What Do You Love About the Black Church?
In their 2010 book, What We Love About the Black Church: Can We Get a Witness? white authors William H. Crouch Jr. and Joel C. Gregory tell their own deeply personal stories about how much the black church has enriched their lives.
Gregory is a professor of preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Texas. He talks about a painful separation from the large Texas church where he had been a pastor and his subsequent divorce. When he thought his ministry career was over, the late Rev. Dr. E.K. Bailey invited him to preach at his International Expository Preaching Conference. That not only led to more invitations from black preachers and a restoration of his ministry, but it also renewed his spirit.
Crouch is president of Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. He was on a quest to diversify the college he leads, and did so, in part, by by reviving historically black Bishop College on the Georgetown campus in memory of Rev. Dr. Bailey.
Throughout the book, Gregory and Crouch highlight the “blessings and wisdom” of the black church and black preachers respond. Here are a few of their observations.
Freedom of Expression
“Five years into my journey with black men and women of God, I have found a freedom of worship I have never before experienced. I have found a rhythm in the dancing words, swaying feet, raised hands, and singing preachers, and in an engaged and connected congregation praying and praising together. There is joy in the worship, unspeakable joy.” —Crouch, Jr.
“[Dr. Bailey] helped me to breathe. I did not dare believe his words of encouragement, but they held a glimmer of promise and possibility. Here was a black preacher holding out a life preserver to a white preacher who felt forgotten by his own faith community and abandoned by many he had known. Dr. Bailey became a healing balm.” —Gregory
The Power of Touch
“Black worshipping communities have long employed life-affirming touch in active resistance to the message of a dominant culture that has historically denigrated and abused black bodies. In the context of worship, black bodies become intruments of praise.” —Min. Leslie Bowling-Dyer
“Black preaching uses energy and spirit to take the Word of God and bring it to life in a way that changes lives. It demands that the hearer listen, think, and respond.” —Crouch, Jr.
“The relationship between the mentor and his or her protégé‚ usually does not stop when the associate accepts a pastorate or a position at another fellowship. It continues as a lifetime bond of confidence, counsel, contact, and camaraderie.” —Gregory
“For black church people, none are quite so precious to us as our elders. It is they who have weathered the storms of racism, bad education, and unjust judicial systems, and who prove daily by their presence that ‘God is good—all the time.’” —Rev. Dr. Susan Williams Smith
“The Jesus preached about in black churches is a holistic Jesus who cares about everything and makes the church the center. School systems, women’s shelters, AIDS awareness, housing, and drug rehabilitation belong in the same sentence with the resurrection, atonement, and new birth.” —Gregory
They also mention praise and respect, hospitality, gratitude, light and laughter, and first ladies of the church.
What do you think of their list?
Did they miss anything? And, what do you love best about the black church?