(Excerpted from a resource booklet, Helping Nazarenes Reach the Black Male: Strategic Readiness to Reach the Black Male with the Gospel authored by Darryl Sims).
The future of the Black male is one of the great challenges facing America in the 21st century and beyond. The persistence of racism, unemployment, school failure, drugs, violence, imprisonment, and low church involvement are a few of the problems that Black men must face daily. If these problems are not dealt with by the faith community, no evangelical denomination can effectively present the claims of the Gospel.
Helping Nazarenes Reach the Black Male
Within the streets of the inner city on our American soil rest some of the most under used talents in the world. Our inner-city youth are full of promise and potential that the world will never get to see or experience. Our inner cities are full of young men who possess the innate talents and gifts that would stand up and stand next to many of our already existing professional ballplayers, musicians, lawyers, schoolteachers, doctors, preachers, electricians, carpenters, and CEO's. Within the inner cities of urban America rest and abide some of the greatest possibilities of "what could be or what could become" in the world.
Right now, in our inner cities the cure for cancer might be found in the confused mind of a crack head. The "would be" Mayor of the city in which you reside, could possibly be out in the streets planning the drive-by shooting of a rival gang member, right now. A young lady who God has foreordained to give birth to the next Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin E. Mays, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., Bill Cosby, Charles G. Adams, Oliver Phillips, Major Jemison or C.L. Franklin, will not be born because the man that is supposed to father her child will be killed in his early years by someone who had too much to drink. Within the concrete jungles of our inner cities, Black men are killing other Black men over street corners that don't belong to either of them. Within the inner cities of this place we call "the home of the free," our Black men are being arrested and detained for just being Black and living in America.
In the city, with all its finery, people are living beneath the poverty rate. In the city, with all the bright lights, people are living in utter darkness, not knowing who they are and whose they are.
In the city, many privileged people drive their cars to their beautiful corporate offices while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to unfortunate children, who are forced to attend decrepit schools and walk through metal detectors, like common criminals. In the city, while the rich have safe places to park their cars, while shopping, too many little Black boys and little Black girls don't have a safe place to play children's games. In the city, the parks that once nurtured the physical development of lively Black children are now being used for the peddling of drugs and the promotion of prostitution. In the city, groups of investors are eradicating neighborhoods by the droves and converting apartment buildings into condominiums for the expressed purpose of moving Black people out and White people in. In the city, there are young ladies losing their virginity, in the dark and nasty alleys in many of our communities because they have lost their sense of direction and purpose.
These sad and gruesome realities are the reasons we need to have the question raised, —"Can the Church of the Nazarene reach the Black male?" If there is to be grace in the city, we who have experienced grace must be willing to give and display it to others. If grace is going to be administered in the city, it will have to come from a group of people that understand how good it feels to have someone offer hope to them. If there is going to be any grace extended to the lost, it will come from someone who is and has been found. The grace will flow to the hurting, only from the one's that are healed, delivered, renewed and washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.
The grace will be given to the spiritually walking dead, only from those that have been spiritually born again. Those that do know God must tell those who don't know God, of God. Somebody must tell the sinner who is hungry, about the text that says "I've never seen the righteous forsaken nor its seed begging for bread." Somebody must tell the homeless, about a text that says, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you." Somebody must tell those that are ready to give up on life and God about a text that says, "Be not weary in well doing—in due season you shall reap if you faint not." Somebody must tell someone who's feeling lonely about the text that says, "God will never leave you nor forsake you." We who have experienced the mercy of God through the blood of His only begotten Son have a responsibility to tell everyone we can about the mercy and compassion of our God through the mercy and grace of Jesus. Let us be ever so mindful of this reality...if God had not offered us grace and/or compassion and saved us from our sins, we would all be headed south for eternal damnation. But our Lord looked beyond our faults and saw our needs. God, who is qualified to judge us all, displayed mercy and compassion, towards our shortcomings and mistakes. And God is still blotting out a lot of our transgressions, even today. God keeps on blessing us, anyhow.
In order for us as a universal denomination to effectively evangelize the African American male, she is going to have to allow herself to be stretched beyond her traditional comfort zone. She is going to have to move beyond the norm of her everyday understanding of God and really submit to the will of God in the context of unconditional love, while producing programs that address the needs of the Black male. She must also return to the biblical mandate to offer grace and compassion to all of the marginalized people within our society in general; but to the Black male, in particular. One could choose to argue this reality, but statistics clearly show us that the most underdeveloped population in this society is the African American male. One could choose to argue who's at fault for this underdevelopment of the Black male or one can choose to address the reality that it actually does exist. Scholars are in agreement that we must return to being about the Master's business, which is, displaying compassion toward one another and people in the margins, by telling them of His power and His might.
Luke, chapter seven, talks about Jesus entering a city called Nain. Upon entering the city, He displays compassion towards a widow who had lost her only begotten son, by putting His hands on the coffin, and stopping the funeral possession.
What are we doing with our hands?
What are we doing with our eyes?
What are we doing with the hearts of our congregations?
What are we doing to stop the spiritual death of so many Black males in the urban setting?
What lives are we affecting with effective and life changing ministries?
