The Black Church’s Role in School Reform
E ducation is the civil rights issue of our time. President Obama rightfully made this assertion in 2011, but local leaders — specifically in black-American communities — have faced this harsh reality for decades.
While strong public schools have played major roles in transforming neighborhoods and spurring local economies, African-American communities have been continuously plagued with poor-performing schools that fail our children.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Education paint a vivid, yet sobering picture of the state of education in these communities. Almost 85 percent of African-American fourth-graders and nearly 90 percent of eighth-graders in our public schools are not proficient in reading or math.
We are too great a nation not to provide a high-quality education for every child, especially those in our most vulnerable communities. As bipartisan support for meaningful education reforms to eliminate these ills continues to build momentum and expand, it is vital that the role of the faith community also increases.
Our historic and powerful constituency provided key leadership during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. During these tumultuous times, pastors provided leadership from the pulpit, becoming a catalyst for eradicating injustice and inequality across society. Given the state of public education in our country, black America needs that same orchestrated guidance to overcome this generation’s education crisis.
With this in mind, faith leaders from across the country convened in Atlanta on Sept. 21, 2012, for the National Faith Leaders Education Policy Summit. This single-day event, hosted by Stand Up for Great Schools and StudentsFirst, engaged and mobilized more than 130 faith leaders across 35 states around the education crisis that our children face.
In this endeavor, Stand Up and StudentsFirst partnered with Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and other denominations to coordinate this timely discussion. In addition to the faith community, CNN education contributor Steve Perry, Shirley Ford of Parent Revolution and Howard Fuller of Black Alliance for Educational Options also attended the summit as keynote speakers and panelists.
This landmark event was momentous for the education-reform movement. More than 100 influential members of a concerned faith community were transformed into activists, unified to push for change and encourage their congregations to follow suit.
The authors of this editorial are in full agreement: The black church has the power to be a beacon for the education revolution and a driving force in urging meaningful education reforms. If we truly believe that education is the civil rights issue of our time, we must step up to the plate and demand justice. In order to ensure that our children receive the high-quality education they deserve, it is critical that parents are empowered with the necessary tools to demand change.
As faith leaders, we must mobilize and employ our collective resources to their fullest potential to ensure that we’re providing all children with equality of opportunity. And by encouraging legislatures to put measures in place that will empower parents and guarantee great teachers in the classroom, we have the ability to educate every child in our communities, regardless of ZIP code. Overcoming obstacles that impede progress and maintain the status quo is not an easy task. But for our children, we urge leaders to keep the faith and fight the good fight. We invite faith leaders across the country to participate in this movement by advocating for legislation that implements the essential changes. In addition, we should utilize the Stand Up and StudentsFirst websites as resources for learning more about how to advocate for education reforms in our communities.
We must come together and stand tall for the children in our communities. Students in failing schools need change now — it’s too important to wait.
The Rev. Floyd Flake is the senior pastor at Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica, N.Y., and a former U.S. representative. Charles E. Blake Sr. is presiding bishop and pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento, Calif
What is believed and educated in this church?
How do I dress for church?
The so-called “Clothing Worship Wars” of recent years may have produced in the outcome a winner. Although many congregations remain divided between traditional and contemporary styles, but in most places the contemporary appears to have gained the upper hand. What’s more, our worship services have become increasingly relaxed and informal affairs. You can see it in what we wear. Church for today’s worshipers is not a dress-up event. Whatever is clean and comfortable seems sufficient. Though many claim that it doesn’t matter what you ware on the outside, but the content of your heart on the inside. Although this may be true, I believe too many Christians have used this as an excuse to lower a standard set by God in His word. Of course God would not reject a poor man who has no decent apparel verses a wealthier man that does yet appears that he don’t, simple because he don’t want to be unconvinced by changing his clothing.
I feel that a Christian tends to dishonor God when they can look better, but choose to look worse. The church seems to be the only establishment that have the so called clothing war. All militaries has a dress code, no argument there, the medical field, etc. Restaurants use to have one but now many are falling into the come as you are, and there are some who come that others won’t even sit by. Christian students in particular have been taught by their seniors — or has it been the reverse?— that when it comes to church, attire doesn’t much matter. They understand there is nothing particularly spiritual about a dress or a coat and tie. God is scarcely impressed by such things. “People look at the outward appearance,” we are reminded, “but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Will I need to read my bible often?
The following Scriptures should answer the question.
JOHN 8:31-32 RSV
31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
JOSHUA 1:8 Beck
8 Don’t stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night think of what it says, so you can be careful to do everything written in it; then you will prosper and succeed.
ACTS 20:32 LB
32 “And now I entrust you to God and his care and to his wonderful words that are able to build your faith and give you all the inheritance of those who are set apart for himself.
MATTHEW 4:4 NLT
4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.’ ”
JOHN 6:63 ICB
63 It is not the flesh that gives a person life. It is the spirit that gives life. The words I told you are spirit, and so they give life.
