MILESTONE: Pentecostal church
A NUMBER of church denominations founded by Caribbeans in the UK during the 60s celebrated the all important 50th anniversary landmark this year.
Whilst it’s right to reflect and celebrate the achievements of the men and women who founded Britain’s black Pentecostal churches, and laid the foundations upon which African church leaders have built, it is also important to look to the future.
The rise of the mega-church (congregations with 1000 members or more) during the past 15 years has been one of the most exciting developments of the black church movement in recent times. But the sad thing is that few of these are Caribbean led. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there are churches experiencing growth, but why does one get the impression that Caribbean churches, who pioneered the black Pentecostal church movement here in the UK are being left behind?
Go to any African mega-church and it is very evident why they are successful. They are filled with young adults, embrace technology and couple the mediums of social networking, TV, radio and the web with aggressive marketing and interesting sermons to attract new members and share the gospel message in a relevant way.
Conversely, too many Caribbean churches are stuck in the dark ages, have failed to grasp the times they are living in and the changing attitudes to issues of faith within Britain’s African-Caribbean community.
The new generation of Caribbean ministers coming to the fore, or who have taken the helm of churches founded by during the 1950s and 60s should recognise there is much to be learnt from mega churches that attract large congregations in order to connect with potential members.
Those churches that have transformed themselves in order to attract younger people have done so successfully, but in the process alienated the older generation. Churches that make changes should do so with a view to retaining the prayerful and monetary support of older members as well as attracting new people.
It’s a fact that people don’t want to spend four hours in a church anymore, listening to dreary singers and long sermons that have no relevance to their lives or to those of their family or friends. The catchphrase for 21st century Christians is relevancy. People want to be part of congregations that make disciples of its members and that are relevant within the wider community.
It must be remembered that the spiritual heritage that played such a great role in the lives of the first generation of Caribbeans is slowly waning. Living in a secular society has effected black peoples’ attitudes to God and the church, with increasing numbers of people not seeing faith as an important component in their lives. Plus there are those who had a negative experience of church in their youth, and passed on that negativity to their children.
Living a life of faith with God at the helm is a wonderful thing. It encourages individuals to be better people, makes them conscientious, provides boundaries and gives them a desire to positively impact the world.
Relaying this aspect of Christianity is a challenge for the African-Caribbean community, but no doubt one that they can meet.