The State of the Black Church: A Mission Compromised
There are numerous world religions in existence today; too many to list. Although Islam is the fastest growing of these religions, Christianity is, by far the largest. This article will take a brief look at the centerpiece of Christianity, the Church. It will examine the purpose of the Church and whether the Church has been compromised in its mission based on that purpose.
In Christianity, the term “Church” has two applications: One would be in reference to the local church, which would be those organized groups that gather in local church buildings. The second application would be the Universal Church which is made up of all believers and functions as a living organism. What this article’s focus will be directed at is the Universal Church; however, there may be some inevitable overlaps in which the local Church will come into view.
In order to gauge the current state of the Church, one must first have a lucid apprehension of God’s design and purpose for the Church. Then the question of whether the design and purpose are being fulfilled must be addressed.
If we want to understand the purpose of the Church the best place to start is Christ’s command to His original disciples who would eventually usher in the Church age on the Day of Pentecost.
“18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB)
As you can see here, one of the foremost commands to the Church is to evangelize the world. To spread the news of Christ and the magnanimous work He accomplished at Calvary. It is to baptize them (In simple, baptism is an open and outward expression of an inward reality), which represents bringing more sheep into the fold; however, the responsibilities and functions of the Church extend far beyond its evangelical arm.
In Acts 2:42 we find that the church is responsible for the teaching of sound biblical doctrine, the encouragement of one another, to be kind and compassionate towards one another and to execute community prayer. This can best be observed in the local church. Even though this passage in the book of Acts brings more lucidity to the Church’s purpose, it does bring to light the exhaustive conclusion of the Church’s purpose.
The Apostle James also placed a hefty responsibility on the Church when he wrote, “27 External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” (James 1:27, AMP)
This one verse carries great gravity, in and of itself. James tells his readers that External worship is of the essence, but he reveals that worship isn’t simply what has traditionally been defined as worship. Worship is every outward act that is done to the honor of God. This is also validated through the Apostle Paul, when he writes, “12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1, NIV)
Once again, you can see that it is actions physically performed on behalf of God and His kingdom that are considered acts of worship. James went on to describe such acts as visiting, helping, and caring for orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and lastly is keeping oneself unspotted or contaminated by the world.
Although what has been presented to this point is not comprehensive in unveiling the purpose of the Church, it will be sufficient for the article to arrive at a conclusion that satisfies its topic.
The Church was designed to evangelize a lost world and to represent the relationship between God and his human creation. To reach out to those that did not know God and introduce them to the message of salvation. It was also designed to edify, empower, encourage and equip believers. One of the most important responsibilities of the Church is its call to perform outreach, to reach outside of its structural walls and impact the lives of those in need regardless of their religious affiliation.
Ultimately the responsibility of the Church is to function as God’s greatest representative; to reflect God’s character through its actions. The Church was designed to give the world an up close and personal view of who Christ is.
So, with the ideologies of these standards in mind, what is the state of the Church? Has the Church fulfilled its design? Honestly, the answer has to be no. The Church has been reconstructed to serve the universal agenda of a specific group and detriment of another. Unfortunately, the Church has failed in its responsibilities.
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This failure is not a new concept if fact it was born as early as the fourth century A.D. at the Council of Nicaea. A conscious decision was made to distort the truth, and to whitewash history. Through this process, an entire nation of people was marginalized. Although this treatise is not about race, it is impossible to travel down the annals of history, especially when it comes to the Church, and race not be an issue. The truth is that religion has played a major role in the perpetuation of racism throughout the years, and the Church has been at the center of it all. It was the Catholic Church that suggested to American settlers that they should use black slaves, and thus western slavery was born.
The Church has done more to paint an illusionary portrait of a false reality than it has at carrying out its ultimate purpose. It has been used more to control and marginalize large groups than it has been used to serve those in need.
There are so many schismatic divisions within the Universal Church that it cannot possibly function as the United organism it was designed to be. Paul speaks concerning the unity of the faith and teaches against schisms and sectarianism which is what breeds the denominational divide that is witnessed so prevalently today. It is these divisions that make it impossible for unity between the brothers and sisters of the faith. We have seen Christians murder and enslave other Christians, and then have the audacity to justify their action with scripture.
The Church is not fulfilling its responsibility to edify its members, nor is it living up to its obligation to make an impact in the community. Politics and favoritism are the order of the day in far too many churches. This has led to a significant number of believers becoming disenfranchised and leaving the local church altogether. Too many churches are operating under the premise that the believers are there for the church instead of the Church being there for believers. The local church, functioning as a microcosm of the Universal Church, has become a self-sustaining bureaucracy that is designed to sustain and grow itself — with no consideration being given to its members and those in its periphery.
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There is definitely a call for those who are a part of the local church to serve in that church, but it should never be forgotten what the call of the church is and everything that is done should be working toward the Church fulfilling its requirements. Religion has replaced faith in God, making the function of the Church corruptible. The honesty and the purity of the Church is simply an illusion in the midst of a fizzling concept of true faith. The power of true faith has been replaced by ritual and sacrament. Spiritualism has been supplanted by emotionalism, subsequently leaving the vast majority of its followers completely powerless to make a true impact on the world around them.
The Church has failed in its outreach. Too often, churches are so busy dealing with internal issues and functions that it totally loses sight of its responsibilities to reach outside of its walls and touch the lives of the less fortunate.
This is not to say that there are not some exceptional local churches that are exceeding the standards given to the church, but they are few and far in between.
Another exhortation of James was to remain uncontaminated by the world, and this is one of the areas where the Church has failed greatest. So many of the secular paradigms that influence the thinking of the world have infiltrated the culture of the Christian Church. Believers have confused tolerance with acceptability and adapted the behavior associated with that thinking. The Church does not have nearly the impact on the world that it did a mere 50 years ago. This is because believers are viewed as the greatest hypocrites, teaching love, but executing hatred.
The good news is the fact that the power is present to ignite change. The Church is at a crossroad; it is time for her to rise to the occasion and live out her true destiny. A Church that is committed to fulfilling its purpose will be unstoppable. The mission given to the Church nearly two millennia ago has been compromised, but it has not been canceled. The call is still true and the task is still at hand. We must be willing to put down this bastardized form of faith in order to assume a complete communion with God based on personal relationship and connection. We must be willing to forego the semantic symbolism of sacrament and ritual in order to cease the purest form of actualization that it represents.
The state of the Church is grim, and those who claim the faith of Christianity must be willing to rewrite the concept of what it means to be a Christian. This is especially true for blacks. Christianity has been used to marginalize and oppress blacks for years, while blacks have fought to hang on to their faith. We must become more committed to understanding our history and our natural order and relationship with the God of the universe. We must set aside any concept that minimizes our existence while edifying our oppressors. We owe ourselves to be completely cognizant of who we are and to have a maximum perspicacity of the power we possess. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.