ROMANS 15:4 CEV
4 And the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope.
JOHN 14:23-24 Rieu
23 Jesus replied: ‘If anyone loves me he will cherish my word; my Father will love him and we will come to him and make him our abode.
24 He that does not love me neglects my words. Yet the word you hear is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 NLT
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
HEBREWS 4:12 NLT
12 For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. God’s Word is alive! The more you expose yourself to it, the more it will expose itself to you. To know God better you must spend time hearing what He has to say. The Bible is His message to you. If you want Him to listen to what you have to say, you should also listen to what He has to say. Although God can also speak directly to your heart, you need to know His written Word so you can judge whether God is speaking to you, or the enemy is trying to deceive you. God will not love you more because you read the Bible.
It’s for your benefit — not required to make God love you. However, without reading the Bible, you will not grow spiritually, and you will be more easily deceived. Prayerfully reading the Scriptures yourself is the only real defense against being misled. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). Don’t you want to know the truth? Why waste your time on lesser, unreliable things? Your spiritual life is important. You always have time for what you consider important.
Jesus taught that God’s Word is a seed (Luke 8:11). Plant the seed of God’s Word in your life and you will reap blessings. The promise of Jesus in John 8:31-32 is for you. If you continue in the Word of God, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free! Only those who continue in God’s Word come to the place of knowing called faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Here are some articles for further reading:
Will I need to pray everyday?
There have been several occasions in my life when I have been asked this question. Out of curiosity, I did a short search to see how others have answered it, and here are some of the answers that have been offered:
- To come to know God and build a relationship with Him
- To ask for strength, healing, or to make requests or petitions
- To come to understand God’s will for us
- Because we are commanded to do so
In addition to these, I wish to offer some thoughts on why we need to pray.
As Christians, We Should Pray
First, when we call ourselves Christians this means we are taking upon us the name of Christ and trying to be like Him. When Christ was on the earth He set an example by praying. He prayed for guidance, He prayed for his disciples and followers, He prayed in gratitude and praise, He prayed when he instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when He was on the Cross. So, if we are calling ourselves Christian, and becoming like Christ, then we should pray, as He did. (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, John 17:11, John 17:20-21, Luke 10:21, Mark 14:22, Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:44, Matthew 27:46).
Prayer is indeed our opportunity to come to know God and build a relationship with Him. However, it is critical to understand that in order to build that relationship we must understand that prayer requires two-way communication. Building a relationship with God is similar to building relationships with people around us, conversations need to go both ways; we talk, and then we listen. It is the same with God. Prayer allows us the opportunity to tell God how we are feeling, ask for guidance, assistance and answers to questions, but it also is our opportunity to learn from Him what His will is for us.
Another reason for prayer is for repentance (for example, see God Helped Me Conquer Alcoholism). Christ atoned for our sins so we can be worthy and pure to enter God’s presence. Only He can grant us forgiveness for the sins we have committed. Prayer is a means for confessing our sins. The Lord has promised us that “I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts.”
Prayer Helps Us Find Purpose
We can also pray and ask God to help us find purpose in our lives. He has a plan for us and desires to lead and guide us. I know from experience that when I have humbled myself in prayer and offered myself as a tool for Him, God has guided me in making life plans and decisions. He has even given me purpose that gets me through performing the mundane and seemingly purposeless tasks of daily life. Finally, I think one of the most important purposes of prayer is to bring our will into correspondence with God’s will. I think many people pray and then become upset when their prayers are not answered. Even though God loves us, it is not always His will nor is it possible for Him to give us the things we desire. I have a friend who prayed for a unicorn every day when she was a child, but not surprisingly, she never got one. Was this because she lacked faith? I don’t really think so. If you aren’t receiving answers to your prayers, or your prayers aren’t answered in the way you want, maybe you need to evaluate what you are praying for and instead ask God what you should be praying for.
Can’t I Just worship from home?
First of all, the Bible says the elders have the RULE over the local congregation. The Bible commands elders to feed, oversee, protect, and lead the flock. Therefore, they are at liberty to act in any way that does not conflict with any other biblical principle. The assemblies called in addition to the Sunday service are done for the good of the flock. Such assemblies promote worship to God, knowledge of His Word, and love for fellow brethren. It is NOT making a law where God has not made one.
If you will read the end of Acts 2, you will see that the church met in some form every day. The result was a continuous growth of the church (Acts 2:47). Perhaps one reason the church is not growing as it ought is because people aren’t as dedicated to worship and study like the first century church. The answer to this problem would be MORE assemblies, and not LESS as you seem to desire. How could a person claim to love God and His church and refuse to assemble with the saints? How could they be considered faithful when they refuse to take advantage of opportunities to worship and fellowship with brethren?
