One question I consistently hear is, “Are we in the midst of a Reformed Black Movement?” I think what people are asking is whether we are seeing a broad-based, multi-pronged, ongoing shift of theological direction in African American communities.
This question is understandable when we consider the rise of Christian hip-hop, the proliferation of blogging sites like this one and the accessibility of Reformed teachings through technology. For more signs of a movement click here. And these are only the recent signs, which rest on the foundation laid by men like Carl Ellis, Jr. and others who have envisioned a Reformed Black Movement for decades.
It might be more accurate to say we have motion but not quite a movement. It seems that certain pieces have to be in place in order to have a true movement. In addition to all the existing efforts, a Reformed Black Movement needs three components: Solidarity, Strategic Vision and Synergy.
If you are Reformed and black, you are part of a small but growing group of believers who share much in common. In addition to holding similar theological convictions you share a history and culture with other Reformed African Americans. This is how the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) got started.
Some other African American seminary students and I visited a Reformed, multi-ethnic church in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the connection was instant. Although I had never met any of them before, it felt like a family reunion. We could talk about God and culture in a way that we all understood. RAAN developed as a way to continue that fellowship and dialogue.
Reformed-leaning ministries that serve African American communities have the same solidarity that I sensed that weekend in Chattanooga. We serve people with similar demographics, in similar cities and similar backgrounds. But for a movement to truly take hold we need to acknowledge not only one another’s existence, but affirm one another’s mission.
We can signal our solidarity as Reformed blacks in a variety of ways, but further down the road we may consider forming some sort of voluntary association. Several Reformed black leaders might compose a statement of faith to bond us together. Other groups (open to all ethnicities) with similar ideals could sign up to be identified with others in the affiliation. By heralding our partnership in the gospel we feel less isolated, and a Reformed Black Movement truly starts to feel like a movement.
2. Strategic Vision
As soon as a Christian says the word “strategy” the ghost of “professionalization” begins haunting the conversation. Pastors are not professionals and the church is not a business. This is true and must be affirmed. But sitting down to come up with a strategic vision can catalyze a Reformed Black Movement.
Notice the term “strategic vision” and not “strategic plan.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” A strategic plan will map out specific actions and methods for reaching desired outcomes. But a strategic vision is more flexible because it is less concerned about practices and more focused on outcomes.
A strategic vision requires leaders of the movement to come together and determine over-arching goals. We need to name the impact we desire to have. If we can articulate what we hope to accomplish, we have just taken an important step towards starting a movement.
A Reformed Black Movement must draw upon the resources of other similarly minded ministries. Once a strategic vision is composed, we can marshal our collective resources to make that vision a reality. For instance, if one of the goals of the Reformed Black Movement is planting churches (and I think it should be), churches, ministries and individuals should come alongside each other. Instead of individual churches attempting to tackle this monumental task alone, they can pool resources and plant more churches, in more places and impact more people for God’s glory.
Synergy encompasses more informal forms of support as well. Those in the Reformed Black Movement can work together by inviting church members or friends to attend conferences where they will meet and hear presentations from other brothers and sisters in the movement. We can also point each other to books and websites.
Most importantly, synergy must include prayer. We should know about other Reformed black churches and ministries and include them regularly in our personal and pastoral prayers.
God Will Glorify Himself
As Reformed black Christians in the 21st century, we have the privilege of seeing many components coalesce into what could be a movement. We could be nearing the day when thousands of our kinsmen according to the flesh receive God’s mercy and are called “beloved” (Rom. 9). In our lifetime, we may see scores of churches revitalized through biblical teaching and God-exalting worship. It could be in our age that God raises up a generation of African American missionaries who will cross the globe to proclaim Christ where he has not been named.
In all of our hopes and dreams for a Reformed Black Movement, remember that God will glorify himself. And through the sacrifice of his Son he says, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28). God doesn’t need our solidarity, strategy or synergy to bring about a Reformed Black Movement. He has already started a more important movement. It’s a movement that began before time when the Son submitted to the will of the Father and became a man and died for the sins of his people. We are indeed in the midst of a movement. It is God’s movement to bring sinners to salvation. May the Lord be pleased to include us in his grand plan.