3 Reasons Why Black Christians Don't Have a Deep Relationship with Christ
January 22, 2014By Tiffani Knowles

After years of observing the Christian community here in America, I've realized that there are fundamental issues with the expression of worship and the depth of faith among Black Christians.  I began theorizing in my twenties and have arrived at a few educated guesses.


Here are three reasons why Black Christians don’t have a deep relationship with Christ…


1.       Black Christians are Too Often Whipped into an Emotional Frenzy


While I love a good orator as much as the next guy, the overly-charismatic hype man of a preacher does more bad for our community than good. Notwithstanding, the late greats like Martin Luther King, Jr. who masterfully interwove theology and socially-conscious ideology with gifted wordplay and charismatic delivery, a large percentage of Black sermons leave the Black congregant “high” and “dry.” It moves the congregant to holler, to shout, to dance, and to – at its worst- disrupt an entire service with a praise break. This kind of “hype man” preaching is rarely coupled with in depth textual, topical or revelatory teaching of the Bible.


Preachers who toss out random Bible scriptures, meaningless rhetoric or use an organ to promote “good vibrations” within the Black parishioner are no better than a James Brown – who many may not know “borrowed” half his on-stage antics from the notorious hype man preachers in the Black church of his time. (Eg. Throwing a cape over the preacher, doing the shout dance, wiping the preacher’s brow) Rarely does the Black church boast teaching on problem-solving ala David Jeremiah, a study of Luke’s Gospel about who Jesus was ala Mark Driscoll or revelation about God’s kingdom and how we should live for it ala Peter Bonadie.



2.       Black Christians Too Often Seek the Hand of God, Not His Face nor Heart


Black Christians know how to pray and cry, cry and pray all too well. And isn’t that what praying is, one might ask? Well…..not exactly. It’s only part of it.


Praying out of a personal need. Praying for provision. Praying for power. Praying for supernatural anointing. That’s all well and good, but does it have to encompass 99% of the prayers we are taught to say in the Black community.


Dear Jesus,


I need you. I come to you because no one else understands. Please meet my need. Help me pay my rent. Give me strength to make it through another day. Get cousin Boo Boo out of jail. Bring me my raise this year. Heal me of high blood pressure.”




Now, God hears these prayers and he answers them. I’m not saying he won’t.


However, prayers like these are too common in our community.


They keep the Black person always at the edge of crisis. This does not sustain a person’s Christian life. It keeps you going back to the throne room, it keeps you yearning for more help, but it doesn’t sustain a real, vibrant walk with the Lord.


After a life-changing session of 48 Hours of Prayer at Kingdom Life Ministries International this past weekend, this is what Apostle Ben Ndobe of South Africa calls the prayer of an “outer court Christian.”


The outer court Christian – referring to the tabernacle of Biblical times - is always seeking something material. They seek divine healing while the inner court Christian lives in divine health. Ndobe relates the following two areas of scripture where the Children of Israel know God’s acts (Eg. pillar of cloud, parting of red Sea, manna from heaven, etc.) and the crowds following Jesus everywhere because of his great miracles (feeding the 5,000, healing the lame, etc).


Moses was the one who knew God’s ways. Similarly, it was only the 12 disciples who knew Jesus most intimately. The Israelites were so shallow in their relationship that they kept sinning. The New Testament folk were also fickle people who turned on Jesus and wanted him crucified.


Seeking God’s face and heart is not about a quick fix. It’s a richer, deeper relationship with our Creator that is characterized by time spent in prayer - worshipping him, asking for direction, seeking his will for your life, inquiring how your life can help him meet his needs on the earth and how you can relate better to his people and world. It’s also about learning to value what he values, then loving what he loves and hating what he hates. This is a higher level of the Christian walk, which causes your prayer life to move from the circumstantial to the overall agenda God has for your life.


To my chagrin, this kind of prayer life is taught more often in the White church setting.


Seeking God’s face and heart means you can now move comfortably in the most holy place – the place where only priests and prophets were allowed in Biblical times. In laymen’s terms, you receive more revelation, which builds greater understanding about your Creator, which builds stronger faith in him and his Ways. Thus, crisis, problems, sickness, and every other temporal circumstance will not shake your trust in Him. In short, you KNOW he’s got your back.



3.       Black Gospel Music Reinforces the Burdened Mentality


Good music flows abundantly out of the Black church. In fact, it is one of the highlights of any Black church service. A good toe-tapping, call and response chorus is characteristic of choral music in the Black church, evolving into its format of emotional lead vocals with excessive ornamentation and a steady wailing background chorus.


The problem is that the format is most often paired with lyrics that denote pain, sorrow, the burdens of life and an attempt to overcome by thinking of heaven. Actually, this is no fault of songwriters like Kirk Franklin (The Storm is Over Now, He’ll Take the Pain Away) or Rev. Timothy Wright (Jesus When Troubles Burden Me Down). They’re only taking their cue from the content found in Negro Spirituals as depicted in 12 Years a Slave.


Negro spirituals are a musical form that is indigenous and specific to the religious experience in the United States of Africans and their descendants. Some African-American religious singing at this time was referred to as a “moan” (or a “groan”). This type of singing was often mixed with humming and spontaneous melodic variation.


Still, to this day, Blacks in America continue to replicate the style and content found in music that evolved out of years of slavery and oppression, including a form of Christianity most times distorted by slave masters. Their teachings kept slaves hoping for a better afterlife instead of a good present life. Thus, the Black Christian may spend most of life heavenly bound and not cultivating a real relationship with the God of the Earth.


As beautiful of a rendition “Lord Don’t Move that Mountain” by Mahalia Jackson is, it is probably the best representation of music  that reinforces a burdened mentality in both form and content.


Conversely, the former oppressor – the White church in America -  instead boasts an entirely different subject of music. Songs are about victory, triumph, liberty in Christ, or a heartfelt passion that is almost reminiscent of a wild romance between the believer and his/her Creator.


Songs like Hillsong’s Alive, Kim Walker’s How He Loves, or International House of Prayer’s Misty Edwards’ Arms Wide Open are all examples.


While these three reasons may be just a few of the factors that are symptomatic of a shallow relationship with the Lord, sadly the Christian in the Black community is satisfied with where they stand with Christ.


However, now that we’ve recognized the symptoms. What are we going to do about it?


Tiffani Knowles serves NEWD Magazine as the Managing Editor. She is also a radio personality and station manager for NEWDradio. She is a fun-loving chick with a love for words and has an interest in cultural, social and media theory.



Visitor Comments (8)
Not Black or White but Community of God!!!
Posted By EVANGELIST on April 2, 2014
Commenting from a South African perspective; I am conscious of the social inequalities brought about by racial differences but as the CHURCH we need to portray a redemptive community which seeks to bring about the Kingdom of God to our present day realities.

The community of God isn't racially exclusive, economically exclusive or even gender exclusive.

"At the feet of the cross the ground is level" there is neither Jew or Gentile (Black church or White Church) Slave or free (The rich or the poor)....

The article is a great observation especially point one which is the main issue for me because Scripture informs how we do church, how we live as Christians and how we fellowship with God.

I just want us to realise that the issue isn't racial/cultural. There are many flaws in so called white churches for instance people can not come to terms with suffering in their worship music or prayer whereas the psalmist Asaph wrote a lot of "Negro Spirituals in his psalms"(Psalms 73-83) reflecting on His pain and seeking God's refuge in a times of injustice.

The issue will always be, about being Christians who are wholistically devoted to God in our daily living by "Taking (Church) to the streets" literally walking as Christ did as we are His body.

This can come about through faithful handling of Scriptures. The likes of Mark Driscoll emphasize on building Doctrinal foundations before you become a member of the Mars Hill community then faithfully preaches the text and not his own ideas this practice is called "epository preaching". There is a high view of scripture as the authority rather than man centred experiences which are secondary.

The Scriptures were written under the influence of the Holy Spirit and God breathed His life giving breath onto Scriptures as He did Adam in Genesis. Saints Scripture is living and active, sufficient for everything we do however small it may seem. Let us go back to being the Community of God devoted to Scriptures,Worship,Fellowship and Prayer (Acts 2:42).

We need a bottom line as the Church (Black,Yellow,White,Pink,Brown) doesn't matter.

The bottom line of the protestant reformers fighting against the papacy was:
Christ Alone
Faith Alone
Grace Alone
Scripture Alone
For the Glory of God Alone

What is our bottom line as the community of God?
The divisional Noise of Spirit and God
Posted By RAI MICHEAL on January 27, 2014
I believe there is a "Noise" that is creating division with in the black church.

