Mega Churches & Bishops: Is History Repeating Itself?

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African American Baptist Church, Silver Hill Plantation, Georgetown County, South Carolina

One would think that the Mega Church Saga was groundbreaking and new. As the fashion industry teaches us, new trends can many times be connected to that of yesterday! This article will reveal the strking resemblence of the History of the Black Church and Pastors vs. today’s Mega Churches and as one would now call Bishops.

The History of the Black Church  dates back to the last part of the 1700s. Only a few significant denominations existed for blacks prior to the Civil War largley due to the fact that congregations existed as part of a standard denomination that met seperately. Through research, it appears that black church folk have been fighting amongst themselves since the black church existence in the 1700’s.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, for example, grew out of the segregated ST. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia in 1793. Richard Allen led the withdrawn group to form themselves as a separate Methodist denomination the same year. In New York, members withdrew from the Johnstown Methodist Church to form the Zion Church in 1801. In 1821 blacks formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church. english homework help forum buy essays a level classical civilisation coursework writing service zovirax need prescription trust operations specialist resume customer service associate job description resume examples of the effective use of compare and contrast essays essay editing service forum art homework help thesis outline introduction tern paper follow url buy a paper for college essay in friendship go to link enter site viagra uso recreativo order generic viagra buy viagra 50mg online service learning essay example essay writing service forum lancia thesis engine cradle nurse case study template best article review ghostwriters website for university source Worship:

While the North allowed Blacks to worship seperately, the South was not trying to hear any of that. In the South, whites usually refused to allow blacks to meet separately. In some areas blacks couldn’t even assemble for worship. In areas where blacks did worship, they worshiped with whites. Many times churches in the South would build a balcony and blacks climbed a ladder to access it from outside.

Black churches expressed themselves emotionally and fervently and black theology tended to be simple but was preached hot and straight. The preachers emphasized sin and salvation by grace and used a dramatic style with tremendous use of a “sing song” delivery. (known today as the “hoop”)

Thru the years black churches faced some serious shortcomings. William Warren Sweet, a historian of the 1930s, said that there was more amusement than worship in black churches. He also noted lax moral conduct existing in black churches of the period. Furthermore, he argued, black churches often became political stepping-stones for aspiring black leadership. Some of the best known contemporary black leaders of all political persuasions thrust themselves into the limelight after ministries: Jesse Jackson, Adam Clayton Powell and Martin Luther King Jr. to name three. These three, in particular, represented liberal and social thinking rather than conservative and evangelical.

Black churches offered hotbeds of cultism as well. it is reported that some of this resulted from the movement of blacks to urban centers. Like whites, they too found themselves far removed from their rural roots. Ira Reid, writing in 1927, gave an analysis of black cult leaders of his day in his book, Let us Prey. In recent history, other black cult leaders emerged: Father Divine, who referred to himself as “God incarnate”; Sweet Daddy Grace, who once said he was mightier than God. Grace maintained that if you sinned against God, grace can forgive you; but if you sin against Grace, God can’t forgive you! Reverend Ike, who graduated from Manhattan Christian College, represents an early form of the “health and wealth” gospel. Ike maintained God wants his people rich! His lifestyle demonstrated it, too. Another cult leader is, believe it or not, Brother Leroy Jenkins of Ohio who formed The Church of What’s Happening Now. Comedian Flip Wilson often parodied Jenkins in a skit.

The growth of the Black Church

Most black denominations began after the Civil War. By 1860, about 11%, or 500,000, of America’s 4,400,000 blacks belonged to churches.

Most American blacks joined some sort of Baptist church. Black Baptists, however, worshiped with their white brethren for many years before forming their own congregations. Virginia blacks established a separate black Baptist church by 1867. This group became the National Baptist Convention in the U.S.A., Inc. Black conventions began multiplying rapidly after that. Americans soon hear of the National Baptist Convention, a Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A. It seems Baptists are always Baptists. All black Baptist organizations contain about 90% of American blacks claiming Christianity.

A missionary named William Colley, an African-American appointed to serve in West Africa by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1875, issued a call for black Baptists to meet in Montgomery, Ala., for the purpose of organizing a national convention to do extensive missionary work.

