Theological Crisis and Culture
Today I met with a local pastor for breakfast and over eggs and pancakes, we began to discuss the state of the city and in particular the health of churches within the African-American community. As I am new to this community, it was interesting comparing some of the dynamics of the African-American Christian community in Rochester with that of my home region, Cleveland OH.
The particulars are not really important, but what was clear is that there is a crisis in many African-American communities that reveals itself in incredible, grinding poverty, irresponsible sexual activity, devastating undereducation, and a confused self-identity. This is true whether you are in Rochester or Cleveland, and it would be true for NYC, New Orleans, and Newark as well.
The church is increasingly impotent in dealing with these problems. The problem is not a resource problem. The problem is a spiritual problem. Our theology (understanding of God) shapes our missiology (what God wants us to do) which should inform our ecclesiology (How our community organizes itself to complete the mission). Somewhere in the past 50 years, we have lost the view of God as Holy and redeeming. The rise of prosperity theology suggests that God is present to serve us. This changes our mission to accumulation and self-service as opposed to generosity and community service. We then develop structures where we keep wealth coming into the church, but never leaving to bless the community and our world. If you do not believe me, look at how many churches in the Black community have tremendous wealth (offerings, assets) but the immediate community is relatively unaffected by its presence.
Although I pastor a wonderfully multi-cultural church with white, black, and all kinds of brown, my heart breaks for the disproportional suffering in the African-American communities all across America. I, as well as my well informed breakfast partner realized that we have a responsibility to make a difference in blessing the community and it begins with a clearer understanding of who God is and his will for His people through Jesus Christ. We can no longer tolerate churches that use twisted interpretations of scripture to justify the exploitation and the continued demoralization of those living on the margins. Although I am quite sensitive in regards to criticizing other pastors, it is now time that those who are called to provide a prophetic voice of God's truth and mission, to inform pastors, leaders, and neighbors of the true mission and identity of God's people.
Will you take time to ask yourself if you are fulfilling God's desire to bless your community? Can you lead your congregation in making a difference and being a good steward of opportunities, as well as communities, neighborhoods, and regions?
Let me know what you think about this
God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor