Commentary by Dr Whitesel: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a colleague in the Mosiax network whom I once tried to recruit for Wesley Seminary. I was privileged to endorse her book because it offers great help to the Church regarding how to disciple younger generations. Here she gives an overview into what every church can learn from the immersive manner in which the Black church conducts spiritual formation. I have long been a fan and student of the Black church realizing our too long separated judicatories have left the Church universal not only more fragmented, but also less wise.
Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017.
…Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual
This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.
This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.
In short, the Black church tradition and African American culture in which I was groomed intentionally offers discipleship and mentorship within the context of groups or communities, instead of focusing on one-on-one mentoring or discipleship models.
Several of these articles are consistent when reporting that millennials value relationships and authentic conversation. Because communal relationships are already a high value for communities of color, this is an area where Christian leaders from the majority group can learn from leaders of color.
This survey of the Black church and their discipleship model reveals that discipleship can indeed take place within the context of groups. More specially, discipling and mentoring within groups offers a layered approach to discipleship that includes:
- Bible reading and study,
- Cultivation of spiritual disciplines like scripture memorization,
- Positive peer pressure, peer-to-peer mentoring, and accountability,
- A holistic Christian ethic that includes the pursuit of biblical justice, and
- Grooming and training mentees for leadership.