Jungle Fever: The Black Preacher vs. The White Preacher

preaching

Henry Mitchell, former professor of theology at Rochester Divinity School said, “The central figure in the Black church is the Black preacher.  He has no exact counterpart in the white church, and to attempt to see the White preacher on the same plane is to risk confusion, for the Black preacher includes a dimension peculiar to the Black experience.”  In the Black church the Black preacher has perpetually served as a father figure to Black people, seeing to their welfare in all spheres of life whether they were social, political, economic, or the traditionally recognized spiritual aspects of life.

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I saw in operation the validity of these statements.  The Black preacher commanded the respect and obedience of his congregation.  He was the most powerful man in our community & even today the Black preacher retains most of that prominence.  Many Black Christians look to their pastors as an authority figure who should have a lot of biblical knowledge and wisdom.  They are viewed as being above and a little distant from ordinary lay people.

Question:

What makes the black preacher unique?

As the Black church’s historical origin stemmed from its African heritage, the counterpart of the Black preacher can be found in African traditional religion.  The African priest brought with him into slavery an oral tradition through which he preserved the history and culture of the tribe.  Through his expertise in storytelling, he became a link for his fellow slaves between the past and the present and between the spiritual and the mundane.  In his role as priest on the plantation, he comforted, encouaged, and helped the slave community relate to God.

However, in White Christian environments, their ministers seem to be viewed on an equal basis with lay people.  Some white congregations show their acceptance of and respect for their ministers by being either buddy-buddy or on familiar terms with them.  In many Black Christian environments, keeping the distance or addressing them with formal terms such as Reverend, Bishop, Brother or Sister shows the respect.

Ok, I know the gloves are about to come off regarding this post!

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  • Valerie Lilly

    Very interesting to say the least…I guess I never viewed the differences on this level…I believe that if the word of God is being taught whether white, black, Jew, or Gentile as long as the "truth" is being spoken I'm down with it. Look forward to me elaboration on this topic.

  • Hey Valerie:

    I agree with your comments & that God can use anyone at any time. I guess I'm looking at how different Blacks and Whites are when it comes how we do church.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Why would the gloves need to come off? You made a valid point. There are vast differences. Side bar – have you ever seen Latino Preachers? They've gotta little bit of African American Swagger in them too – lol. Anyway, yea – you made a valid point. I had a chance to see both sides of the spectrum and not just the preaching, but the environments in which both types of men thrive. I've gotta say, it all boils down to cultural differences. Viewing the White preacher from the Black one is no different than viewing a White family from the Black family…while there are vast differences, the similarities are amazing as well.

  • Hey Darius – thanks for sharing & yes, I've see a few of my Lation brothers strut their stuff!

  • Barney

    Growing up in a Lutheran church in a black community in Chicago with a white pastor, I did not know that man could preach with such power and authority until I went to a Baptist church. This is know knock against our white brethren, but most I have heard preach as though they are scared to wake the dead.

    On the other hand, I have set and listened to black preachers who would read a text, but NEVER speak on it and I was so-o-o-o lost. I left both experiences full and empty at times. Thank God for diversity

    • Barney,

      Thanks for stopping by & posting! Also, thanks for sharing your experience and providing a wonderful analysis. I have to agree with your assessment – my white colleagues are more cerebral with their preaching while my black colleagues are more emotional Also, I agree they'll (my black brothers) announce the text & never come back to it. It's rare that you'll find a combination of both (good analysis & presentation of the text coupled w/fire, passion, & emotion) in both races. When you do, look out!