In ‘gOD-Talk’ discussions, black millennials explore their faith, spirituality

In ‘gOD-Talk’ discussions, black millennials explore their faith, spirituality

Jeremiah Chapman prays during a 16th Street Baptist Church service on Dec. 10, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Devi Brown, a Los Angeles-based radio personality and author, said she prays and talks to God regularly.

But then she adds: “I have found absolutely beautiful life-changing things in the Christian faith, in the Hindu faith, in Buddhism. So, for me, I believe in being Christ-like, being kind, being of service so I kind of let that lead who I am.”

Like other African-American millennials, Brown, 33, author of “Crystal Bliss: Attract Love. Feed Your Spirit. Manifest Your Dreams,” is charting her own course when it comes to spirituality.

On Friday (Aug. 24), she’ll explain her faith at a pilot event in Los Angeles that explores new ways black people born between 1981 and 1996 are embracing religion and spirituality at a time when the black church is no longer the central organizing force for some African-Americans.

The new series, called “gOD-Talk: A Black Millennials and Faith Conversation,” is a joint project of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Pew Research Center.

Teddy Reeves, a specialist in the museum’s Center for the Study of African American Religious Life, said the project’s nontraditional treatment of the word “God” is intentional, in hopes that the conversations will include blacks with Judeo-Christian perspectives, adherents of Islam and African spirituality, and humanists and atheists.

“The ‘g’ is allowing everyone to come to the table,” said Reeves, 31, who is set to moderate the discussion for which more than 700 people have registered. “We’re really kind of transgressing traditional orthodox boundaries of what we consider sacred.”

Besheer Mohamed, a Pew senior researcher, said African-American young adults stand out from others in their age group as well as their racial group.

“Black millennials are sort of at the intersection of two broad patterns of American religiosity,” said Mohamed, who plans to present research as the project holds events across the country. “Black millennials on average are more religious and also more spiritual than other millennials and less religious and less spiritual than other blacks.”

Devi Brown. Photo by King David Photography

While fewer than 4 in 10 African-American millennials say they attend services weekly, far more — 61 percent — say religion is very important to them. Six in 10 of them also say they pray daily and “feel spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly.” More than a third meditate at least once a week.

Brown, who did not grow up in a religious household but has enjoyed attending Christian churches since high school, uses crystals for meditation, explaining that they don’t replace God but instead serve as a way of “being grounded and being connected to my source, which is the earth that God created.”

Reeves, who is also an ordained minister of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said the Pew findings reflect both a historical connection to the divine for African-Americans that dates to the time of slavery and the influence of rising secularism within the “brunch culture” of millennials.

Some of the disengagement may come from a sense of frustration that traditional black churches are not sufficiently addressing justice issues that are a priority for many of these young adults — LGBTQ rights, violence in urban African-American communities and inclusion of women’s ordination and leadership, he suggested.

Black millennials also have more secular and spiritual options, and often no longer keep weekend worship services as standing appointments on their calendars.

“Whether it is protesting, whether it is feeding the homeless, whether it is creating programs and nonprofits,” Reeves said, the “definition of sacredness” is expanding.

“Moving forward, I wonder what that means for our traditional religious spaces.”

Black church leaders are mulling that too. It was one of the questions raised during a summit of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington on Tuesday.

One participant was applauded when she implored pastors to train the younger people in their congregations and give them something to do.

“These young people are leaving the church,” she warned. “They don’t even believe in Jesus anymore. They call him Baby J.”

The Rev. Beverly Frazier, a fellow of the University of Pennsylvania who pastors Morning Star Church in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, told summit participants her church recently put up colored lights and held a concert for several hours.

“That was the largest service we’ve had since I’ve been at the church,” she said, as she spoke on research about the value black churches add to neighborhoods. “For four hours, people just coming and going. Why? ’Cause you have to meet the needs. You have to be relevant.”

RELATED: Black churches bucking the trend of decline

Teddy Reeves. Photo courtesy Teddy Reeves

Pew researchers found that 53 percent of African-Americans said they were affiliated with historically black denominations in 2014, but significantly fewer (41 percent) of black millennials claimed such a tie. Mohamed said the share of black millennials who say they are non-Christian has increased from 3 percent in 2007 to 5 percent in 2014.

There is no Pew data available for the percentage of black millennials who fall into the “spiritual but not religious” category.

But Mohamed said “there is no reason to assume black millennials would not follow the broader societal trend of more Americans saying they’re spiritual but not religious.”

He is scheduled to be a panelist at the California African American Museum event along with other scholars and people of a variety of faiths, including Christians, a Muslim, a former Buddhist and a practitioner of Ifa, a Nigerian spiritual tradition. Other gOD-Talk events, to be held through 2020, are planned for Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Baltimore.

MUSIC DEVOTIONAL: SOUNDS AND SILENCES, #MondayMotivation

MUSIC DEVOTIONAL: SOUNDS AND SILENCES, #MondayMotivation

Music is composed of sounds and silences. The sounds are indicated by notes, the silences by rests. Sometimes when we most want the Lord to speak, He is silent, and when we most want Him to be silent, He speaks!

The desperate Syrophoenician mother made a fervent plea for her daughter, but Jesus answered her “not a word” (Matthew 15:23). David knew that the Lord was aware of his sins, but I think he was hoping the Lord wouldn’t tell anybody especially the outspoken prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 11-12).

The Syrophoenician mother was hoping the Lord would change the melody of her life from minor to major. And David was hoping he wouldn’t have to face the music of his messed up life. In music, the silences are often welcome intervals that enhance the rest of the composition. In life, silences are sometimes frustrating interruptions.

Both in music and in life, rests are pauses, not endings. The mother received her request for her daughter’s healing; David confessed his sins and received forgiveness. The pauses in our lives are temporary.

Are you having a “rest experience?” Be encouraged. After a rest, the music continues.

Thank You, dear Lord, that You are always with us. Help us to remember that Your silences are not absences. Amen.

 

A Tale of Two Farmers

A Tale of Two Farmers


Courtesy of CNN


Few people have heard of Conetoe, North Carolina (pop. 287). Fewer know how to pronounce it correctly (kuh-NEE-tuh). In Conetoe, however, we can learn much from a pastor and congregation that decided to combine faith and farming to save bodies, minds, and souls. Rev. Richard Joyner, one of thirteen siblings born into a sharecropping family, experienced a moral epiphany when he officiated more than 30 funerals of congregants under 32 years of age in one year. So many of his members died needless, health-related deaths. Joyner lamented, “It just started to feel unconscionable that you would see someone 100 pounds overweight on Sunday and not say anything about it. Then they’d die of a heart attack.” No longer could he ignore the plight of his church members dying because of poor health choices and poor health options.

Conetoe is situated in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Edgecombe has the highest rate of diabetes of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Conetoe was a food desert. Fresh, affordable produce was hard to come by. Church and community members suffered from high unemployment, obesity, low education, poverty and poor health. Joyner knew that farming could help the people’s health by providing physical exercise and fresh, affordable produce. Joyner had the agricultural know-how, but memories from his sharecropping past stood as a mental barrier he had to overcome.

Farming reminded him of working to benefit the man—farm owners who routinely underpaid and mistreated their workers. Farming reminded him of an endless cycle of poverty, with no personal benefit. Nevertheless, the dismal condition of his members convinced Joyner to overcome his personal concerns. Joyner chose to extend his ministry beyond the pulpit in 2005 by starting the Community Garden and Family Life Center, a summer program to grow nutritious food and get children physically active.

More than ten years later, the two-acre garden has grown to fifteen farm plots around Edgecombe County. Youth work the fields. Elders mentor the youth in farming and academics. The produce from the farm generates income used for school supplies and scholarships to further the youths’ education. Faith and farming are transforming this rural South Carolina community.



Courtesy of Own


Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a lay person named Will Allen was showing young people how to do urban farming. Allen, also the son of a sharecropper, returned to farming after a successful career in professional basketball and corporate sales and marketing. While living in Belgium, Allen learned intensive farming methods used to increase yields on small plots. Years later, Allen applied that knowledge to create Growing Power, Inc., a non-profit center for urban agriculture training and building community food security systems.