In the silence you find God because God is not an outside source but an internal feed of creative emotions called Love. Hince God = Love or is Love. To know God as your created and self image is to Know thyself as God made in the image and likeness of God.
You are always tapped in to this feed. Never separated or severed. Jealous beings have created this "Noise" to seperate you from God-Source. This separation has created a larger disband of the church.

This noise has removed the teachings of "Christ" with in the church has created a separation than a unification. Because of this "Noise", the internalized judgement of each other turns into competition of song, shout and praise. Whither it is the preachers trying to out tithe each other or out entertain each other, a division has plagued the churches. Some pastors are failing their flock. Failing to aid the community and spiritual feed the community because of the "Noise".

Tithing seems like it has become a ticket sale to an event in some churches. The focus is not on the internal soul but the external rewards of being a part of a show. The loader the shout the more money an minster can make. While Jesus was alive the more you gave to others, the better your soul would be feed. Simple as that.

Jesus taught that you had choices, to serve your fellow man and that your talents are to uplift and empower and no matter who or whose you are, you are a child of a living source called God.

The manipulation of power and greed is falling on churches that seek to show out instead of showing up. Has the church service become the hypocrisy of the downtrodden believer?

To speak to the music most of the black race is still broken from post slavery conditioning which have been turned in to tradition. Calling upon the struggle will beget struggle. Calling upon heart-ache will beget heart-ache. Praising should be about the overcoming and the empowering call for our lives. Constant acknowledgement to the lIght in which we are created and aware of. To create like God will evoke the very things we call upon and spirit of that which you speak of is the source with in that is connected to greatest giver of all. Remove the "Noise" and know God for and as Self.
Three reasons why Black christian have a deep relationship with Christ
Posted By JACK on January 26, 2014
1. They channel their emotions as a driver for their belief - the bible says be fervent in the spirit, in prayer, in love etc
2. They seek God's hand constantly and diligently and God will reward you whether you seek his hand or his face as long as you seek him with all your heart.
3. Their sense of persecution and suffering moves them to seek God's deliverance.It is well known that persecution and hardship are the fire that purifies faith and drives God's people to him.

However these are not the primary foundations of the black church. There are many scripture based singers and worshippers - Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Israel Houghton, many powerful faith and victory based preachers e.g Creflo Dollar etc and many black philosophical preachers that completely undercut the above argument
an attempt to be provocative but simpley not true
Posted By JACK on January 26, 2014
The title of this article is too stereotypic and too racially loaded for comfort. it implies christians of other races have a deeper relationship with Christ. That is nonesense and outrageous. I am black. I like black music. I like black preachers. But I have attended all kinds of churches - black, white, asian, multicultural etc. In my experience (and I am sure a simple survey will back me up) I find this statement not too be true. Christ is the head of his church and in all races you find committed dedicated people just as you would also find flippant superficial ones. race is irrelevant.
Thought Provoking
Posted By UBONG on January 24, 2014
Excellent subject to draw the attention of Christian leaders.

However, dont loose sight of the fact that this 'black burden-filled' type of songs have influenced the way even the whites worship in contemporary times. Temperaments and dispositions of church leaders play a significant role in the way their congregations express themselves.

I find it really amusing to think that 'seeking God's hand, rather than face or heart' is typical of blacks...I do not agree with that philosophy. The human nature is naturally a selfish kind irrespective of race or ethnicity. Until one fully understands the essence of relating with God, the individual continues to use God for self interests.

more on this later.
Correct!!Very Correct!!!
Posted By TONYSGROUP@YAHOO.COM on January 24, 2014
....seek first the kingdom ....and ... other thing will be added to you math.6:33.But here the Black community are overwhelmed by our challenges that we seek "other things first" thus like the children of Israel we end up seeing his acts and not his ways.
Amen! Amen!
Posted By LYRICALLYME on January 23, 2014
I couldn't agree more. We need more teaching, to KNOW our savior and the fellowship of his suffering and the power of his resurrection and scriptural music. Just because it sounds good and some one does some runs doesn't mean it is based on the word or is something we should rehearse over and over. I appreciate Israel and Hillsong because their songs are based on scripture and filled with the grace of God. THANK YOU for putting this out there. It is time for the church to rise up and be intimate with the savior. Then we will be the church of the attractive church of the bible that lifts HIM up, drawing all men into HIM.
Very interesting...
Posted By HELENVD on January 23, 2014
This article really made me think. The Hispanic church is much like the African-American Church in these ways. I really liked your perspective.
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