Chapter One: Churches~ A Crisis of Mission
Dr. Joseph L. Jones
Johnson C. Smith University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for LS 235
June 11th, 2010
Robert M. Franklin in his adoring and avid book Crisis in the Village presents in first-person advice and constructive criticism as he identifies issues within the African-American church. Black churches face a "mission crisis" as they struggle to serve their upwardly mobile and/or established middle class "paying customers" alongside the poorest of the poor. Dr. Franklin wrote this controversial book with great scholarship as a means to awakening the state of Black American; however the question of the missions of the black church have been discussed, debated, and denied by theologians for years.
Robert M. Franklin states that the purpose of his book is not simply to state facts, but to raise an urgent set of questions whose answers will put our feet in motion to solve the crisis. In chapter two “A Crisis of Mission” Franklin sets the stage for his readers for what the crisis is in the church. The Reverend Henry Lyons became the president of the largest denomination in the Untied States of America. Although the disgrace Lyons served a modest-sized congregation rather than a mega church, his drive for personal wealth accumulation as president of the National Baptist Convention symbolized a new threat to the integrity of black clergy culture. A serious student of any discipline would appreciate Dr. Franklin’s keen scholarship in his writings. Case in point is when Franklin shares with his readers what everyone should know about black churches. According to Franklin there are at least fifteen facts that we should know about the black church which are too exhausted to write in a paper of this format. Franklin in a brief synopsis of the aforementioned fifteen facts basically states that the black church traditionally has been the only real institution in the black neighborhood. The black church grew primarily out of the Africans experience on American soil. The early church for most blacks was nothing more than a place where one had an opportunity to express their emotions. The black church was the creation of a black people whose daily existence was an encounter with the overwhelming and brutalizing reality of white power. Therefore, the black church became home base for civil disobedience and revolution that has left an indelible impact on the pages of American history. Moving from the origins of the black church Franklin begins to discuss some of what he sees as opposition to the black church to what he calls the prosperity movement. Biblical scholar Michael Joseph Brown observes, “We live in a society that evaluates success on the basis of numbers. Many denominations and congregations have adopted a corporate mindset. I liken it to fast food industry where the numbers have adopted a corporate mindset. I liken it to the fast food industry where the number of patrons served is the measure of success. In more cynical moments, I expect to be driving down the street one day and pass a church sign that reads: ‘Over 2,000 Members Served.” Congregation sizes, income, number of services are possible by-products of ministerial excellence. They do not constitute excellence in themselves.”
After the discussion of the prosperity gospel movement Franklin continues with a heading Calling and Recommissioning Jesse. Older black pastors and pioneers of the black church should not be so critical on young clergyman. Young black preachers make mistakes and many of them need a Jesse Jackson to navigate them through the misery of ministry. One of the more interesting topics in chapter two is Resolving Gender Issues. Franklin eloquently says that it would be wonderful if black churches would use these years of a new century to embrace the presence of women in ministry....