Before creating Growing Power, Inc., Allen was content to simply farm his three-acre plot located on Milwaukee’s north side and provide nutritious food for people living nearby. Things changed, however, when young people in the neighborhood began asking him questions. They sought his advice on growing produce in their gardens. The youths’ eagerness to learn inspired Allen to mentor them. Eventually, Allen created Youth Corps, a year-round youth development program that teaches community food system development and maintenance.

Through his innovative methods of using composting, vermicomposting (using worms to fertilize compost), and aquaponics (growing fish and food plants in a closed system), Allen’s urban farming organization provides intergenerational education, nutrition, and fellowship particularly for low-income and immigrant peoples in the United States and various countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Haiti. His three-acre urban farm alone, located six blocks from Milwaukee’s largest public housing complex, feeds 10,000 people.

In an interview, Allen remarked, “I feel that farming is my calling. I think I was meant to do this. To be a farmer you have to have tremendous faith and trust that something good is going to come.”

Joyner and Allen represent a groundswell of clergy and laypersons who are rediscovering the importance of responding to one’s call to work. Work as a calling compels us to discern how our work is our Christian vocation. Faith and work, the two should be mutual partners. Faith should inform work; work should be an extension of faith. Our expression of Christianity should be seen in all we say and do; yet, how often in church do we talk about faith and work? This essay was taken from our 2016 Adult Vacation Bible School, Getting Work Right. Do you need a job? Are you dissatisfied with a job? Do you know how your job fits into God’s eternal plan and purpose? Take our free career self-inventory at gettingworkright.com to start the journey toward getting work right!

“Fresh, affordable produce 
was hard to come by”

Ministries of Social Entrepreneurship

Ministries of Social Entrepreneurship

THIS MEANS BUSINESS: Homegirl Cafe in downtown Los Angeles is a successful model of social entrepreneurship. Staffed by female gang members trying to leave their past behind, it’s part of Homeboy Industries.

America’s economic woes have made grassroots urban ministers open to new ways of doing things. Fundraising has always been a challenge, and now more so. Common conversation topics in urban ministry circles include cutting positions, scaling back programs, and working more efficiently.

One topic stands out. The idea of starting a business to fund an urban ministry is not just hallway conversation or Facebook chat fodder. People really want to know. Even people who are critics of Big Business or Capitalism are hungry to make private enterprise work for their cause.

If you are thinking about launching a business to supplement your ministry’s bottom line, it’s important to understand both the concept of social entrepreneurship and the management capacity of the typical grassroots urban minister.

Social Entrepreneurship

The mash-up of urban ministry and business can best be engaged through the world of social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship is a term with a variety of definitions. One prominent description is that of Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of Grameen Bank, a pioneer in microfinance.

In his book, Building Social Business:The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, Yunus writes:

Social entrepreneurship relates to a person. It describes an initiative of social consequences for a social purpose. This initiative may be a non-economic initiative, a charity initiative, or a business initiative with or without personal profit. Some social entrepreneurs house their projects within traditional nongovernmental organizations while others are involved in for-profit activities.

Take Yunus’s definition, add the desire to see people come to faith and life in Jesus Christ, and you have a grassroots urban minister. To illustrate this, three groups stand out.

Belay Enterprises, a faith-based nonprofit in Denver, creates businesses to employ and job train individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness, and prison. Last year 75 people worked in Belay’s businesses that include Bud’s Warehouse, a home improvement thrift store. While structured as a nonprofit, Belay realized over half a million dollars in revenue from sales, with very little by way of donor cash contributions. Jim Reiner, executive director of Belay, says they are growing a fund for new businesses that will increase the number of people employed or job trained per year. (Full disclosure: Partners Worldwide, the organization for which I work, co-hosted an event with Belay last month.)

Central Detroit Christian (CDC) created Peaches and Greens as a way to provide fresh produce to neighbors living in a vast urban food desert. The Peaches and Greens operation has both a storefront location and a mobile truck that sell fresh goodness throughout the community. Lisa Johanon, executive director of CDC and an incarnated resident, told NPR’s Michel Martin that prior to the creation of Peaches and Greens she had to drive ten miles for produce.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN ACTION: Through Homeboy Industries, ex-gangbangers like these women at Homegirl Cafe receive job training and employment opportunities, in addition to a new start spiritually.

Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, founded by Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle, addresses the issue of street gangs through job training and business opportunities. Homeboy made news when it was forced to lay off more than 75% of its staff — 300 people, many in the target outreach group — because of budget cuts. Remarkably, the 60 people who were not laid off worked in Homeboy’s bakery, which was profitable and self-sustaining, and therefore capable of weathering the cuts. Since that desperate time, with the help of some compassionate and deep-pocketed friends, Homeboy Industries has rebounded and continues to provide job training and employment opportunities for ex-gangbangers in the L.A. community. (It should be noted that while Catholic faith is at the core of Boyle’s motivation, Homeboy itself does not publicly emphasize its faith roots. It is, however, an appropriate example of social entrepreneurship in my estimation.)

Most urban ministries I know — certainly those involved with groups like the Christian Community Development Association — operate and achieve as Belay, Central Detroit, and Homeboy do. If you have only seen yourself as a pastor or minister, you should recognize that you are already a type of entrepreneur that the world desperately needs.

Management Capacity

The key to a successful social enterprise is the combination of “cause” and “good” management. The key to running a business that does good while feeding your ministry’s bottom line is the same combination.

We all have causes we are passionate about. It’s the management part of the equation that poses a challenge.

Larger urban ministries will face less of a challenge in managing a business than will grassroots groups. Sustaining a multi-million dollar operation like a rescue mission, for example, requires significant management capacity and skill. That same capacity can be redeployed or expanded to a business effort.

Smaller ministries that have survived for many years should also have some capacity to manage a new business endeavor. An outreach program with a few full-time staff has less capacity than a large nonprofit, but can still tap its network and management experience in running a business.

It’s the small grassroots groups — which are often our most innovative as well as fearless ministers — that need to truly count the cost of launching a business to fund their ministries.

I know of many effective urban ministries that are essentially one charismatic leader surrounded by a host of friends and allies. Often the leader is not paid full-time, and many times draws no salary from his work.

One man I know has a van that he uses to take aimless youth to church gatherings around his town. He uses a ministry name, but that ministry is not incorporated.

TRANSFORMING LIVES: Father Gregory Boyle, founder and director of Homeboy Industries, meets with his team. Homeboy has developed one of the largest gang-intervention programs in the nation.

Another man, an ex-gang-member, rode his bike around town, making contact with younger gangsters and talking to them about avoiding future trouble. He was connected to a number of networks and coalitions, to which he funneled many gangsters for intervention or services.

In this type of operation there is very little organizational and financial management being practiced, and therefore little on which an organization can be developed. When it does come time to grow the organization, to strengthen management and plans, the charismatic leader will either need to grow or get out of the way.

It is entirely possible for this grassroots urban minister, no matter how little formal education he or she has, to develop into a nonprofit organizational leader or business person.

But it will require a lot of hard work to get there. Even more, it will first require an act of will, a choice, to grow in an area the individual may not have a passion for.

But if you want to operate a business that functions as a business and generates a profit for use in ministry, there is no way around it: You will have to learn the management skills and discipline that any successful businessperson has.

Even if you bring on somebody to run the business you will need to learn business. How else will you know if the person you have brought on is doing a good job? Or not cheating the enterprise?

For Those Who Take the Plunge

My prayer is that great numbers of grassroots urban ministers choose to grow their business skills and launch enterprises. Take the good work you do — socially beneficial work that impacts the lives of many of the least, the last, and the lost — and combine business skills to create things like well-paying jobs and needed services for urban communities.

When it gets hard, don’t get discouraged.

For years I’ve felt like my work as an urban minister was harder than the work of an average business owner, because I had more bottom lines to attend to.

Whereas a non-performing employee in a business might quickly get fired, in a ministry setting I would give that person extra opportunity to succeed. Some businesses make this type of extra effort, but in general urban ministries are much more likely to “give a second chance” — and a third chance — than a straight business would.

Even more, our ministries often hire people that no business would hire. And yet we need to keep our doors open and maintain a basic level of financial sustainability.

You’ve trusted God in reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost. Trust Him again to help you develop the business sense and management skills you will need to grow a business that helps fund your ministry.

