Black conservatives come in many sizes, shapes, and party affiliations. The next two years are a perfect time for wise conservatives to build bridges with the leaders of the “new black church”. These church leaders are classical social conservatives. They believe that government programs alone cannot stop crime, poverty, or poor schools. The new black church is not waiting for a handout. They are promoting immediate change through wiser, biblically-informed choices and personal accountability.
They are using a new brand of black power to transform the nation. These men and women all believe that they can change America because of their faith in personal transformation (through religious conversion) and community transformation (through education and economic development). White conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, must learn new methods to advance their agenda; if they are going to protect America against a liberal deluge of poor policies and laws. The chief instrument in their tool kit will be bridge building and coalition formation.
Last week I was interviewed on a national religious program with three leaders of black super-mega churches. These men represent the new black church --- power, passion, and promise. Their churches were all in excess of 14,000 members with the largest church having over 24,000 members. Each one has implemented a successful local plan that has transformed their respective communities. These church models can be replicated to help transform America.
The pastors were Dr. Floyd Flake of New York, Pastor James Meeks of Chicago, and Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta. These men represent a “civil rights” revolution that is very compatible with the tenants of the conservative movement. Let me take a moment to introduce these pioneers and a few of their concepts to you.
Dr. Flake served 11 years as a U.S. Congressman from New York. During his years of service, he never forgot that he was called to serve his community’s needs. He never let partisan party rhetoric obscure his vision of a faith-based approach to transforming his community. On many important issues he stood with Republicans to the chagrin of his Democratic party members. Over the years he and his church helped to build 600 homes in Queens, New York. This area is now one of America’s most affluent neighborhoods, instead of the ghetto it was in the 1980’s. Today, he is the President of Wilberforce University in addition to his responsibilities as Senior Pastor of Allen Temple Church.
Pastor James Meeks of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago talked on the program about taking 300 hundred church members to a drug-infested neighborhood and singling out one crack house to pray over. These bold spiritual warriors stood on the street and stretched their hands out and prayed that the crack house would close and the leader would be converted. A few years later, a man came up to Pastor Meeks at a church service and identified himself as the owner of the former crack house. He had been converted and is a member the church Bishop Eddie Long pastors, one of America’s top five churches in terms of size. Bishop Long has encouraged business development among his members, home ownership, and trained people to be good stewards of their personal income and their families. I visited his church a few months ago for an in-house men’s ministry event. To my surprise his “men’s fellowship” had about 3,000 men sitting in the sanctuary on a Saturday morning listening to messages designed to strengthen their roles as fathers and husbands.
These kinds of churches can change the landscape of American politics and help both parties come back to the moral center. For more information about these ministries, check out their websites.
These outstanding church leaders are not alone in the positive contribution they are making to the nation. There are thousands of black-led churches with millions of members who want to make dramatic improvements is our nation. They have rejected the rhetoric of Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, but they do not yet feel welcomed into the conservative movement’s ranks. The images which David Kuo sets forth in Tempting Faith articulate their fears. Despite all the nay-sayers, bold black, entrepreneurial leaders are willing to give new coalitions a try.
The Steele campaign for the U.S. Senate is proof positive that these church leaders can be reached by an attractive candidate. His candidacy also showed that key black pastors have no problem standing against Democratic Party norms on clearly articulated moral policy issues. At the height of the campaign, pastors of 19,000, 11,000, and 5,000 member churches personally endorsed Michael Steele. In addition, these same leaders took to the air waves in a get-out-the-vote campaign that put their faces and voices on TV and radio in our region.
If you would like to encourage your minister to become involved or you would like to read more about these kinds of dynamic churches, I will send a free book, postage-paid, to the first 100 people that e-mail or call our offices to request “High Impact African American Churches” co-authored by myself and Dr. George Barna.
Let’s seize this moment to make new friends, form new alliances, and change America.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.