Engage Church
Engaging God, People, and Culture

For The Culture

The Quest for a Black Church

I’m a southern girl that grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal church and later switched to Baptist.

If you know anything about the organizational structure of either then you can understand the term “black church” is indeed a real thing.

There is call and response, a correct way to introduce what church you are visiting from and acknowledge your home pastor, a place for important people to sit and an appropriate way for you to address them. 

There is absolutely no eating or drinking in church unless you are a minister, taking communion and/or receiving candy in a dusty zip lock bag from a deaconess.  There were to be no casual clothing, your hair must be freshly done and Sunday of all days should be the day that you put in the most effort to look your best.

For everything there is a place.

And for every place there is a system.

And everything is done decent and in order.

Naturally, this structure encouraged me to believe that these ideals were required to worship the Lord correctly.  I understood that there would be a little room for deviation, but expected structures to lend themselves to the overarching structure of “how things were done.” 

It was not just how we worshipped.

It was worship.

Then life happened.

And I found myself in search of a church home.

At least that’s what I told myself I was in search of. 

I visited a slew of churches in search for a place to call home and in that process stumbled upon alien territory that wasn’t doing anything in the manner in which I was accustomed.  

Engage.

Engage was the furthest thing from a black church that had I ever seen in my life. 

Surely these people owned a pair of heels and knew not to wear jeans to church.

Surely they had coffee machines at home and didn’t have need to perk it at church.

And surely they understood that their praise and worship team should be followed by a choir in coordinating colors.

I quickly came to the conclusion that this church was probably not the place for me. 

There were no formal women known under the name of “mothers” that would tell me when I am doing wrong.  There was no turning to my neighbor to repeat the last tag line given by the preacher.  And something was drastically wrong with people not having to walk down the aisle and profess Christ as their savior.

But then the Lord convicted me stronger than He has ever before.

“Are you looking for a black church? 

Or are you looking for me?”

Um hummm, ya girl was shooketh!

I realized I had to stop looking for just black church and I had to start looking for God

A worshiper in jeans and Doc Martins is no less in love with God than one in a three piece dress suit (with the matching hat of course).

Engage has allowed me to be free in a way that I’ve never felt before. 

I can erase the pressure of being “in my Sunday’s best” and just make it to church and lift my hands after a long week of life beating me down. 

I can have my hair pulled back in a ponytail because I couldn’t bare to put any more effort into my image before coming to church will not disqualify me from being greeted with a smile and comforting hug. 

And, thank God, that drinking a cup of coffee does not immediately warrant my dismissal from receiving the abundance of grace Christ so generously offers.

Church is not where people who look like you are.

I’ll state it even more plain….church is not where black people are.

I am the church.

We are the church.

The structure (physically and organizationally) is not.

Philippians 2:20 tells us that we should seek to be one spirit amongst likeminded individuals.

Likeminded people to God are not just black people.

That thought is far too small for God.

Like-minded people are a body of believers, ready and willing to be on fire for God living their whole lives to serve and bring him glory.

If you’re looking for black church, you won’t find that at Engage.

But if you’re looking for a little piece of Heaven, people from all backgrounds and groups coming together to praise our savior, then you are absolutely in the right place. 

-Jasmyn Pollock

 

Ashley Ervin