Are black men missing from the church today?
At least one man thinks so. So much so that he is working to build as much support as possible to “bring black men back to the church.”
The National Black Church Initiative, which markets itself as a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches, plans to kick-off its seven year “bring the black men back to the church” initiative in September.
Rev. Anthony Evans, president of NBCI said the initiative is part of NBCI’s Healing Family Initiative which seeks to bolster African-American families against the tide of violence, poverty, moral depravity and failure.
“Given the serious issues facing African-American men, including rising levels of incarceration, drug use and unwed fatherhood — we can no longer stand by while our men openly defy God’s word,” he said.
Evans believes if something is not done now, in the next 10 years “our churches and communities will be non-existent.”
“There is something missing from the heart of the black church – the presence of our black brothers,” Evans said. “The sisters have all the power and will have to stand down to create a balance. There will be some push and pull in the congregations, but this is a sacrifice that we all will have to make. You cannot have a church where women are in lead of every ministry.”
However, there are some that are not so convinced there is a problem.
Rev. Dr. Charles E. Collins, Jr., an associate minister at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Duluth, GA believes the main question to be asked is, “Who says Black men aren’t in church?”
Collins believes it would be foolish to think black men are missing from the church.
“Actually, according to the population and where black men are the percentage is probably very appropriate,” he said. “We hear they are locked up or on the streets. I would say…black Men are in church at the rate they always have been, and ….very much in the roles they have been.”
The NBCI uses a Pew Forum 2007 survey and the findings of the Barna Research Group to support their argument. According to the Pew Forum survey and the findings, people of black ethnicity were most likely to be part of a formal religion, with 85 percent being Christians. And according to the Barna Research Group, a Christian research firm based in Ventura, Calif., more than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian. But only 2 out of 6 attend church on any given Sunday.
This means that in America, 60 percent of church attendees are women. However, these surveys do not distinguish between African-American men and women, or men and women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Do these statistics assist in proving Evans’ point?
It is true, said Collins, that women are the general population holders, which in turn making women the greater percentage of the church population.
“But black men are still there constantly creating, gaining, and coveting new titles, new positions, new roles, and new garments; and holding on to them for dear life,” he said.
Dr. Dennis W. Wiley, co-pastor of the Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, DC agrees.
“There has always been this reality that there are more black women in the church than there is black men,” Wiley said. “But from what I can see, black men are not missing from the church. I would push back on that.”
There should be a focus on the constituency that’s lacking, that’s incarcerated, and that’s drifting on the corners somewhere, Collins said. However, helping people develop their religious identity more while in the church is “what we are called to do,” he said.
Wiley said that is what they are trying to do in his church.
“There is a new generation that does not know much about the church and never heard about the church,” he said, adding that in order for the church to attract anyone “the black church has some very serious challenges that it needs to confront.”
According to the NBCI, their focus is to open “our doors, arms and hearts to understand the complex sociological and psychological factors that prohibit African American men from being consistent churchgoers, better fathers, less abusive spouses and better members of society.”
Instead of asking questions like, “Where are the black men,” Collins said the focus needs to be adjusted on what draws folk in order to understand why they are present or understand where they are.
“Those are the answers that we seek,” he said. “And that’s what we should want to know more about so we can figure out what people need and how we can best service them…or I should say how the Body of Christ can best serve them.”