African American churches

Gospel Hospitality: A Foundational Pillar for Unifying Clergy and Laity as a Collaborative Community

Pamela Rivera
The ongoing categorizing of African Methodist Episcopal churches by membership size and budget has promoted an unconscious practice of succession leadership. This injurious practice ends up impeding the participation of lower-tier churches and hinders the building of authentic Christ-like relationships. This project intends to introduce gospel hospitality as a spiritual value that invites all clergy and lay leaders to the table of relationships as equal advocates. The researcher used constructive narrative theology to collect and interpret the data that was generated through the project. The data concluded, ‘Gospel Hospitality is a Foundational Pillar for Unifying Clergy and Laity as A Collaborative Community.’

The first step of the transformation journey : an in depth look at the role of the pastor as he leads an African-American congregation through change

Howard C Earle
The African-American church has been one of the many storied institutions that has played significant a role in shaping American culture. However, the African-American church and American culture exist in a reciprocal relationship; changes in American culture have impacted the African-American church in numerous ways. In order to maintain its relevance, the African-American church must undergo transformation. Working from the hypothesis, "The pastor as theologian can lead an historic, urban congregation through a journey of transformation from being a congregation of commuters lacking significant presence in its surrounding community to one that is more responsive to the needs of the community and maintains a felt, empowering presence," l initiated a five-step discovery process. This process becomes the first step in the transformation journey. The process consists of: a series of sermons, ethnographic interviews with a sample of the congregation, a tour of the surrounding community, a panel discussion with community leaders, and a network mapping exercise.

An Exploration of African American Pastors Use of Spiritual Disciplines to Combat Spiritual Burnout

Herman L. Baxter Sr. D.Min.
Leading in ministry can be a challenging job. The struggle to fulfill a divine calling while being human leaves no rest for the weary. African American pastor is no exception. These spiritual leaders often experience spiritual dryness – stress, and burnout - due to excessive demands that may lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. Days run into nights and, as they say in Broadway, “the show must go on” for most pastors every week. Many weary pastors combat spiritual dryness – fatigue, burnout, depression, and more – longing for more “peace that surpasses all understanding.” It is no wonder that some pastors do not remain in the ministry after five years. Trying to minister in this state is not ideal, yet many pastors remain resilient.

Throughout the history of the Christian church, practicing spiritual disciplines have been a means to spiritual renewal. However, across the United States, these practices to combat spiritual dryness are done a little differently in predominately African American led churches.

This study will gather qualitative research through in-depth interviews to discover how seven selected African American senior pastors combat spiritual dryness. The interview questions noted circumstances for times of spiritual dryness, the pastors’ experiences through spiritual dryness, and the process to combat spiritual dryness. This understanding helped these African American pastors overcome spiritual dryness. Interview responses will produce common themes and confirm three significant elements to combating spiritual dryness. First, the participants will identify different spiritual discipline practices for other times of spiritual dryness. Next, they will concur that upholding a robust biblical discipline is needed to prepare for times of spiritual burnout. Finally, participants will verify that a healthy dependence on God is required to maintain spiritual wellness. This project concludes with the participants’ suggestions for how newly assigned Christian leaders can most effectively combat spiritual dryness.

African American millennials : silent observers waiting for the prodigal church to come home

Daniel E. Moore
"To say the relevance of the black church is in question is an understatement. The black church was once the social, cultural, and political sanctuary of the black community. Today, in many ways, the black church has distanced herself from the norms and mores of the African American struggle. Her agenda is disconnected. Her programs are irrelevant. Her social engagement is faint and distant. Her influence in the community is extraneous. As a result, black millennials, who represent the largest cohort of African Americans alive today, have waned in their attendance and commitment due to theological and ideological dissonance. Research regarding black Millennial beliefs and behaviors reveal that they have not rejected their faith in God, but they no longer see the church's relevance amid the challenges of everyday life. The resurgence of the Black Church depends on her willingness to engage black millennials by transforming herself into a culture that is loving, accepting, and embracing of the gifts, talents, and diverse nuances of the black millennial generation." -- Leaf [2].

A call to action : identifying and actualizing the social justice voice of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park

Rachel McPhail Boyd
"The voice of the black church sounds the clarion call for community uplift by nurturing personal piety and fighting for communal liberation. This project is a framework for the design, implementation, and evaluation of a Social Justice Ministry (SJM) in the black church. The study utilizes a review of church literature, ethnographic interviews, pre-intervention survey, communications, community forums, training, and preaching to develop a social justice ministry. This study offers an approach to SJM composition and leadership that engages the voices of church and community to inform the work of, ignite energy regarding, and invite activism to eradicate injustice." -- Leaf [2].

