Pastor: Black Church History and Black History Are Inseparable
Editor’s Note: As a part of Black History Month, the Rev. Matthew M. Lubin Sr., pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, comments on a recent survey by the Barna Group about the relationship between Black Americans and the Black church, both historically and currently. Click here to read the entire survey.
By Rev. MATTHEW M. LUBIN SR.
The Black Church in America has been central to all aspects of the Black community in America. In my opinion, Black history and Black church history overlap enough to be virtually identical, meaning you cannot discuss Black history in America without discussing the Black church. In my 50 years of living, most of which have been connected to the Black church, the symbiotic nature of Black Americans and the Black church are inseparable.
Of the three findings released by Barna Group concerning the state of the Black church, I want to focus primarily on the third finding, “For Most Black Adults, a Church’s Focus Must Be Spiritual and Social.” In my opinion, this particular point influences, to some degree, the first two findings–(1) “Black Perception of Political Powerlessness Has Increased Over the Last 25 Years” and (2) “Two in Three Black Adults Say the Black Church Offers Comfort, Control”
In the study, a distinction is drawn between the “spiritual” and “social” aspects of the Black church. I contend that this premise is faulty, because from a theological perspective, the church is both a spiritual and social entity. Meaning, the “spiritual” mandate of the church necessitates social engagement. In my opinion, this includes addressing political issues that affect people, especially the poor and oppressed. Jesus Himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (New Living Translation, Luke 4:18-19).
Since Jesus’ ministry included ministering to the poor (a social ministry), ministering to captives (a social ministry), ministering to the oppressed (a social ministry), it would stand to reason that this would also be a part of the church’s ministry. Since Black people in America have experienced poverty, captivity and oppression on a scale that no other ethnicity in America has, the Black church has been more in tune with the spiritual nature of social ministry than other elements of the American church. As a result, I do believe that African-Americans feel the Black church represents the most effective way of addressing political ideologies that impact our community, and there is comfort in that space because it is a familiar space.
It is no surprise then that most Black adults recognize the focus of the Black church needing to be spiritual/social. I preach and teach the spiritual nature of social ministry in light of the Scripture; I was taught the relevance of social ministry in light of Scripture, and my peers advocate for social ministry in light of Scripture.
In Northumberland County, Virginia in 1867, a formal church separation petition was filed by thirty-eight Black members of the predominantly white Fairfield Baptist Church. Referring to the new political and social status of African- Americans, the petitioners said they wanted to “place ourselves where we could best promote our mutual good.” I think to a great degree, many African-Americans believe that the Black church still represents the place where we can best promote our mutual good spiritually and socially.
The Rev. Matthew M. Lubin Sr. is pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church