I recently preached on Sunday morning for a dear friend of mine as he celebrated his anniversary as pastor of his church in Cincinnati Ohio. I have known this pastor for a number of years, and have spoken to his men’s group prior to the invitation for Sunday morning. It is important to understand this is not my first go around in the African American church, my best friend for over 20 years pastors a African American church here in Cincinnati, and I have spoken in at least a half dozen African American churches over the past 20 years.
Growing up in the Fundamental Baptist movement of the 70’s was a God send when comes to crossing over to the African American church. The fiery preaching of the Pulpiteer’s of yesteryears in the white church are all but gone. They have been replaced by the teaching pastors, the encourager, and sermonette. One of the great pastors I remember as a young preacher was A.V. Henderson he used to tell us in college … “Get up, speak up, sit down, and let God do the rest”. My pastor Dr. Don Lougheed at the Flint Baptist Temple, used to say “I don’t care where you start in scripture, always run for the Cross!”
Watching a African American church service on T.V. or listening to one on the radio, will not prepare you for the personal experience of being introduced, reading your text, and beginning a dialogue with the group of people that are so excited you showed up to preach. I have preached in dozens of white churches, from independent Baptist, Southern Baptist, Church of God, Methodist, and yes Assemblies of God and have never felt the excitement of people wanting to hear what I had to say. This is the experience that I have when I am invited to preach in African-American churches.
Four things that you must come to understand as you prepare, preach, and provide an opportunity for the folks at the African American church you preach in to worship with you.
1) You must lose any racial stereo type you may have, until you preach in a African American church you haven’t experienced anything yet. Not all African American churches are alike just like not all white churches are alike. However, my experience the African American church is more excitable and interactive with the speaker.
2) Always be yourself they can identify the fake a mile away.
3) Always preach the scripture, African American churches are not about the short sermonette, or the simple teaching, they are about the word of God from cover to cover.
4) Always be ready to show up, and show out as they say in the African American church. Remember you are their guest. Don’t change their style of worship, part of the fun preaching in the African American church is the Deacons on the front row shouting “preach brother preach, tell me like it is, and keep going God is anointing you.”
Over the years I have read a number of books on preaching, watched a number of preaches on television, attended a thousands of church services and revivals. Every pastor, evangelist, and Bible teacher has their own unique personality and style. In the African American church you will be challenged to take your personality and preaching the next level. As you feel that compassion and excitement as you preach. I pray that every pastor, evangelist and Bible teacher would have the same opportunities that I have and continue to have to speak in African American churches. It is the most humbling, exciting, refreshing, challenging, and rewarding time all wrapped up in 45 to 60 minutes you will ever have.
I should point out here a very important component of preaching in the African American church, and it is summed up in one word relationship, I’m convinced the reason that I have so much freedom, fun, and excitement in the African American churches I preach in is I have a relationship or a better word is friendship with the pastor. Sunday morning remains the most racially divided time in America and we need to change that, by building relationships and friendships that will allow us to have the freedom to cross over into churches of various cultures and make an impact for Christ.
I want to thank the many friends I have in the African American community that have allowed me over the years to show up, and show out. I have never been disappointed in seeing God move as I have preached the uncompromised word of God in their churches.