“A Change is Gonna’ (has to) Come” – introducing a reorientation of mission in the Black church

April 23, 2015

Derrick rodgers

By Derrick D. Rogers Special to the Milwaukee Times Part one of a two part series There is a genuine sense that here in Milwaukee and elsewhere across this country, a dramatic change in world view has been taking place for probably the past 50 years. Whatever we may call it, this shift from a modern to post-modern world generally has been difficult for the church to accept. We find ourselves lost in a perplexing global jungle where our well used Christian theological GPS systems don’t seem to be operable anymore It seems we’ve awakened to find ourselves in contact with a strange and unexpected reality that defies our customary ways of dealing with issues of the church and its mission. All of this amounts to what I would refer to as an ecclesiastical (“church”) future shock, where we are left wandering in a society and world we really don’t recognize anymore. In the struggle to grasp our new reality, many of our most anointed and gifted ministers and church leaders have become painfully aware that their inherited concepts, language, and indeed their whole way of thinking is often inadequate to describe what is going on around us. The problems raised in such a situation are not merely intellectual, but together amount to an intense spiritual, emotional, and existential crisis. The truth is that the 21st century is turning out to be a highly complex phenomenon where neo-liberalism, globalization, technological innovation, and discontinuous change confront us at every point. Worldwide hunger, poverty, economic crisis, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and terrorist threats are monumental concerns. Every day we are corralled into a repressively demonic system that provides us the slick illusion of freedom but all the while scoffs at free will, stymies our creative and revolutionary capacities, and leaves us little room to authentically carve out our own paths. This systemic construct is designed to strip the “faithful” of our inclination to empathize and cooperate, siphon our communal spirit, stifle our capacity to imagine a better world, and make us accept the necessity to trample one another to “get ahead.” In terms of the black community, there is perpetual specter of racial, cultural, and economic oppression, violence, and class warfare that diminishes our opportunities for collective empowerment and self-determination. In the face of all of this, even the most confident among us would have to admit that the “black” church as we know it faces a significant adaptive challenge. An overwhelming majority of black community church leaders today report that it is becoming far more difficult for their communities to negotiate the increasing complexities in which they find themselves. As a result, the church is on a massive, long trended decline in America. In this situation we must ask ourselves probing questions: “Will more of the same do the trick? Can we simply rework the very same modes and understanding of church and finally, in an ultimate tweak of the system, come up with a winning formula?” Rev. Derrick D. Rogers is Pastor of Compassion Ministries of Milwaukee and Director of The XodusED Group.