The black church has long stood as a pillar in the black community in the United States. For centuries, it has served as the theological, political, and social center of black life in America. But there are growing concerns from within about its present health and future prospects. As debates rage about an enduring legacy of racism in the United States and Christians’ response, Thabiti Anyabwile, who pastors a church in a black community in southeast Washington, D.C., has written a heartfelt plea for spiritual renewal in Reviving the Black Church: A Call to Reclaim a Sacred Institution (B&H Books). John C. Richards Jr., founding editor of Urban Faith magazine and author of The Tenacity of Hope, spoke with Anyabwile about why he celebrates—and critiques—the institution that has nurtured him over so many years.
What motivates you to write about the black church?
I want to see all churches become as healthy and vigorous as possible–especially African American churches. The Lord has given me something of Paul’s longing for his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3, ESV). I want to see African Americans brought into God’s kingdom in as great a number as possible. For that to happen, the churches that serve African American communities have to be alive.
There’s a pitched battle for the soul of the black church, and the visions for her future are not compatible. As far as I’m concerned, the only sure way to revival is making the Word of God the very heartbeat of the church. If the Word is central to all we think and do, revival becomes more likely. But if we use substitutes for God’s Word—however well intended—our churches will continue ...1