Delving into the history of Black churches
Edward J. Robinson’s newest book, “Hard-Fighting Soldiers: A History of…
As Black History Month concludes, we take a moment and pay homage to the most recent crop of evangelists who have made their transition from this earthly life to the spiritual realm.
We refer to beloved Black preachers such as Franklin Florence, Eugene Lawton, Richard Rose and Dallas Walker Jr.
Their names and their commitment and dedication to boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ all across the United States inspired generations and merit honor and respect.
The ever-changing rush of breaking news and social media, along with the divided political climate and culture wars, can leave us distracted and cause us to lose focus on the central practices of Christianity.
Related: Delving into the history of Black churches
Stories in The Christian Chronicle and elsewhere have documented the decline in membership within Churches of Christ. Yet a 2021 article by the Barna Group, an evangelical research firm, noted, “Whatever cracks there are in Christian identity in the U.S. at large and within the Black community … Black adults remain — by far — the racial demographic most rooted in church and scripture.”
Read that again.
Black American Christians. Descendants of African slaves with limited knowledge of their ancestral roots. People who have faced racial inequities and struggles as citizens of this country. This demographic “by far” most firmly maintains hope in Jesus Christ and holds fast to God’s promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Black American Christians. Brothers and sisters well acquainted with the meaning of the lyric, “Trouble don’t last always.” They recognize heaven is on the other side.
As together we navigate the latest crossroads in Christian history, what can we learn from the giants of faith who have gone before us? How can we bridge the gap between the old school and the new school?
1. Continue to share the Gospel. Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ is easier, not harder.
With social media platforms readily available on phones, tablets and computers, Christians can send and receive messages of God’s love with a single click.
Let’s use technology to our advantage.
Related: Nashville Christian Institute’s final reunion pays tribute to Fred Gray
2. Gain knowledge of church history. We are reminded that Black history is American history. The same truth prevails in church history.
Often, members of the Lord’s church, regardless of race and ethnicity, are only familiar with contemporary leaders, unaware of the trailblazers who paved the way for us.
Carve out time to learn about Marshall Keeble and his “boy preachers,” including professor and preacher Dwayne Winrow and civil rights icon Fred Gray, who are among the living legends of this distinguished group.
Read about the humble beginnings of the Nashville Christian Institute and Southwestern Christian College, a historically Black college. Get familiar with names such as Jack Evans Sr., G.P. Holt and R.C. Wells, to name a few. If we don’t know our history, we don’t know where we’re going.
3. Maintain sound doctrine. A common thread among giants is that they held fast to the doctrine of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
They stood out from the rest of the world. Their example should still inspire us today. Times have changed, but Churches of Christ should always strive to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3).
As we continue our pilgrimage upon this earth, may we carry the lessons of our spiritual forebears close to our hearts.
May we, like them, continue to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. May their example inspire our own legacy. — Trindi G. Mitchell, for the Editorial Board
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