Term Paper: Black Churches / New Pastors the Influences

Pages: 15 (4891 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

Black Churches / New Pastors

The Influences and Issues of the Black Church, the Black Family, and Faith-Based Ministries in the 21st Century

What are the key issues surrounding the African-American Church in the year 2005? What should new pastors be learning as they train to become Christian leaders in their communities? How should an aspiring preacher approach the many social problems that confront the African-American community - and which issues are appropriate for associating with sermons or bible study and which are better left to small group discussion within the church's weekly calendar of events?

The families of the New Millennium are hungry for leadership - children are subjected to more influences outside the home than ever before, and many of those influences are not healthy or valid - and families come to church for inspiration and spiritual guidance, so, what will today's church provide for families that can help them find their way through the wilderness of today's often confusing society, and help them greet a more blessed tomorrow?

Indeed, what would Dr. Martin Luther King say are the important discussions to be held in terms of the training of clergy that is responsible for leadership within the spiritual side of the black community - and indeed, what would Jesus Christ be talking about, what would Jesus believe are the highlights of today's world that should be pivotal themes in preparing a pastor for his or her career?

These questions and others (raised through the assigned readings) will be addressed in this paper. Also, when issues from the literature raise additional questions or valid points, those will also be examined and presented as worthy for consideration.

The Literature, the Issues, the Relevant Substantive Ideas for Pastors

Andrew Billingsley - Jacob's Ladder

Inside the hard-bound cover of Andrew Billingsley's book, Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Enduring legacy of African-American Families, is to be found pages upon pages of the great wisdom and big-picture vision of a man who is highly respected in the academic and scholarly communities, as well as in the black community. To borrow an old advertising slogan, when Billingsley speaks, people listen; and when he writes, people read, and people think deeply about what he expresses. Reading his books helps a young would-be pastor learn how to tell a story that has plenty of power, honesty and relevance, and yet carries with it some degree of entertaining value at the same time.

He is known for setting the stage for his important messages by first pointing out the lack of logic in stereotypes; for example, in his book's "Introduction" he notes that the situation for the average black family in America is often misunderstood when it comes to success vs. poverty, since there are "more than three times as many non-poor blacks as there are poor blacks" (Billingsley, 20), and yet, as is so clear in America today, many non-blacks continue to hang on to the stereotype that nearly all blacks are from the lower rung of the economic ladder.

And further into his Introduction, he writes (18) that "black families have arrived at a point of maximum danger, which is also a point of maximum opportunity." Does he mean in this passage that when backs are against the wall, the strong get going? It would seem that way, and that in itself is a good theme for any pastor to pursue in sermon. Billingsley has a way of inducing readers to plow on, in order to find out what his key message really is; and likewise, pastors need to plant mysteries in the minds of their congregations, to be sure they are alert and paying attention when the hammer comes down later in the sermon - and the point is embellished by the pastor's most poignant analogy, or metaphor, or parable, or whatever took he or she uses to inspire people.

Billingsley states very clearly that his approach in this book is to argue that the African-American family is "crippled" by both the impact of history - slavery - and the impact of current social forces - racism, poverty ("both of which are on the rise") - but he also believes black people must rely on their values, "survival techniques, records of achievement, and capacity to work with others."

In Chapter 17, "The Black Church: Spiritual Values and Community Reform," Billingsley offers examples of strong leaders who are working to get "beyond the walls" of church buildings, and into the communities in order to serve and help improved the conditions of life for black families. He quotes a passage from C. Eric Lincoln's in terms of highlighting the multiple functions of the black church:

Beyond its purely religious function...the black church in its historical role as lyceum, conservatory, forum, social service center, political academy and financial institution, has been as is for black America the mother of our culture, the champion of our freedom, the hallmark of our civilization." He goes on to list "Ten Exemplary Churches" - and the reasons why they are exemplary.

Billingsley's Chapter 10 ("The Functions of Marriage in African-American Families") surely relates to a pastor's training as much as almost any other aspect of modern life. But as well-written and scholarly as the author's points about marriage and families are in this chapter, the book is 13 years old, and surveys / data he uses relative to black families in America are twenty-five years old and older. For a fresher, more contemporary view of families, a research article by Mary Parke is more appropriate.

Mary Parke - Fragile Families

Nearly one-third of all births now occur outside of marriage" (Parke, 2004), according to an article in the Center for Law and Social Policy (Policy Brief No. 4). This should give pause to a pastor who plans to stand at a pulpit in front of a congregation and preach about marriage and social values. But the data gets worse: among Latino populations, some 40% of births take place outside the bonds of marriage, and within the African-American community, a shocking 70% of births are "out-of-wedlock."

When reliable data reveals that seventy percent of babies born to black mothers in America are brought into this world in an environment which is not bound by the holy institution of marriage, should that fact give a pastor pause prior to preaching about the values of marriage and family? It should, indeed; but does the pastor then quote scripture to make the point that this situation is sinful, un-Christian and disgraceful, or does the pastor give his congregation moral and spiritual tips to overcome the hardships, and offer strengthening passages from great thinkers to ease the pain for single mothers?

These are not easy questions to answer, for in fairness, some of the parents of today's black children born out of wedlock, up to 40% according to Parke's information, are living together, are loving each other, and are nurturing their young ones. So it's not like a mother abandoned with a young baby - stuck fending for herself. Others parents of children born out of wedlock, Parke reports, have a close relationship - albeit the father lives in a separate household; and in still others' situations the father is nowhere to be seen, and a child will be raised solely by mom.

As to a pastor's use of these data, it is clear that a sermon can be strengthened with factual information about families and marriage followed up by some solid material based on how faith provides the back-up when existing value systems struggle.

Parke's well-presented data came from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWB), the "first national study of unmarried parents, their relationships to each other, and the well-being of their children," she explains.

The study involved about 5,000 children and their parents, "randomly selected from 75 hospitals in 20 cities" in America, according to Parke. Some 3,712 births were from parents who are not married and 1,186 births of parents who were married. The typical unmarried couple was in their twenties, over one-third of unmarried mothers are Hispanic, 44% are African-American, and 21% of the parents were Caucasian. Forty-three percent of women - and 8% of men - were receiving food stamps, or public assistance of some kind.

The good news for pastors to pass along in sermons is that, notwithstanding the fact that one-third of all children are now born into an unmarried family, a full 82% of those unmarried parents in the survey were found to be "romantically involved," and either living as loving couples together (51%), or dating (31%).

Hence, we are not talking about 70% of African-American children being born to a single mom, with no father in sight. The good news is that there is a lot of love out there, though the institution of marriage, to a lot of younger couples, is outdated, and doesn't work. Having these couples participate in church activities, of course gives a pastor a very positive way to connect with unmarried… [END OF PREVIEW]

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