black. But before you launch a promising young, Reformed African American into ministry too soon, a few words of caution.

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1. Curb Your Enthusiasm

When churches find a Reformed African American man with leadership potential they are understandably enthusiastic. While there are more of these men than we think, there are less than we need. But often their eagerness tempts the young minister to arrogance. He starts to believe in his own skills and promise instead of desperately clinging to his Savior. Leaders and laymen alike must measure their comments. Are they complimenting the man based on exceptional character or excellent aptitude or because of his color or cultural background?

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2. Connect Reformed Blacks to Each Other

Even though God uses men of all races and ethnicities to disciple each other, Reformed Blacks who are preparing for the pastorate or some other leadership role would uniquely benefit from connecting with others in similar situations.  These future leaders should get connected with other Reformed Black men who have been or are currently in the same position. Such connections can facilitate accountability so men may be empowered to resist the enticement to over-confidence and the threat of isolation. Churches must do all they can–from paying for trips to conferences to allowing time for regular phone calls with a mentor–to encourage these relationships.

3. Own Your Own Preparation

Not all of the responsibility for sending a man to start in the ministry falls on the current leadership.  The upcoming generation of Reformed African American leaders should own their own development.  If the elders around them are pushing him to start a ministry too soon, then he should respectfully yet confidently inform them of their error. It takes two to make a thing go right…or wrong.

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God Has a Timeline

Underneath the push to send out young African Americans too soon is a fundamental distrust of God’s sovereignty.  Although a church committee would never admit this, what often motivates them is a lack of faith.  They sense the pressing call to make disciples of all nations but they don’t trust God to do it.  Instead, they try to wrest control of Kingdom-building from God and do it themselves.  The result is scores of Reformed Black ministers who succumb to depression, addiction, and burnout.

[Tweet “Although a church committee would never admit this, what often motivates them is a lack of faith.”]

[Tweet “The result is scores of Reformed Black ministers who succumb to depression, addiction, and burnout.”]

But the Gospel says that in the fullness of time “God sent His son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4: 4-5). The incarnation of Jesus Christ testifies that God is not uninvolved in the process of preparing leaders.  If God had perfect timing in sending His Son as a ransom for many, then He will also have perfect timing in training and sending laborers into His harvest.  Faith in the Gospel allows us to realize the need for more Reformed African American ministers, yet rest in God’s timing for sending them out.

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[Tweet “Faith in Jesus allows us to realize the need for Reformed Black ministers, yet rest in God’s timing.”]


10 thoughts on “The Biggest Risk Facing Young, Reformed Black Men

  1. Glinda

    I enjoy the article

  2. trbryant

    I’ve found that being black and reformed is a LOT easr when you label yourself as such — it comes off as like a trend. Rather let’s agree to reference ourselves as ‘bible based’ so that when a issue comes up just say “hmm, I was always taught such and such because it comes out of

  3. Ernest Odunze

    Great article! This is sooooo
    true. I am in leadership at an amazing congregation located in inner-city OKC.
    Due to my natural ability, raw potential, and charismatic zeal for Jesus I was
    moved into a position of leadership before my time had come which quickly exposed
    many of my leadership shortcomings. This was predominantly due to a lack of adequate
    training, discipleship, and accountability in my pre-reformed days in a Pentecostal
    “black church”(of which I am greatly appreciative and indebted to). I am
    encouraged by the progress I am seeing in many networks, denoms, and
    organizations in this area, but we have a ways to go.

  4. daveski

    Jemar, good thoughts. Personally, I am beginning my 2nd year of being a Pastoral Assistant and my training (pastoral, educational, & admin) has been extremely helpful. If churches are able to develop and run an internship program, that would be very helpful to men aspiring pastoral leadership. Capitol Hill Baptist Church has a very intense internship program, but very very beneficial according to the “alums” I know. Whether one needs formal prep (seminary) is debatable, but prep on the front lines (training in the local church) is definitely needed along with much discernment.

  5. Michael Davis

    I appreciate your insight!

  6. Bill Chapman

    I have been a minister in black churches for about seven years and have observed a major problem as far as the situation of young black ministers is concerned: There is no good Biblical model for young black men to follow that leads from the point where their gifts and calling are recognized, to their being sent/called to a particular ministry.

    I have seen a “discipleship model,” general in Baptist (and other congregationally-governed) churches, where these men become disciples of the pastor of the church to which they belong. They participate in Sunday worship services by reading the call to worship or saying the offertory prayer, but only rarely do they have an opportunity to test/exercise their gifts. They are normally not compensated for their services, unless the pastor is out of town and they lead a worship service, including the sermon. This model lacks a standard career path towards ordination, and everything depends on the pastor. Many pastors in these situations do not have significant educational backgrounds, and many do not stress college and seminary training for their disciples.

    I have also seen the onerous path of the hierarchically-governed United Methodist Church for young, called men and women to proceed towards ordination. It includes a detailed path of seminary training, paper writing, examinations, etc. There is denominational supervision and there are progress reports, but the process takes years to complete.

    The Presbyterian model has much to commend it, including oversight by home church session and presbytery, but it also has stringent educational requirements, which can be challenging for people of insubstantial means. If the candidates choose a seminary that takes them out of the bounds of their home presbytery, however, they may fall through the cracks of the oversight system and feel lost and alone in the process.

    Perhaps this RAAN forum is a good place to work out some guidelines that will help young African-American men be able to plan (Proverbs 16:9) their path towards ministry.

  7. PastorChris Brooks

    Love the insights. I would simply add one major point. Often times emerging leaders fast forward their own development due to their eagerness. We have to acknowledge that the aspiring minister frequently puts pressure on the church elders to give him opportunities that he may not be ready for. The ultimate remedy is true discipleship. If we are commitment to investing in relationships and walking with men until Christ is formed in them than we will see fewer mistakes and premature launches!! Thanks for the excellent forum!

  8. Charlie Mitchell

    Word up! Churches and young, restless, and reformed brothas need this article. We’re getting gassed up in churches and then burn out quick in the field. Don’t go too fast.

  9. Tony S

    Excellent write up!!

  10. Bryant Parsons

    Great article, Jemar!

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