The history of the Black Church is a long and strong one.  Starting in 1758 when John Wesley baptized his first Black convert. Black people have been faithful, committed, active members of the Methodist, and later United Methodist church.  Even faced with the challenges of slavery, the church split, Central Jurisdiction, Black people continued to remain faithful.  Faithful being could not be separated from faith doing.

God’s grace in the experience of Black people helps give perspective on the challenges Black people face within the faith community and the community at large.

Black people clearly believe that God restores, reconstruct, redeems, reconcile, revitalize, and renews all Christians within the faith community.

In spite of this strong history, over the last twenty years, Black membership within the United Methodist church has declined.  Yet, the Black population has increased. Within the same period of time (1972-1993), there had either been no new Black church starts or very few. Some of the existing churches were on the decline spiritually and physically. In many instances there had, just, been no intentional focus on the needs and concerns of the Black church and Black growth within conferences.

An initiative on Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century was developed and passed at the 1996 General Conference.

What is Congregation Vitality?

What is a vital congregation and what happens to cause some congregations to experience observable growth and others to stagnate or languish?

It is apparent that the nature of the ministry and level of effectiveness of leadership are critical in the development of vital congregations.

Vital Congregations:

    • >vary in size, with the leadership of informed, educated, creative, energetic, biblically, and theologically grounded pastors
    • >take seriously the full range of developmental, spiritual, social, and material needs of persons and groups of all ages and genders
    • >pay close attention to the gathered life in worship, singing, devotion, prayer, praise, and preaching
    • >emphasize bible study in small group contexts, using interpretive principles to promote understanding
    • >depend on effective planning, administration and evaluation
    • >tap into the deep, rich streams of spirituality in the heritage and life of Black people and informs, interprets, investigates and acts on needs, problems and issues.

 

What better gift to give to the church but vital Black congregations leading the way, training, mentoring, nurturing partner churches into vitality. Vital Black churches shall lead the way.

The Initiative

  • >to establish 25 Congregation Resource Centers
  • >to organize and train resource teams of lay and clergy
  • >to develop geographic and needs specific models
  • >to intentionally focus on the gifts and skills of the laity

 

Reflections

It is our hope that your congregation will be energized by the potential of this Initiative on Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.

Many conferences, districts and local churches are already in marvelous ministries with one another. We hope these ministries will continue in many forms.

We offer the resourcing of Congregation Resource Center teams, located across the five jurisdictions as another tool for revitalizing your congregation.

We own it. We built it. We love it, and we support it. We used it for the Underground Railroad, we used it for a schoolhouse.  We used it for mass meetings, we used it for a house of worship.  It’s been there to when “the storms of life were raging.” It’s been there when “I’ve been ‘buked and scorned.” It’s been there “marching till victory is won.” It’s been there when those now asleep stood on the banks of Jordan and crossed over into campground. …Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton

The Black Church will always be the solid ground that keeps us from sinking on other sands…
God bless each of you as we work together to strengthen the whole church for the betterment of the Kingdom.

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