Creating a church culture that reaches African-American men
We must create a new culture within the church. This culture must attract black men without compromising God's standards and must provide a "safe haven" where these men can express themselves as they learn about God's plan for them and their families.
Jesus did not become like the world to save it, but He did speak in terms the world could understand. Here are some practical ways the church can begin to do that for African-American men.
Be masculine. Typically, our churches are perfectly designed to give us exactly what we have—pews full of women. Many offer little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and unappealing. I am not saying that feminine things have no place in the church. But we need to balance feminine qualities with masculine ones. Each of our feminine activities and motifs should have a masculine counterpart.
Be approachable. Approachability needs to be a leadership-team effort that will reach more people and produce more leaders. When people see that the leaders are humble and welcoming, they will learn to follow their example
Be relevant. Consider Jesus: "He selected twelve of them to be his regular companions" (Mark 3:14, NLT). These were regular men, and yet Jesus invited them not just to follow Him, or to serve Him, but to share His life. They were pretty messed up when they started out and yet they were comfortable in His group. Jesus welcomed sinners and disciples in various stages of growth. We need to do the same.
Be exciting. Excitement can mean feeling cheerful joy (see Acts 8:8). Shouldn't we experience that in church? Church should awaken curiosity. We need to be open to the Lord's ways of adding entertainment, excitement and intrigue to our gatherings.
Be authentic. Christians who are real, transparent and truthful will draw even the most hardened sinners. Believers who can be honest about their past will be able to guide and encourage those who are struggling now. People need to not only understand how great it is to live as a Christian but to learn about the journey that got them to where they are.
Be modest. Modesty used to be considered part of Christian character; you were not supposed to show off what you had. At times it was taken to the extreme, and being spiritual meant being broke. This was completely counter-productive; pastors cannot lead effectively if they are in a constant state of need. Christians need to strike a balance by making wise financial choices and exercising restraint with their purchases.
Be considerate. I grew up with church services that lasted several hours and I understand that those kinds of traditions can be very hard to break. However, if we are going to reach men in particular, we must be more considerate of their time.
I also recognize the value of wearing your "Sunday best" to show honor to God. But we must make sure that our effort to honor God does not discourage others from getting to know Him. If you don't have time to build a relationship with someone to lovingly help him with his attire, you certainly don't have time to criticize
Be courageous. Release your men for creative ministry! I have seen tremendous growth in my congregation as I have allowed the men to step out in their areas of gifting, passion and expertise. My ministry is only successful if it is being reproduced in others.
MICHAEL A. STEVENS is the founder of University City Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a superintendant of the Church of God in Christ.