Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in America, and the massive number of African-American converts—in prisons, colleges, and inner cities—is a key factor. There are more than 2 million black Muslims in the United States, and if current trends prevail, that figure will continue to swell.
Carl Ellis is president of Project Joseph, a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based ministry that equips the church with seminars and educational resources for reaching Muslims. Ellis is coauthor, with Larry Poston, of The Changing Face of Islam in America (Christian Publications). He recently spoke with CT's Edward Gilbreath.
You've written that the growth of Islam among African Americans is more a reflection of the church's weakness than of Islam's strength. What do you mean?
Everybody has issues that they are seeking answers to. If the church does not address specifically the issues that people are concerned about, and another group comes along and addresses those issues, no matter how bizarre the answers are, you'll find people taking a strong look at that other group.
Christianity has done a good job addressing personal and spiritual matters, but for too long the church stopped dealing with the area of cultural and social issues. For example, things like Afrocentrism and pan-Africanism, which was basically a vision for missionary outreach to the African Diaspora, were originally Christian concepts. But the church withdrew from those ideas and left them out there, and then the secularists and the Islamic groups came along and redefined them according to their views. The African-American church forgot its own history; we withdrew from a position of social and theological leadership and adopted the theology of the dominant culture, which tended ...