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Missions 101

The African American and Their Strategic Witness

Apr. 29, 2016By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd, a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?                                                    Part 2: Challenges African American Missionaries Face                                                                Part 3: African American Church's Mission To Their Communities But Not the World                  Part 4: Practical Ways to Encourage More African American missionaries

David Crabb: African Americans have a unique story to tell. How can that be a strategic tool for the sake of the Gospel? 

Timothy Byrd: God is absolutely sovereign–he created all things and in him all things holdslave-getty together. What if slavery in America existed so that God might be glorified in raising up the African American church? I heard Dr. Ellis once say, “The African American church is in existence not because of slavery but in spite of slavery.” I couldn’t agree more.

Despite Christianity being used to initially endorse slavery, slaves were redeemed. Despite the killing, beating and demeaning of African Americans the African American church grew. Despite hatred, racial prejudices, and civil injustices the African American Church survived. Divine intervention through the work of the Holy Spirit is the only way this could happen. Today, the bulk of the world can relate to a history more like the minorities of American than the majorities. This is a history of pain and suffering, while at the same time of hope and faith. Leveraging this history, this story, for the sake of the gospel is a tremendous tool on the cross cultural mission field.

 Today, the bulk of the world can relate to a history more like the minorities of American than the majorities. - Tweet this

The reason Joseph could forgive his own brothers for selling him into slavery was because of his experience of God giving him perspective. So when he says, “what you have meant for my bad, God has meant for good the saving of many souls,” his understanding of the sovereignity of God is put on display. The beauty of the gospel allows us to endure suffering, embrace others, believe in God’s sovereignty, and proclaim the good news that Jesus saves.

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Practical Ways to Encourage More African American Missionaries

Apr. 28, 2016By: David Crabb

Missions-Sunda51c7c79568

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd, a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?                                                    Part 2: Challenges African American Missionaries Face                                                                Part 3: African American Church's Mission To Their Communities But Not the World

David CrabbWhat practical ways can churches consciously encourage more African American missionaries?  

Timothy Byrd: Talk about cross cultural missions. Pray about missions. Read up on African

Americans in missions as a church or in small group. Go on short term trips. A short-term trip was how I got to the field.

If someone is passionate about missions in their local churches then pastor, make it happen. To hear someone ask, “can we do mission trips or support missionaries,” should be energizing to pastors and leaders! If not, something else may be wrong. For some churches it might mean going through the proper channels, for others it simply might mean creating some proper channels.

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The African American Church's Mission To Their Communities But Not the World

Apr. 27, 2016By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd, a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?                                                    Part 2: Challenges African American Missionaries Face

David Crabb: You’ve said it appears that for many African-American churches there is great vision for the community but not for the globe. Do you see any signs of that changing? From your perspective, what needs to happen to increase the vision for the globe?

Timothy Byrd: African Americans have always had a persevering character, particularly in theMissions black church. In fact, in my estimation, the black church has historically been the backbone or the prominent advocate for African Americans, so by no means do I want to belittle it. My observation is that most of our mission is local because many black communities have such significant needs, and as believers we are called to speak the gospel into these communities. I would even say the local community is the primary ministry area. However, some black churches have interpreted primary mission field to mean only mission field. This is not a complete or accurate understanding of the Scriptures. 

To answer your question, yes, I do see signs of change! To be clear, foreign missions is happening among African American churches, just not many churches or on a large scale. There are numerous organizations aimed at promoting and encouraging African Americans toward missions, but these efforts are very small and very few people know about them. There are several reformed evangelical African American churches, networks, and organizations who speak to these needs. The Reformed African American Network, Byron Johnson with Vision 9:38Carl Ellis Jr., and The Front Porch are just a few great examples of pastors and leaders making people aware of the black church’s need to get more involved with cross cultural missions. 

What needs to happen to see change? Cross cultural African American missionaries need to avail themselves for the edification of the church. My wife and I never hesitate to speak at predominately African American churches.  Not because we are simply looking for support, but because we hope to cast vision into these churches even if they don’t support us. In our last stateside assignment we realized if we are not engaging African American churches on the topic, then who is?  Also, pastors, elders and lay leaders need to be intentional about creating platforms for missions from their congregations to give, go and send missionaries to the nations. I am pretty sure there are hundreds of African American missionaries sitting in pews all across the US who have a longing in their hearts for the nations and do not know what to do. If the church is taking the great commission seriously then this must change.

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Challenges African American Missionaries Face

Apr. 26, 2016By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd,a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Part 1: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?

David Crabb: What particular challenges do African American missionaries face both pre-field and on the field?

Timothy Byrd: In my personal experience, and in the experience of several of my African American contemporaries, the pre-field challenges are (1) finding long-term financial partners or support, (2) skepticism and (3) opportunities to be a missionary.

For example, many people in my church community loved the idea that I wanted to do crossmoney-sign-300x300 cultural missions, but there were only a few who had a clear category to put me in. These were godly people who loved the Lord yet had never met a missionary who wanted to live in another country just to share the gospel for a lengthy period of time (3 years or more). Therefore, getting people excited was easy. Finding partners and churches to send me was the challenge. I have met very few African American churches that have mission committees or a missionary selection process. This makes it hard for the church to find out about you, encourage you or challenge you regarding your potential calling. 

