02.13.14

“What is ‘The Black Church’?”

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Louis Love, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Tony Carter sit and chop it on The Front Porch, this time with a focus on defining “the black church.” Sifting through many common or assumed nuances, the brothers define the black church as “a congregation of people converted and called out under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, observing the ordinances and the preaching of the gospel, who live in faith and on mission. Wherever we find that and it’s predominantly African-American (in this country, at least), we are talking about the black church.” Though sometimes the black church is narrowly defined by the historic black denominations, it can also humorously be defined as “the place where the preacher’s black, the music is gospel, the mothers are prayin’, and we stay all day.” C’mon upon the porch and let us know what you think in the comments’ section below.

A related post that may be of interest to you is Thabit’s article, “Why Focus on African-American Churches?”.

You can download and enjoy the audio for this interview from The Front Porch Podcast.

The Brothers on The Front Porch
The Front Porch was started by Louis Love, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Tony Carter. Holler at us on Twitter: @TalkOnThePorch

C’mon Up!

30 responses to ““What is ‘The Black Church’?””

  1. Real Tartan Gambit says:

    “NOT juz wat da Bible sayz BUT alzo wat da Bible meanz”…Amen!

  2. JohnTaraJones says:

    Thank you for the insight and candid discussion

    • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Thank you for tuning in. Join us on the porch any time!
      T-

      • pb says:

        Peace;

        Pastor Antabwile, you mentioned in this piece a theology that is accompanied by ethics. You also lifted up this idea in a previous post.

        Can you expound on that, either here or in another post or podcast? Of particular interest to me is the question of whether this ethics is derived from the teaching of the Bible, or from elsewhere.

        Thanks for having me on the porch.

        • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Dear PB,

          Thanks for joining us on the porch. Glad to have you included.

          By theology + ethics I simply mean what you believe (theology) should shape how you behave (ethics). We’re only doing half the work we’re meant to do if we either spend all our time thinking about theology and never getting to action or if we call for certain behaviors without first rooting them in proper theological reflection. Joining theology with action is what the OT writers essentially called “wisdom.” Avoiding their separation is what James warns against when he mentions the man looking in the mirror of God’s word only to turn away and forget what he saw, or Jesus’ warning when he talks about a house built on his word is built on rock while a house not built on his word is built on sand and crashes in storms.

          Hope that helps.
          T-

  3. george canady says:

    Learning and humbled. Please keep talking so that your biblical voice of reason will be heard by more biblically reasonable men. schooled

  4. Diane Canady says:

    Up until about 5 months ago I was willfully ignorant about racism. I would ignore and deny my favoritism. I am a racist and am ashamed and ask God for forgiveness. Please continue the discussions to help me understand and see what my sin has produced. It is my hope to stop sinning and to love all people. Thanks guys. And thanks to your wives for inviting us women to the front porch.

  5. Robert Briggs says:

    This is a great site brothers…..really rejoice and share your vision.

  6. Pastor Bruce says:

    Very interesting discussion. I understand that this site is primarily for African Americans but do you hope to extend beyond your shores and consider say the experience of other Black people like Jamaicans, who are similar in that they are the descendants of slaves but (even during slavery) were a majority and whose whole “Christian experience” would have been taught to them by the slave masters? There are interesting parallels with African Americans but also some distinct differences that could prove worthwhile exploring. Thank you – excellent site.

    • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Pastor Bruce,

      Thanks for jumpin’ up on the porch and inserting a little Caribbean flavor. My Jamaican members would be very thankful :-).

      Interestingly, the most successful Baptist work in Jamaica begins with George Lisle, an African-American who took the gospel to Jamaica and planted churches across the island. Those churches even became pivotal in anti-slavery movement there and the Baptist Wars. The earlier Anglican work by the SPG produced very little fruit in Jamaica.

      It certainly would be worthwhile exploring this history and what we can learn from it. Thanks for the encouragement.

      T-

      • Pastor Bruce says:

        Thanks for getting back to me bro’ Yes, I am familiar with George Lisle. Another Jamaican Baptist you might be interested to research is William Knibb – he was a ‘radical’ British Missionary (read Peter Masters – Missionary Triumph over Slavery) who chose to suffer with the Blacks. Probably a kind of John Brown without the gun. Anyway, keep up the work, I look forward to reading more articles.

        • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Yeah, Masters’ little book on Knibb is a good read. Knibb is still much-loved among many Jamaicans who know their history. I once had Masters’ little book face-out on my bookshelf. The first Jamaican sister that came into my office said, “William Knibb! My parents love talking about him.” Then she took my book! 🙂

          The Lord keep you strong!
          T-

  7. lifeseek says:

    We would simply love to collaborate with yall @lifeseek:disqus let us know what we can do to serve. Check out some of our resent blogs @ lifeseek.org and please comment … many blessing to you.

  8. Gordon Hazell says:

    I’m still trying to find some answers for this. the black conservative church need to address this. The biblical gospel is at stake among us. And the miracle that is the conversion of the slaves and their descendants could see serious problems ignored.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OXws3d7kAw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Oh man! You went waaaay back to pull up some Doc Ben! Read all his stuff I could find when I was in college. Kept a well-worn copy of “Black Man of the Nile and His Family.” Even had the privilege of hosting him on campus a couple times to speak at BSU/Society of African-American Culture events. You should see this brother eat lobster! LOL!

      I can’t watch the video just now, but will try when I have a couple hours free. If for no other reason, then for ol’ times sake! Thanks for the flashback!

      T-

      • Gordon Hazell says:

        Wow! This makes this all the more important then. If you are familiar with his “scholarship” and content. Then you can definitely be in a position to help us layfolk sort through the mess. Frankly. I have never dealt with doubt as strong as i am now after encountering the Jesus and Horus Theory and the claims of plagiarism from ancient Egyptian religion. I have “Christ in Egypt: The Horus Jesus Connection” and I am going to go through it. But I am no scholar and I am troubled by what I am coming across even before I read it. And what is more concerning, I have not heard of one book explaining or addressing this from a Christian/Apologetic standpoint. I have scoured the search engines and I have not seen any blogs or even articles where Conservative Evangelical Christian thinkers are dealing with this stuff. Why is it being ignored?

        • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hey bro,

          The main thing you need to know is that Doc Ben and a whole host of folks were engaged in a massive act of historical revision. Some of it was quite helpful and even necessary, given the racially-biased stuff they were reacting against. But some of it was quite romantic and inventive.

          For example, the dots he wants to connect between Egyptian mystery cults and the OT Scriptures isn’t new. It’s basically an Afrocentric form criticism. Liberal theologians point to things like Babylonian legends of great floods to try and discredit the flood of Noah, while Africentrists point to Egyptian mythology or Kersey Graves “World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors.” It’s pretty much sleight of hand. The main thing to do is ask some very basic questions. For example, what does Egyptian mystery religion teach about the nature and number of gods? Pretty quickly you see that it’s polytheistic and any comparison drawn between that and Christianity is merely superficial. There’s no Trinitarian conception in Egypt. There are plenty of religions where deities have children. But that’s not the Christian conception at all. There are older legal codes than that in the OT. But those codes never see the breaking of laws as violations of God’s rule and character as does the Old and New Testaments. So the key is to really ask the basic or simple questions and don’t allow yourself to be carried along by superficial comparisons and a kind of “shock and awe” rapid repetition of isolated historical facts. That’s where bad revisionism gets its strength–in misdirection, out-of-context facts, and hastily drawn conclusions.

          Evangelicals don’t deal with this because this isn’t where they live. They’ve likely never heard of the Doc Bens of the world. And even inside the African-American context, these are fringe minority positions. The proponents want to make you think it’s because “you don’t know and have never been taught this,” but the truth is that a lot of it is bad history used to bolster a romantic view of the past and a deeper sense of identity. Identity politics is almost always bad history and theology.

          Honestly, bro, I wouldn’t waste the time in it unless I had a friend or loved one caught up in the assumptions. Even then, I’d want to keep my Bible open and repeatedly ask very basic questions that draw out the fundamental differences rather than focus on the superficial similarities.