Civil rights legend Meredith says he’s on a mission from God

Civil rights legend Meredith says he’s on a mission from God

In this June 27, 2018 photograph, civil rights movement figure and activist James Meredith, 85, discusses, at a Jackson, Miss., library, his latest plan to action, “a mission from God” that involves him visiting all 82 Mississippi counties and preaching about following the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


James Meredith is a civil rights legend who resists neatly defined narratives.

He integrated the University of Mississippi while braving mob violence in 1962 — yet he worked in the late 1980s for archconservative Sen. Jesse Helms, considered a foe by many in the civil rights movement.

Wounded by shotgun fire while marching for voting rights in 1966, Meredith also shuns the title of “civil rights icon,” as if civil rights are different from other rights.

Now, at 85, Meredith could rest assured of a place in history. But he says he’s on a new mission from God — to confront what he sees as society’s “breakdown of moral character” by encouraging people to live by the Ten Commandments.

He says black people must lead the way for Christians of all races to have spiritual healing.

“If the black Christians focus on teaching right, doing right, all other Christian religions would follow suit,” Meredith says. “Instead of religion healing the black-white race issue, the race issue is going to heal everything and correct all the rest of our problems.”

Meredith made the remarks during an interview with The Associated Press at a Jackson public library where he’s a frequent patron.


Courtesy of Ole Miss News


Wearing cool white slacks, a white shirt and a straw hat, Meredith was approached by an African-American woman with three young girls. She thanked him for making Mississippi a better place and introduced him to the children.

Meredith, a slender man with a white beard, asked her to speak up because he doesn’t hear as well as he used to. The children shyly shook his hand. They posed for a picture, and the youngest girl kissed him on the cheek as she left. Meredith smiled.

“I’ve been in the God business all my life,” Meredith says. “Ole Miss to me was nothing but a mission from God. The Meredith March Against Fear was my most important mission from God, until this one coming up right now: Raising the moral character up, and making people aware of their duty to follow God’s plan and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Meredith grew up in segregated Mississippi, served in the Air Force and sued to gain admission as the first black student at the state’s flagship university. Facing resistance from the governor and riots that led to two deaths, Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss in 1962, under federal court order and protected by U.S. marshals. He graduated with a political science degree.

In June 1966, Meredith set out to prove a black man could walk through Mississippi without fear, aiming to trek from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson. On the second day, a white man shot and wounded him. Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., arrived to continue the march.

Since the 1960s, Meredith has been in and out of the public eye. He’s been married and raised children and involved himself in Republican politics. He’s run a used car dealership and has spoken on college campuses.

Always independent, Meredith is an iconoclast who says things that can sound grating to people who otherwise see him favorably. For instance, he sharply criticizes a black mother who left her 6-year-old son in her car last year while she went into a Jackson grocery store at night; the car was stolen, the boy was killed and young black men were charged in the crime.

He also wades into the issue of police treatment of black people. He says people fail to discuss whether Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was stealing before he was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Georgia Cohran, an African-American resident of Jackson, was a child in Oxford in 1962. She remembers the fear when Meredith enrolled, and the sense of wonder that a black student was finally studying on the campus where many African-Americans, including her mother, worked as cooks. She has known Meredith for years and he has spoken at the church she attends.

“To really understand Mr. Meredith, I think you would have to look at him through brown eyes instead of blue eyes,” Cohran said. “In my opinion, he’s not very complicated. He’s just focused — a very intelligent, focused black man.”

For about two decades, Meredith has handed out photocopies of the Ten Commandments. He says he wants to form a lay religious order called a Bible Society and envisions people studying in small groups and holding each other accountable.

“You only have a good society when everybody’s business is everybody’s business,” he says.

Explaining his new mission, Meredith radiates calm confidence. An African-American man, about college age, has been studying at the next table in the library. The man closes his books and turns to listen. He clearly knows who Meredith is, and the young man is absorbing the older man’s words.

Later, as a reporter waves goodbye, Meredith raises a black power fist and lowers himself into his Honda Civic. The young man from the library walks over and taps on the car window. Meredith rolls it down and the young man smiles and shakes his hand.

The Biggest Risk Facing Young, Black, Christian Men

The Biggest Risk Facing Young, Black, Christian Men

Sincere and Sincerely Misguided Offers

When I enrolled in the Masters of Divinity program at a conservative evangelical seminary, I had no other aspirations than to earn a degree and obtain a ministry position suited to my skills and experience. I thought I would have three or four years once I started school to decide on a ministry placement. But from the moment I arrived on campus, I was assaulted with opportunities.

Numerous individuals and organizations have approached me, offering me church planting and pastoring opportunities all around the country. Well-meaning folks, many of whom are White ministers, are eager to get a biblically faithful, Black, Christian man into leadership and help them become more multi-ethnic and multicultural.

But these sincere offers are sincerely misguided. Most people present me with leadership positions having only just met me. They have no idea about my biblical qualifications, skills, or reputation. They simply see a Black guy with good theology, not a sinner whose call needs to be confirmed. As a result, the landscape is littered with the crushed hopes of churches and ministers who sent their men out too early.

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


DOCUMENTARY ON BLACK PREACHERS BY HISTORYCHANNEL.COM


Beware of Puffing Up

When churches find an African American man with leadership potential, they are understandably enthusiastic. While there are more of these men than we think, there are fewer than we need. But eagerness on the part of church leaders often tempts the young minister to arrogance.

The Bible warns us against puffing up a young minister’s pride. In explaining the qualifications for overseers,      Paul says, “He [the overseer] must not be a recent convert or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1  Timothy 3:6, ESV). The Bible teaches us that a man who is new to the faith must not be given a leadership role in the church too soon. Rather, a man must be tested to ensure that his faith is genuine and his spirituality is mature. Apart from an extended period of discernment, a young man or recent convert is in danger of believing in his own skills and promise instead of desperately clinging to his Savior.

Leaders and laymen alike must measure their comments. Do they affirm a man based on exceptional character or excellent aptitude or because of his color or cultural background? Are they giving him opportunities based on demonstrated diligence or his potential to “reach” a certain demographic?

Connect Young Adult African American Christians to Seasoned African American Christians

Even though God uses men of all races and ethnicities to disciple each other, young, Black, Christian men 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 Black Christian men who have been or are currently in the same position.

I have personally benefited from the wise counsel of my pastor, who is also African American and has been ministering for nearly 20 years. I also have several other “gray-heads” from around the country that I frequently call on for advice. These men are able to help me keep a humble perspective as I am inundated with offers for ministry. They have helped me maneuver away from positions that would have exploited me for my racial and cultural background, and have guided me into areas that will ensure my long-term stability in the ministry.

Such connections can facilitate accountability so young, Christian men may be empowered to resist the enticement to overconfidence and the threat of isolation. Current church leaders must do all they can—from paying for trips to conferences to allowing time for regular phone calls with a mentee—to encourage these relationships.

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 African American Christian leaders should own their own development.

Young men usually have no lack of ambition. We’ll jump at the slightest slice of opportunity. Thinking we have more wisdom than we actually possess often gets us into situations that prove harmful to ourselves and others.

But a young man must take ownership of his own preparation. He should know himself well enough—in light of Scripture—to determine his own spiritual readiness for ministry. Of course, these are conversations that must be had in conjunction with other experienced ministers, but no one else has the potential to know a man as well as he knows himself.

If the elders around him are pushing a young, Black Christian 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.

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 Black Christian ministers who succumb to depression, addiction, and burnout.

Jesus tells us, however, “I will build my church” (from Matthew 16:18, ESV). The work of expanding the church and preparing ministers in the church belongs to Christ. He is the one who shapes a man’s heart and calls him into the field. But Jesus gives humankind a part to play as well. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (from Luke 10:2, ESV). We are to pray that God would send us the men with the gifts, skills, and calling for ministry. This is not to say that we shouldn’t actively prepare men for God’s work. Christian leaders must entrust the Gospel to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (from 2 Timothy 2:2, ESV).

But the Good News is 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” (from Galatians 4:4–5, ESV). The incarnation of Jesus Christ testifies that God is thoroughly involved 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 young, African American, Christian ministers, yet rest in God’s timing for sending them out.