The second challenge which is skepticism. There are so many scams people try to pull on churches that some churches are very guarded.  Therefore, when someone you know (and especially someone you don’t know) comes with a new or foreign concept, in many black churches it can feel like you must prove over time that you are a legitimate missionary. If a number of churches operate like this, the missionary may waver in hope and give up, or never get enough support to even go overseas.

The last thing that I would mention is the biggest pre-field and on the field challenge for African American missionaries: money! The bottom line is many long-term African American missionaries battle with raising support from African American churches. Love offerings and one time gifts do go a long way, but if missionaries are going to live in a foreign country with their only source of income coming from sending churches and individuals, there has to be significant partnership.  I have had several friends who have full-time support raising jobs in the U.S. who have had to get jobs because they couldn’t pay every day bills.  In some instances “tent-making ministry” is encouraged, but we can’t expect full-time ministry workers working part-time jobs to give the same time and energy as their counterparts who are doing ministry full-time with full support.  When support does not come in for a cross cultural missionary this typically means you go home.  Some requirements for work permits or visas are so restricted to special gifts sets it is nearly impossible to get a job. It is even more complicated when locals may feel like you are taking their jobs. I have heard it said money follows ministry, and I agree. But if the money does not follow soon enough, many agencies (and missionaries!) begin to wonder, “Is this what I should be doing?”

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Why Don't We See Many African American Missionaries?

Apr. 25, 2016By: David Crabb

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk about African Americans and Missions with Timothy Byrd, a missionary with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our conversation will be posted in five parts.

Background To The Topic (Timothy Byrd)

The Great Commission does not exclude any believing people group from crossing ethno-church_backgroundjpg_page-bg_4530linguistic and cultural boarders for the glory of God. Yet African Americans are highly underrepresented in cross cultural missions making up less than .01% of all US missionaries. According to Dr. James Sutherland of Reconciliation Ministries Network International “It’s possible there are now 300-500 [African-American} missionaries. This represents one percent of the missionary force, while Blacks comprise of 13% of the population.” 

According to the Pew Forum, 78% of African Americans profess Christianity. Of all African American Christians over half (59%) say they belong to a historically Black Church. With so many African Americans professing Christianity it is alarming that the sum total of all African American missionaries is (at best) five hundred. If the word of God is still authoritative and directive in the life of the local church than the underrepresentation of any people group is important and should be addressed–especially if the particular people group in question have historically been active and effective in missions. 

I love missions and I love the church. My desire to see my people (African Americans) more involved in cross-cultural missions is fueled by a desire to see Jesus Christ glorified in all people groups and by the simple fact the Scriptures call all believers to make disciples of all nations. I feel compelled by the fact that I think African Americans have a unique biblical story to offer in missions as well. I hope by answering these questions my personal experience and research into this topic will prove helpful to the work of the Great Commission. 

David Crabb: Why don’t we see many African American missionaries?

Timothy Byrd: There are many ways to answer this question.  Dr. Carl Ellis Jr in his short book, “Going Global” gives an account for this which, for the sake of brevity, I will try to summarize. 

The first reason is the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 which resulted in the carving up and colonization of Africa by Europeans.  Many do not know this, but African Americans, along with many others, were already doing missions in Africa.  However, because of the potential threat Christianity imposed (especially from someone who looked like the Africans being colonized) African American missions was curtailed.

Secondly, historically one of the greatest issues African Americans faced were civil rights issues in the United States. The majority of the black church centered their attention on mercy and justice in their own congregations.  This is not an excuse, but rather a fact. Most black churches, particularly in the South, were focusing on civil rights issues and not cross cultural missions.

Lastly, and I think most importantly, there was a theological waning in the black church from evangelicalism to social gospel/black theology/liberation theology/ prosperity gospel (depending on your cup of tea).  In my opinion, the black church’s theology became influenced more by the culture of the day and the need of the hour rather than the mandate of the Scriptures in regards to the great commission.

In the intro of Thabiti Anyabwile’s book, The Decline of African American Theology he explains what the church missed during the civil rights era and what the church is in danger of missing today. He writes, “from slavery through the Civil Rights era, the theological basis for the church’s activist character was gradually lost and replaced with a secular foundation. The church became less critical theologically and increasingly more concerned with social, political and educational agendas.  Disentangled from its evangelical and Reformed theological upbringing, the church became motivated by a quest for justice for justice’s sake rather than by the call and mandate of God as expressed in more biblical understandings of Christianity.”  Anyabwile goes on to say, “…cultural concerns captured the church and supplanted the biblical faithfulness that once characterized it. It [the African American Church] has lost the law and the gospel, and stands in danger of lapsing into spiritual rigor mortis.”[6] The theological decline in some (not all) African American churches has huge implications on why we don’t see many African American missionaries today. 

Therefore, when you combine these three aspects it makes a deadly concoction for a lack of missions.  The rich experience of African Americans in missions is cut short–therefore, there is very little of the church’s missions history to look back on.  The black church was bombarded with so many social and civil rights issues in the post-civil war era that cross cultural missions faded into the background. These social and civil rights issues are still on the front porch of black churches today.

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