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Are African-American clergy doing enough?

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Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 12:05 am

Has the African-American Christian church lost its influence? Has it become weaker? Do some pastors spend too much time hiding in their churches?

These are questions many people are asking, so it is time to examine and consider the power the black church and the black preacher have had on our lives and history.

I am writing about mostly African-American Protestant denominations, including the National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Progressive National Convention, the African American Episcopal Church, the African American Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God in Christ, and the United Church of Christ.

“The black church is the single most important institution in the black community,” writes theologian James Cone. “Beginning in the late 18th century and continuing to the present, it has been the oldest and most independent African-American organization.  Its importance is so great that some scholars say that the black church is the black community, with each having no identity apart from the other.”

My question is: are African-American clerics doing enough?

There are some black preachers on the battlefield daily, fighting for justice and freedom, administering to the masses and overseeing medical aid. But the numbers are too few. We know the few who concern themselves with these topics, but are the masses leaving the work to a dedicated few?  

Is your minister or cleric involved? Is he or she marching for liberating causes? Are they urging you to register to vote? Do they have food pantries?

Nearly every black preacher in America had comments and opinions and even preached sermons regarding the death of Trayvon Martin. But are they addressing a culture of violence or the phenomenon of sagging pants and disrespect to our elders and women? Are they attending and asking their congregations to attend school board meetings? Are they addressing issues concerning black student transfers?

Major media outlets have identified the black church as monolithic and told the world that the symbols of leadership of the black community were the likes of Sweet Daddy Grace, Rev. Ike, Prophet Jones, Father Divine and Mother Divine. 

The late Rev. James Bevel – an adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the “children’s crusade” in Birmingham and one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – was once a frequent visitor to St. Louis. He referred to Sweet Daddy Grace, Rev. Ike, Prophet Jones, Father Divine and Mother Divine as “religious entertainers.”

He suggested also that black preachers of today who preach on Sunday and are invisible the rest of the week are also religious entertainers. They are seen and outspoken mainly at conventions, and only to promote their anniversaries and gospel programs at their own houses of worship.

The African-American church has always focused on the message of equality and hopes for a better future. Sermons and lectures by African-American preachers have persistently inspired, educated and excited their congregations through slavery, Jim Crow and the various transformations of racism. That must continue. Today’s ministers must be strong and continue to lead respectfully and provide the leadership that is essential for a community to survive and flourish.  

The preachers from their pulpits must address AIDS/HIV, teenage pregnancy, sagging pants, murder, education and politics. These are the African roots and the principles of black preaching.

Is your pastor ministering? Is he or she involved? Are YOU involved? We all know the clerics who are activists, and we know those who are invisible. It is time for action, not entertainment. 

Please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday night at 10 p.m. and Friday Morning at 9 a.m. and Sunday evenings at 5:30 p.m. on KNLC-TV Ch. 24. Follow me on Twitter: @berhay and view my blog  at I can be reached by fax at (314) 837-3369 or e-mail at:

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • jc1212 posted at 10:24 am on Sat, Sep 19, 2015.

    jc1212 Posts: 1

    Unfortunately the black church today is weak and very corrupt. most preachers use the church as a get rich scam, sponging off their members.

  • ogel posted at 8:39 am on Fri, Oct 18, 2013.

    ogel Posts: 570

    The well respected Mr. Hayes, again, has written a superb article that goes to the heart of a very important subject, the Black church. He is absolutely correct that throughout history, the Black church has served as the powerhouse for a suffering people by providing inspiration, motivation, and overall leadership to aid and assist them in coping with real life circumstances. The success of the great civil rights movement has been attributed to the strength and participation of the Black church.

    Mr. Hayes makes a critical observation and raises some critical questions:

    "He suggested also that black preachers of today who preach on Sunday and are invisible the rest of the week are also religious entertainers. They are seen and outspoken mainly at conventions, and only to promote their anniversaries and gospel programs at their own houses of worship."

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exemplifies the kind of Pastor Mr. Hayes refers to. Dr. King was not only active in the pulpit, but referred to himself as a drum major of justice. He never restricted himself only to the pulpit. His "light" permeated darkness wherever it existed.

  • Allif posted at 10:05 pm on Thu, Oct 17, 2013.

    Allif Posts: 20

    You missed the point Mad Man. My response was regarding the writer's subject matter which was Christian Pastors; not disciples such as yourself. A pastors responsibility is to nurture and groom more people like you who help the world by demonstrating the love of God. I Thank God for your good works and I too strive to do the same each day. May God Bless and Keep you

  • Mad Man posted at 1:28 pm on Thu, Oct 17, 2013.

    Mad Man Posts: 279

    While Mr. Dove is entitled to his opinion anit does not in my opinion jive with the world we live in today. Nor does it to me, a Catholic, offer God's teachings. God sought for us to act and behave as Christians. This includes much more than food and walking around repeating verses from the Bible. I am not a practicing Catholic because at times I feel distant from the church. I seek priests who can relate the teachings of Jesus to MY everyday life....making me a better person. The other day I helped a woman who had locked her keys in her car get the car unlocked. I felt blessed all day. Helped someone and asked for nothing in return. Allif exists in a world far removed from the trials and tribulations we all face and seek the guidance of God. We could discuss this forever. Chow!

  • Allif posted at 6:27 pm on Mon, Oct 14, 2013.

    Allif Posts: 20

    Letter to the Editor


    FYI is an acronym meaning For Your Information. And while it may sound mysterious to some and cool to others it is nevertheless designed to alert you that very important and useful information is about to be shared. So today, I want to FYI anyone who does not know what a Pastor of a Christian congregation is commissioned by God to do.

    A Christian Pastor is first a Disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ. This leader has a heart after God and is ordained to feed the flock of God. This leader’s primary purpose is not to entertain, but to exposit the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Christian Pastor’s effort should provide an atmosphere for the growth and development of their congregation by assisting them in attaining, sustaining and maintaining a Godly lifestyle.

    While public advocacy is not out of the question for the Christian Pastor, it is by no means a primary concern. If Pastors follow God, teach and preach the Word, and pray for their flock, then they will support the growth of well trained Christians who will be dispatched into society for public service in areas such as business, education, social work, politics and government. Thus God’s Pastors prepare His children by helping them build their relationship with God and preparing them to go into the world to let their light shine.

    This FYI is especially sent to anyone who may have read Mr. Bernie Hayes’ article in the St. Louis American last week. The article gave information about what he felt our Pastors should be doing. Clearly his assertions are not supported by the Bible. For Your Information., each Christians Pastor’s greatest advocacy should be at home feeding flock of God they have been assigned to.

    Allif H. Dove