Along with foreign missions, home missions and education, one of the early goals was for black Baptists to publish literature written by their own ministers. The American Baptist Publishing House refused in 1890 to publish writings of black ministers because of resistance from Southern clients. The National Baptist Publication Board came into existence in 1896 and opened a publishing house in Nashville, Tenn. The convention suffered its first major rift in 1897, when the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention broke away over differences about mission strategy and working more closely with whites.

A dispute over ownership and operation of the National Baptist Publishing House prompted a second split in 1915, with formation of the National Baptist Convention of America.

During the Civil Rights Movement, younger ministers including Martin Luther King, Jr., pushed the National Baptist Convention to take a more proactive position for social justice. The older generation preferred the more gradual approach to civil-rights advances. That prompted a third major split, formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, in 1961.

The PNBC has followed a path of political activism, supporting groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and methods such as affirmative action. Famous civil rights leaders who were members of the PNBC include Dr. Martin Luther King, Benjamin Mays, Ralph David Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker, and Gardner C. Taylor. The Convention bills the progressive concept as “fellowship, progress, and peace.”

Many black religious leaders focused on social issues. For many years the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led the struggle for black civil rights and social change. Their “Christian” work focused more on a political agenda than evangelism and the biblical Gospel. Of course the 1950s and 1960s saw much social unrest because of civil rights legislation and the effort to end segregation. During that period many blacks concluded the white Christian community was unredeemable. Malcolm X and other black protest leaders abandoned Christianity for Islam thinking it better suited to meeting their social goals.

Today:  The Church Lady’s Take on the Black Church

A lot has changed in the black church with regard to climbing a ladder to reach the balcony of a church, We’ve come a long way baby.  Not only do we  have “mega churches”, elaborately laid out on several acres of land where we can freely enter, choose theatre style seats equipped with large screens to view the pastor, panoramic style! and many mega churches now have mini-churches  like McDonald’s theres one in or coming to your neighborhood!

What hasn’t changed is that church folk are still fighting and walking away to start their own churches, which could answer the question of  why we see a city church on every street corner in major metropolitan areas. I will say that we  are doing a better job of  justifying our actions for splitting churches now,  we are more politically correct and saying  “The Lord spoke to my heart and told me to move” or “The Lord is directing me to plant a church.” Instead of having knock down drag out fights and going to court (well I take that back, we still  taking the church or the pastor to court every five minutes)

The worship style, however in the black church basically remains the same, the preacher is still very charismatic, the music is often playing alongside him as he comes to the “celebration” portion of his three-point sermon and the “WORD”  is often times simple and basic. And, yes, Creflo, Eddie Long and other prosperity preachers aren’t doing a new thing, as research has shown, they just following in the foot steps of Daddy Grace, Rev. Ike and others who came before them.

There are two areas in the history of the Black Church that is not evolving or even remaining relevant:  Black Church leadership from the pulpit  and church denomination leadership.

Church denominations are becoming defunct as membership declines, in fact, we Baptist don’t even go to annual convention anymore,  instead we go to TD Jakes Conferences. Seriously, I can’t blame a Saint,  who would want to go to the National Baptist Convention when  Henry Lyons former president of The National Baptist Convention was plagued by scandal in 1997 when he was caught with a mistress and served nearly five years in prison after his conviction on state racketeering and grand-theft charges and pleading guilty to federal tax-evasion charges in 1999. Then, in September, 2009,  attempted to regain his reign as president of the convention only to be defeated over whelmingly by Alabama Pastor, Julius Scruggs. Really, Henry, REALLY, you need to go somewhere and sit down!

And somebody please tell a Church Lady, how in the world did we go from such great leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, to Rev. Al Sharpton?  I love you Mr. President and will lose my religion if somebody talks about you to my face,  but, there are greater minds to bring to the table along with Rev. Al Sharpton.

No offense Rev. Al, love you dearly.

And that’s all I have to say on that!

This concludes The Church Lady’s Take on The History of the Black Church,  thank you for following  this timeline with me. Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. Until next time,

Be Blessed Chile!


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