The Bible says by their fruits you will know them (Matt 7:15-20). I have yet to find a Christians who could be considered in any way faithful who refused to attend all the assemblies. It all boils down to personal priorities. In my 15+ years working full-time with the church, and in my life-long (38 years) association with the church, I have never met a Christian who was a diligent Bible student who refused to assemble with the saints. I have heard able-bodied people use the “I can study at home” argument for their failure to attend all the assemblies, but every single one of them didn’t know five cents about the Bible.
I’m only Human I will fail!
Knowing that you are born again you must also understand that now you are more than just a mortal human being. I hear Christians use the excuse that they made wrong choices, or failed at something because they are human. “What do you expect–I’m only human!” they say. Well that’s just not true after you are born again. Let me quote 1Peter 1:23 “:::. You and I are spirit people indwelt by God Himself. We have access to all the wisdom of heaven (James 1:5).
We have been given the Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) if we will just draw upon it.
We have divine protection (Psalm 91) . We have a personal Helper, Counselor, and Teacher (John 14:16,26). We have the authority of Christ Jesus Himself (Luke 1019) and we have been given use of Jesus’ Name, (Colossians 3:17). One more thing, if all that is not enough, And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6, John 14:20). We can no longer use the excuse that we “are only human”.
What must I do to be saved?
This is the most important question in human existence and one whose answer is clearly outlined in scripture. In order to be saved we must first realize our true state of sinfulness before God and know that He alone can save us, cleanse us, and give us eternal life. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the only way and we cannot have access to God through any other means. In fact, in John 14:6, Jesus plainly stated…
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
God Loves You!
God loves you so much that he made a way for you, through the shed blood of his son so that you might be able to spend eternity with Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life” ( Jn. 3:16 ).
Man is a Sinner, and Sin has Separated him from God!
You may think you are a good person but being good is not enough! Every man has sinned and there is none that is righteous before God!
“For there is not a just man upon Earth, that doeth good and sinneth not” ( Eccl. 7:20 ).
“For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Jesus Christ is the Only Remedy for Sin!
Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin. We cannot be good enough to get into heaven, nor can our good works get us there.
There was no other way for God to erase the effect of sin except by blood. The shedding of Christ’s blood indicated that the penalty for sin had been paid; a perfect sinless life had been sacrificed for the lives of all who have sinned.
“. . .Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” ( Hebrews 9:22 )
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…” ( I Pet. 3:18 ).
“Neither is there Salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” ( Acts 4:12 ).
You Must Receive Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior
To be saved, a man must confess that Jesus is Lord, while acknowledging in his heart that Christ must have full rule over his life. This confession of Christ as Lord assumes that it is Christ who will work and fulfill His own righteousness within man, as man is unable to attain righteousness of his own accord.
Jesus calls this experience the “new birth.” He told Nicodemus: “. . . Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” ( Jn. 3:3 ).
We invite you now to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name” ( Jn. 1:12 ).
How do I resist temptation?
Temptation is part of everyday life. I don’t think there’s a day that will go by when we won’t experience the temptation to sin in a variety of different ways—like the temptation to stay angry at someone, to give up, to worry or complain, or to not keep your word to someone who’s depending on you.
Temptation is endless. And we’ve got our hands full resisting it.
I want to make it clear that temptation itself is not sin. It only becomes sin when we enter into that temptation. I say that because I realize many people feel like they’ve sinned when they’re simply being tempted, but that’s just not the case.
God has given us the fruit of self-control, so when we’re tempted to do wrong things, we can make right choices. But if we want to be successful in resisting temptation, we need to know some things about ourselves.
How Well Do You Know Yourself?
Because we have a tendency to deceive ourselves by glossing over areas of weakness in our life, it seems like the devil knows us a lot better than we know ourselves sometimes. But we can gain an advantage over him by studying our behavior and dealing with our weaknesses.
Personally, my greatest weakness is being impatient when things are not going as smoothly or as quickly as I’d like. It’s a temptation I need to put extra effort into resisting, and although it has gotten easier, it hasn’t completely gone away.
Isn’t that interesting? Even the things we’ve studied and studied and have worked hard to overcome can remain an area of weakness for the rest of our life. That’s why the Bible says in Galatians 5:1, “…Stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].”
See, you may have received freedom and revelation in an area, but the devil will always come back around and try to tempt you. That’s why you need to learn to continually say, “I am more than a conqueror in Christ. So I’m going to pray and God’s going to help me. And I’m going to have the victory every single time.”
Don’t Try to Deal with It Yourself
Sometimes we try to deal with everything ourselves, don’t we? We just try to resist in the flesh when we should be asking God to help us.
Matthew 26:41 says, “All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We can have the best of intentions and still cave in. So we need to get God involved as early and often as possible.
Think about it. What would happen if people would pray on a regular basis that they wouldn’t overeat at meals? What would happen if people who know they have a bad temper would pray on a regular basis, “God, give me grace to stay in peace today”?
I honestly believe that this is one of the most beneficial things we can do as believers: Pray ahead of time; pray often about your areas of weakness, and just accept that some things you will have to pray about for the rest of your life.