Black History… and Our Future

The VOICE joins the nation in celebrating a month of Black History with four stories from Missouri District churches and schools. These ministries are four among many leading us with godly repentance, reconciliation, and renewal in our mission to be among those who Christ leads to fulfil the Revelation 7 vision, "I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
– Revelation 7:9-10

It might surprise many that the LCMS has a rich history in Black Ministry. In the decades following the Civil War, the training of black pastors and the planting of black churches in the South grew with each decade in our Synod. However, in the twentieth century, the Second Industrial Revolution and World War II created opportunities for black people to move from densely populated rural areas in the South where our mission efforts were focused. As black people migrated throughout the country, our congregations failed to see and embrace the changing diversity of their communities.

I grew up in Chicago in the 1960s and 70s. I witnessed many churches, including my own, relocate from their urban neighborhoods. In the 80s as I trained to be a pastor, I recall reading Dr. King’s words that, “Sunday at 11:00” was the “most segregated hour in this nation.” Biblically, confessionally, and from my own history, I began to form a missiology that ultimately the goal of every congregation is to reflect a Revelation 7 vision of being multi-ethnic, reflecting their community rather than a homogeneous culture.

Indeed, there are occasions—especially when language barriers exist—where intentional specific cultural mission efforts are necessary. Yet ultimately, if we are to reach “the children” and “their children’s children,” the goal of Christian mission is a Revelation 7 multi-ethnic vision.

The future of Black Ministry is ripe with opportunity. Over 700,000 Missourians (12%) are black. That’s nearly double the population of all other minority groups combined in Missouri. We have a tremendous mission gap to cross! And by the power of the Gospel and the Spirit, we shall!

The stories in this newsletter show a future of Black Ministry that is far from “separate, but equal.” These are churches and schools embracing diversity, raising up black and white people together in ministry. These are the stories that reclaim a vision where the power of the cross breaks down the barriers of prejudice so prevalent among rival cultures and factions. It is the story of a diversity of peoples washed in the blood of the Lamb and worshipping together. It is the story of healing we desperately need, and where Christ has provided, the cure: “… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:17

Rev. Bill Geis

Assistant to the President: Missions & Congregational Services