What situations in our communities are we addressing and getting dirty because of them?
We must be reminded of what we already know; Jesus was about the business of restoration and reconciliation. In this text, we see Jesus restoring a young man to his mother and a family to the community. In this text, we see Jesus first and foremost walking into a city. The first thing we must do to effectively evangelize the African American male is to walk in their neighborhoods and allow ourselves to look at life through their lenses. Why? Because when we look at life through their lenses we will be better equipped to assess their needs. When we're in a better position to assess their needs, we will then be able to design a ministry for the expressed purpose of addressing their unique situations. However, before we can make an assessment, we must first take a walk in their community. We must take a walk in the community of their existence. We must allow ourselves to spiritually walk in their pains, perspectives and problems. The text doesn't suggest that Jesus was concerned about her religious affiliation or her pedigree. He simply saw a widowed women weeping, and that was enough to move Him into a posture of pity and compassion. The text shows us that Jesus was willing to look at life through her lenses. Through her lenses she saw agony, grief, brokenness, despair, and desperation. Jesus was willing to deal with her reality. Her reality was that her only son was dead, and she didn't have a husband. Therefore, she was in a vulnerable position, her social position, her political position, and her economic position was fragile.
The church must assess the total situation of the Black male and meet him where he is, if the church is going to be successful in her evangelistic efforts.
It must address the rate and the cause of incarceration of Black men.
It must address the heath concerns of the Black male.
It must address the psychological needs of the Black male.
It must address the unemployment and underemployment rate of the Black male.
It must address the causes and results of the crime in the communities.
It must address the lack of adequate housing in the community.
It must address the teen pregnancy in the Black community.
It must address the police brutality in the Black community.
It must address the high rate and leading factors of school dropouts.
It must be prepared to address the illegal use and sale of drugs on the street and the legal use and administering of drugs by public school officials in the schools to the young Black male. Drug dependency in the public schools carries with it the potential for drug abuse in the streets. The church must address the issues that tear away the fiber of a stable community, and must be willing to commit resources to counter the systematic attack of a few people that benefit economically from the demise of many people.
It's not by accident that the jails are being privatized and are being traded on Wall Street. After we meet a person where they are — we can then bring them close to us —after we form a relationship with them we can help them go to another level in their being. By walking into the city, Jesus was able to assess that she was a widow, and that this was her only begotten son. To evangelize the Black male we have to get close enough to him to assess his needs and his pains. When Jesus stopped the funeral possession, He was displaying His authority.
To effectively evangelize the Black male, we must do it with a sense of authority over the forces that seek to dwarf and destroy the development of the Black male spiritual formation and growth. Just as Jesus interfered with the burial of that young man, the church of today must interfere with the senseless burials of too many young and strong Black men. The church of today must step up to the plate of opportunity by stepping out on the faith of possibility. She must be willing to openly challenge and physically confront the prevailing social order of the community. How? Jesus attacked the professionals that made a living off of the death of this young male, by touching the coffin and stopping the funeral procession.
The church of today must be willing to do the same thing. To effectively evangelize Black men, we must be willing to confront or at least teach Black men how to confront the institutions that seek to kill, steal, and destroy their potential, purpose, and productive possibilities in Christ and in life. Jesus teaches us in this text that to effectively evangelize, we must be ready and willing to move away from our traditional teachings/stances. He shows us that we must be willing to touch the individuals that society says are the "untouchables." He shows us that doctrine alone won't do it, denomination alone won't do it, and desire alone won't do it. We must have dedication, determination, and deviation from the norm in the forefront of your mission perspective. Stated differently, sometimes we must choose from what Darryl Sims refers to as "exact-ology" and theology. Exact-ology says this is how we feel it ought to be, therefore, it is. It says this is the way we interpret the meaning of this text, therefore, this interpretation must be correct. Exactology says that we are looking for people who will do it exactly like us, say it exactly like us, believe it exactly like us, disseminate information exactly like us, dress exactly like us, clap their hands exactly like us, praise God exactly like us, and live exactly like us. This is where the "cookie cutter mentality" rules. This is where very little room is left for the Holy Spirit to move in the direction that it prefers. Exact-ology is more of man's interpretation and less of God's inspiration.
On the other hand, theology shows us that God is not a respecter of person. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again — so that all men may have salvation. In the same chapter, Jesus heals a servant of a Centurion at the request of some elderly Jews. The Centurion displayed such great faith in Jesus, that the Bible records Jesus saying, "I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Authentic theology won't allow us a license to justify the exclusion of anyone. Theology, when allowed to exist freely from man's finitude, can allow us to embrace people of all nationalities and backgrounds. Jesus says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
We need to be intentional and unapologetic in our efforts to love unconditionally, forgive unconditionally, assist unconditionally, and accept people as who they are and as they are, while permitting God to do the convicting, converting, and chastising that may be needed. We would do well to keep in line with Paul's declaration, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:1-2). God has given us the power to make a difference in the lives of the marginalized and in the lives of one another other. We need not miss our divine opportunity to help usher in the kingdom of God by loving one another as we love ourselves. We need to allow our little light to shine in the midst of a dark and cruel world. We must always remember that we can do all things through Jesus who strengthen us.