          If I can ever be of help, bro, drop me a line. Grace, love and peace in the Living, Ruling and Returning Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords,
          T-

          • Gordon Hazell says:

            Hi Pastor Thabiti

            I was able to get hold of a book called “Unveiling the pagan Christ” upon the recommendation of Craig A Evans. It was just what I needed. It handled all of the arguments in a proper refutation.

          • Thabiti Anyabwile says:

            Cool. I’ll look for that! Thanks for sharing the recommendation.
            T

  9. Rogers Hellman says:

    I suspect that most committed Christians in the US are disturbed by the extent to which the Body of Christ is segregated. I think that, by and large, the reasons for this are cultural, in that people want to attend churches that are culturally similar to what they grew up with. Nothing wrong with that, but it does nothing to unify the Church across racial lines. So what I’ve been thinking, and would really appreciate feedback on this: I want to find a men’s fellowship/Bible Study to start attending. One where the group is primarily, if not exclusively Black. This isn’t a large, dramatic step. Just one that I can do. So, is this a good idea or a naive one?

    • Tony Carter says:

      Bro Rogers, thanks for stepping on the Porch. It’s a small step, I know, but a step nonetheless :).
      Brother, I would encourage your efforts. Understand, I don’t encourage it because of any novelty. If novelty or curiosity is your motive, don’t bother. But if you are looking to be stretched by the word of God as it is shared among brothers who don’t look like you, but still have the similar questions and who seek the same understanding, then I would strongly encourage it. I believe you will find that while some of the terminology may be a little different, and the singing in a different key, the love of Christ and passion for God’s glory would be just the same. Not only would it enrich your walk with Christ, but your presense would no doubt enrich and encourage them.
      If you find one, let us know. I, for one, would love to hear how it goes.

      Keep in touch bro.

      • Rogers Hellman says:

        Tony. Thanks for the quick reply. I’m age 62 and spend much of my time in 3rd world countries. Novelty nor curiosity don’t move me, as I get plenty of that just doing my work. So, having said that, I will let you know how it goes. I do have an appointment schedule tomorrow with a pastor of a Black church, so I’m hoping to be able to report back in the coming weeks.

      • Rogers Hellman says:

        Brother Tony:
        Just wanted to update you on my bible-study (as the only white guy). There are things I think I’ve learned, but I don’t hold fast to those, as I know what I think can be wrong. Real knowledge takes time. But in these last six months I’ve gone from being a novelty within the group to being a part of the group. I sense that I’m poised to starting to develop real friendships, verses acquaintances at least with a couple of the men.

  10. Pastor Bruce says:

    Hi Brothers,

    I listened to the interview again, and have a couple of questions:

    1. Can the notion or definition of the black church actually be a barrier to properly understanding what the real issues are? Would it be better or more helpful to define what is black culture?
    2. How can we evaluate spirituality and depth? Brother Carter mentioned that the black church was “birthed in oppression” Would he say that for all the advances and our access to conservative theological resources are we in a better or worse shape spirituality?

    I don’t have a view, I’m just hoping your response might help me to think these thing through.

    Thanks brothers!!

    • Tony Carter says:

      Hey Brother Bruce,
      Thanks for keeping the discussing going. Your questions are indeed good and thought-provoking. To answer your first question, we would not see the notion of the black church and that of black culture as mutually exclusive or defeating. Rather, as you already know, there is an unavoidable intersection between the two. You can speak of black culture without speaking about the church, and vise versa. Defining black culture would indeed be helpful and perhaps that would be the next step in furthering the conversation.
      In regard to your second question, I remain convinced that the church is in better shape than it has ever been. No doubt there are glaring issues and much of the spirituality that we popularly hear is problematic, but problems and abberant teaching have always existed. Yet, I trust in the promises of Christ to build his church and advance his kingdom (). Consequently, the real work of the true church is advancing, growing, and overcoming the world. I believe this is true wherever God’s church is manifested. So yes, in my opinion, the blessings of God upon the church in our day far outstretch the detriments of the popular bad theology and teaching we often hear.
      Thanks again for stopping by bro. Good questions. May God bless you in your continued labors for Him.

      • Pastor Bruce says:

        Helpful reply thanks bro Tony and I have some things to chew on. I look forward to the debate on defining black culture!

  11. Pastor Bruce says:

    That should be “spiritually” ( – :

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