What I Learned From the Black Church Part 1

UWhen I was 21 I heard the story of Jesus and his gospel from a co-worker. Prior to this, my only exposure to the person of Jesus had come from Christmas nativity scenes and South Park episodes. My heart was captured by the story of the gospel, and I soon became a follower of Jesus. Largely because the only Christians I knew at this time were all black, I spent the next three years of my life attending predominantly black churches wherever I lived. By "predominantly black churches" I mean they were just "black churches" until my white behind sat in the pew. As I now leave the multi-ethnic church I've pastored for the past 9 years and prepare to move into a new country and culture in Mexico, I've been thinking a lot about the many things I learned from the Black Church. This blog series covers a few of them. 

Lesson 1: Theological Truths Have Emotional Consequences

One of the lessons I am most grateful for today is that theological truths have emotional consequences. The Black Church taught me that theology enters through the head but affects the whole body. 

@@The Black Church taught me that theology enters through the head but affects the whole body@@

From the very first time I stepped in church I saw that thinking about Jesus leads to physical expressions of emotion such as hand-clapping, foot-stomping, or dancing. Hearing the preacher proclaim the message of the gospel might provoke vocal expressions of emotion such as shouting, "amen," "yes, Lord," or "hallelujah!" At any point during the service, the congregation might interrupt the program with weeping, wailing, or an exclamation of "thank you, Jesus!" 

Initially this made me uncomfortable, as I was inexperienced with allowing my emotions to be displayed in public. Yet as I grew in my understanding of the Bible my resistance was quickly overcome. I still felt like a "white boy" as I did these things, but I could not help myself. How could I be reminded of what it cost God to save me and not be moved emotionally? How could I sing about the excellencies of the Lord and not express my joy with my whole body? How could I hear the glories of the gospel proclaimed for 45 minutes and keep silent the whole time? 

I couldn't. 

And I still can't. 

@@How could I hear the glories of the gospel proclaimed for 45 minutes and keep silent the whole time?@@

I now have the privilege of preaching in and worshiping in all sorts of churches who respond to God in all sorts of ways. I love experiencing the diversity of Jesus' Body and the many different forms worship takes. Yet I still can't help but feel exceedingly uncomfortable when I find myself in a church where there is no visible or audible expression of emotion throughout the service. I am not saying it is wrong or even inappropriate for people to worship in this way, as it may be the culturally and personally appropriate way to worship for many. I am only saying that, to me, it feels painfully incomplete. The Black Church taught me that theological truths have emotional consequences, and I am grateful when I am in a context where I can let them come out.

@@The Black Church taught me that theological truths have emotional consequences@@

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Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook