The African-American Church: Fulfilling the Great Commission

The African-American church certainly has done its part for missions. (Lightstock)

Note: This story originally appeared in the August 2008 issue of Charisma and on It is the fifth in a series of six.

When the Philistine army was facing the Israelites in battle and defying the name of their God, David rose up and said, "Was it not only a word?" (1 Sam. 17:29). He was asking, "Is there not a reason for us to fight these men?" Today the African-American church is faced with the same question—not with regard to fighting our enemies, but with regard to taking our place in global missions.

When the black church emerged formally in the 1700s, African-Americans were deeply involved in foreign missions. But as missions organizations began discriminating against black candidates and the needs of newly freed African-Americans strained churches' limited resources, the emphasis on global missions waned. Today we make up less than 1 percent of missionaries on the foreign field.

Those figures were higher before megachurches emerged, generating millions of dollars each year, and African-Americans gained broad access to educational and occupational opportunities that equipped us with knowledge that is desperately needed in the developing world.

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Two-thirds of the world is made up of people of color. If any ethnic group should feel compelled to free oppressed people, it should be those who are descendants of people who were once oppressed. In other words, free black people should be moved with compassion to free other people simply because we remember our history.

Although limited finances and domestic needs are still a barrier to foreign missions work, I believe the deeper problem is that many black churches don't recognize their responsibility to witness to the unreached.

As long as 27 million people in the world are enslaved, there is a cause. As long as 130 million children lack education, there is a cause. As long as 150 million people are homeless or displaced and 10 million children are sold into prostitution annually, there is a cause.

We must become distributors of kingdom wealth and technology. Studies show that some black churches spend more money on copy machines and choir robes than on foreign missions.

Annually three-fourths of kingdom resources is spent on the one-fourth of the world that is already evangelized. Meanwhile 34.3 million people die without hearing the gospel each year. We can no longer be accomplices to the tradition of improper distribution.

It is time to act. When I met recently with the Sudanese Council of Churches, the leaders asked: "Other delegations have come, but where is the African-American church? Do they have a plan for us?"

Missions isn't simply for those who feel called or for ministries with large budgets. Here's a 10-step plan that any church can implement to help evangelize the world:

1. Pray regularly for the nations.
2. Network with other mission strategists who are laboring in the field.
3. Adopt a missionary.
4. Establish a missions budget with each member committing to just $20 per month. This will not negatively affect the operational budget.
5. Plan an annual missions project.
6. Establish short-term missions for youth, adults and singles.
7. Include missions in the core vision of the church. It is, after all, part of fulfilling the Great Commission.
8. Invite a missionary to speak.
9. Host a missions conference.
10. Stop making excuses for not supporting missions and return to God's first agenda and priority for the church.

We can do it. The nations are waiting on us and God commanded us all to go!

Patricia Bailey-Jones is the founder of Master's Touch Ministries Global ( based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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