Developing and implementing a public office ministry to grow a beloved community in Willingboro, New Jersey

Carlos Sanchez Worthy
As policies and decisions of elected and appointed officials within
governmental structures continue to negatively impact the lives of people for generations, it is important for disciples of Christ to actively engage with a theology that focuses on reforming these structures to serve as a conduit of God’s love, justice, and peace. As governmental, elected and appointed, officials at all levels fulfill their responsibilities through developing and passing policies, these documents serve as the moral thermometer that determine the well-being of a community in the present and for the future. This research examines how a local missional church developed and sustained a ministry of serving in public office with moral integrity that equipped missional leaders to participate in God’s mission through the redemption and restoration of their township into a beloved community.

Prophetic Preaching to Inspire Embodied Discipleship Beyond the Walls of the Building

Jon Robinson D.Min.
Over the past few decades, the focus of the black church in America has shifted from a communal pursuit of justice and liberation for marginalized people, toward a personal pursuit of piety and prosperity. This project, Prophetic Preaching to Inspire Embodied Discipleship Beyond the Walls of the Building, offers a theo-political discipleship model that seeks to reclaim and reimagine Jesus’ first century call to discipleship. Through prophetic preaching and a practical application of womanist ethics of personal and communal thriving, pastors and parishioners can embody a liberative, justice-oriented discipleship praxis that advances human flourishing beyond the walls of our buildings.

Cultivating Healthy Marriages: The Juxtaposition of Preaching and Pastoral Care in a Retreat Setting

Naomi Annetta Mitchell D.Min.
This project focuses on the role of the delivery of pastoral care during the preaching moment as a means of cultivating, facilitating, and strengthening healthy marriages in the context of the Black church. The benefits of combining pastoral care, sermon preparation, and preaching in a retreat setting to several married couples are explored. Designed to help couples develop healthy relationship skills and competencies, the sermons provide biblical references, theological information, and practical tools of pastoral counselors. I show through contextual practice how couples learn skills and receive tools to assist them with cultivating a healthy marriage. I believe this type of pastoral care preaching is an essential homiletical practice to facilitate healthy marriages.


James L. Betner D.Min.
Nothing stays the same. This inevitability of change and transition should prompt
every active lead pastor to understand that the place you stand in today may in fact be the
place another stands in tomorrow. To be fully cognizant of that reality aids in the pastor’s
ability to be able to see beyond the present and to begin thinking about and perhaps even
preparing for the unavoidable future of the present ministry. Pastoral enmeshment and the
improper views of competition in ministry must be countered with a clear understanding
of the pastor as a steward who is called to build the Lord’s kingdom, not a personal one.
Succession planning, then, must include a theology of leadership development and a clear
understanding of what a healthy pastorate looks like. There must be a mutual synergy of
pastor and people who can appreciate yesterday and today and yet still anticipate with
greater affection the possibility of tomorrow. This work identifies biblical models for
succession and offers practical methods to prepare the pastor and people for eventual
Without attention to succession planning, a church and its pastor succumbs to
being reactive at best, and negligent at worst, by waiting for a crisis to unfold as a result
of inevitable changes in leadership. However, when a proper perspective of succession is
developed for the church and the pastor, it adds stability to the mission of the church and
frees the pastor to willingly give it away at the right time.
At the core of this project is the process of the development of a succession plan
for the Delaware Valley Baptist Church of Willingboro, NJ in particular, and succession
in the Protestant congregational church in general.

A Multiple Case Study: Participative Decision-Making in Four Black Indiana Churches

Michael S. Johnson D.Min.
This research study looked at factors in participative decision-making that would balance congregational polity and pastoral authority. A multiple-case study was conducted with four Black Baptist churches in central Indiana. Fifteen participants were interviewed across cases and organizational documents were analyzed. Four themes emerged from the study. They included effectiveness, unified involvement, decision parameters, and trusted leadership. Effectiveness related to support for a decision. Unified Involvement was about members’ sense of belonging. Parameters involved areas where certain groups had discretion in decision-making. Lastly, trusted leadership pertained to the calling of a pastor and the confidence members placed in that calling.
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