Did we Come this Far by Faith--or is Bling the King?
Let's just say this is the second time this year I have been floored by the an answer I wasn't expecting. She didn't get my dismay over what I saw was a lack of committment to the history of activism in the black church. As a matter of fact, she told me that in all her years (and she is a bit older than me), she has never attended a church that gave a hoot about what was going on outside the wall of the church--in the community.
I have grown up in the exact opposite world. Working to alleviate poverty and to help people gain both spiritual and socio-economic betterment has been part and parcel of every church I have ever been a member--including my childhood home. All done, of course, to bring more folk into the Kingdom.
These days it seems its more about keeping up with the "Dollars and Olsteens" of the world, thanworking to do good through Christian fellowship. Screw the neighborhood.
And the church I visited was the epitome of church looking to reach Mega status by looking out only for its parishioners. Screw the neighborhood.
Even though this church is located on what looks to be a relatively new "mini-campus" on top of a hill across from several acres of boarded up former multi-family/public housing units, it has decided to unapologetically move out to the county to create a 21 acre campus, like these folks.
The church has been in Baltimore for more than 100 years, yet it has decided to build a 14 acre campus out in the the County (aka the Baltimore) suburbs.Instead of trying to impact the current community in which it resides, it instead sat on hill making sure you knew it was special staring down on delapidation carving out the backyards of many owner-occupied homes.
During announcements not one mention of outreach, not one ministry was listed as doing anything outside the walls of the church. And of course the offering was all about the capital campaign for the church building fund.
Do you feel me yet?
Don't get my wrong, I have no issue with church growth or expansion. I wax time and time again about how non-profits need to run with economic sufficiency and business like strategies--and churches should too. Churches need parishioners to survive. Managing a big church is a big job and the Pastor has the right to be compensated for it (how much and how lavish---that is another debate)They need enthusiastic membership to move its agenda forward. But what I do have a problem with is this seemingly continuous migration away from the black church working to help the communities in which is located not only spiritually but in the alleviation of poverty and the physical and socio-economic betterment of not only its parishioner but its neighbors. Of course, with the ultimate goal of converting more souls. I have a HUGE problem with this "if you ain't mega, you ain't wit' it" sort of business. I think you can be relevant, successful, growing AND progressive. There has to be a delicate balance between growing and doing what is morally right for the community in which you are located and the resources you take from that community.
Perhaps that means you don't grow to 20,000 members as fast as you would like. Perhaps, you forgo the fancy newest dais for Pastor and instead build a community center, donate a bunch of books to your local library, or sponsor an all-day bible camp. Don't know. But I know I definetely don't think that things like adding a bookstore, movie theatre, christian nightclub, etc should be your primary focus. This ain't Disney. Or did we forget?
Too many black churches have been propping up the ego maniacal dreams of the Pastor than the needs of their own communities. No wonder some them have last names like Dollar and Price.
Maybe my visit was God's way of reminding me about that the church I did chose is that right one for me--because the woman sitting next to me informed my that my church divested from her church about 20 years ago.