Thursday, June 01, 2006

Time for a New Vision of African-American Pastoral Ministry?

The University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture launched a new program for emerging African-American leaders called "The Passing the Mantle Clergy and Lay Leadership Institute." The program matches 30 up and coming African-American leaders with Civil Rights-era pastors nearing retirement. Through a combination of classroom training and structured mentoring sessions, the aim is to train these new leaders in three areas: community organizing, economic development, and church leadership strategies.

Community organizing, economic development, and church leadership strategies.... What about faithful preaching of the word of God, disciple-making and missions, biblical counseling, training faithful men who will teach others, and shepherding the flock of God?

Since the Abolitionist Movement, and definitely since the Civil Rights era, the pastor as community leader has dominated African-American ideas about pastoral ministry and leadership. And consequently, the gospel has in far too many churches and for far too many pastors and leaders taken a back seat to... well, community organizing, economic development, political campaigning, and "church leadership strategies" that look a lot like pseudo-corporate business practices.

Is it time African American pastors re-think the predominant Civil Rights model and philosophy that governs so many churches and leaders? What does it profit a pastor to gain the whole world and lose his and his congregation's souls?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While it is admirable of the University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture to advocate leadership in the African-American community, I share your concern of their choice in preparing the clergy in this role as opposed to other community leaders. However, it is obvious that the clergy (e.g. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson) have traditionally taken the political and otherwise in the African American community.

Although it is also obvious by the rise in ranks of AA politicians (Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama), that clergy do not bear the brunt of the community's political responsibility, the clergy remains the center of AA communities on a whole. The AA community and the clergy share a unique relationship that lends itself to the clergy holding leadership position in many aspects of the community.

In the final analysis, perhaps it is the responsibility of the clergy to refine their role as a biblical scholar and teacher that can bridge the gap between the AA community and it's political leaders instead of seeking to hold that position of leadership themselves.