By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Imagine a church with no pulpit. Imagine a church with no choir. Try to wrap your head around a church with no VIP parking and no chance of NOT getting good seating, because the service could be in your own home.
That is the church that Jomo Johnson wants us to believe is possible. And he is working to make that vision possible.
No, Johnson is not talking about streaming the sermon on your television or laptop. It’s still live. The Church for Black men and Families participated in the house church method.
“‘Church for Black Men and Families’ is born out of that mission to be able to create vibrant families of Jesus for Black men and their families in the Black community,” Johnson said.
Johnson started down a traditional path, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Beacon University and then a Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary. He veered toward the Presbyterian denomination and was working to build a church in Savannah, Georgia, when he said he was told that the plan did not include certain types of Black folks.
“They wanted a middle class African American church that could help financially support their ministry and cause,” Johnson said. “And they were bypassing people who were hurting, struggling or just people were were dealing with things they (the church Johnson was formally associated with) didn’t want to deal with.”
Johnson resigned from that church and went through a process of soul searching. He came out of that experience with a vision of a different type of church and a very strong opinion about churches that place a heavy interest on fiscal obligations for church members.
“Because the New Testament does not command financial tithing for New Testament Believers, Black Christians should leave any Churches that continue to teach this mistruth despite the good that these organizations may appear to do,” Johnson said. “This form of legalism, which actually robs the poor, is one of the key factors that Black men are leaving the traditional church.”
Conducting his own survey, Johnson found that Black men are steadily declining to attend church in part because of such aggressive taps towards finances, and a lack of accountability of where the money given goes.
According to research from the Pew Center about 79% of African-Americans self identify as Christian. But when you look across gender you see differences. A 2014 Religious Landscape study showed that about 69% of Black men say they are religious. For Black women that number reached 80%, according to the data.
This is why Johnson turned to the “house church model,” or “simple church model” He referenced the second and fourth chapter of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible where it referred to people commuting from house to house.
“We think if you are able to make spirituality more informal, more communal without a lot of the religiosity and rules and regulations of a traditional church setting, that can be more attractive to people who have been disenfranchised or hurt by the traditional church,” Johnson told the AFRO.
Johnson is not opposed to traditional models of service and sees a purpose for all types of churches to do God’s work, but said, “for the large percentages for Black men and families that aren’t connected, we believe this organic model, this family model is actually a lot more attractive once we are exposed to it.”
Currently Johnson is training volunteers who are willing to open their home up to about 15-20 members to hold services. Breakfast is served and people all participate in the word. No choir, no mortgage that the congregation has to cover.
Even though the church moniker evokes Black men first, the congregation is for all, men women, LGBTQ, regardless of socioeconomic class. For more information on attending or volunteering to lead a service please go to www.blackmen.church.