Black America has no voice. Not because no one wants to lead, but because no one is willing to follow. No one is wiling to sacrifice. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, whose own voice is now often eclipsed by The Reverend Al Sharpton, has seen his sphere of influence grow terribly constricted, the old school Classic Coke Jackson seeming to struggle to find relevance. My frustration with the NAACP, the black church, and, I guess, everybody (since I seem to be the only one peeved about this) is there is not only no leadership in Black America, there is, sadly, no accountability in Black America.
But not the typical Lionel box cars or Tyco Santa Fe classic
freights. That’s not the trains I grew up seeing. I grew up
seeing the “E” train of the IND division of New York’s
Metropolitan Transit Authority. That’s the train I wanted
circling my bedroom. But, of course, there isn't a real big
demand for New York City subway trains across middle class (i.e.
white) America. Most serious train collectors are, more often
than not, looking for the classic freight trains rolling across
Kansas. I didn't grow up in Kansas. I grew up in East New York,
where the J, M, N, A and other trains intersected at this
massive overhead labyrinth, a spidery and foreboding place
called East New York Station that looked like something out of a
scary science fiction film, with all of its crossing tracks and
metal beams and railing and such.
I wanted to recreate the images from my youth, as opposed to being forced to settle for someone else’s youth. I wanted the “E” train. So, imagine my delight when, about three years ago, I discovered, in a specialty catalog, gasp! HO Gauge NYC Subway trains and cars. They had to be special ordered, but, oh, man, I was completely excited and enthused. I raced down to a local troy and hobby shop here in town, showed the guy the catalog item and told him I wanted a bunch of cars and tracks and station and the whole nine yards. Total price, around $500. Steep for toy trains, but this was what I'd waited my entire life for. Spare no expense!
The store clerk seemed less than enthused about taking my order. He kept me waiting at the counter a long time while he helped other people and asked the manager thus and so and wandered here and there. Then he took down my order info and telephone number and said he'd call next week. Next week came and went. Then another. On the third week, I called them, got the run around, waited some more. It’s been three years. I'm still waiting. So, here’s a guy, standing in your store with $500 that he wants to give to you. That he’s excited and happy about giving to you. And you just blow him off. That’s an idiot thing to do. I guess, as a Christian, I shouldn't call the guy an idiot, but that’s what he was. That was a sale, a rather big sale, that he lost just by not following up and not being professional.
A casual drive around Colorado Springs reveals a great many massive edifices, glorious buildings on huge parcels of immaculately landscaped lawn, flags whipping in the breeze, spacious parking lots. These are the white and Asian churches in town. Many of these places share common attributes: coffee bars in the lobby (and, yes, you can take your coffee right into the auditorium— it’s an auditorium, not a sanctuary), multi-media teams that handle large projection screens and theater lighting to enhance the service. Children's’ Church and nursery facilities that provide age-specific ministry (as opposed to forcing bored and fussy kids to sit through our holler and hoop endless services). Friendly and informed staff who greet you warmly and are helpful and attentive to your needs and your safety.
Not every white or Latino or Asian church in town is equally endowed, but the point I am making is, in the aggregate, most white churches have greater resources and assets than black churches. Most black churches aspire to these things (well, probably not the coffee and cappuccino; we're not yet mature enough to stop seeing the auditorium as sacred ground, even though merely assigning a sacred status to the auditorium or the pulpit— as many black churches do— is, in fact, a form of idolatry Jesus' death, the splitting of the veil (Luke 23:44-46), was intended to do away with).
But, in the majority, we're not ready or able to do some of the things that are now standard fare for white churches because, frankly, we don't have the budget for it. Assets and resources cost money. Money is, typically, the result of membership. Membership comes by visitors having a positive experience with God and with your church.
Which brings us back to my toy train.
That’s a store I will never shop in again. Those guys lied to me. They, for whatever reason, were not interested in ordering my train. Why? I don't know. And, I really don't care. Visitors to your church who have a bad experience also likely won't care about the reasons why. They'll just remember they had a bad time and that emotional tag will be hung on your ministry forever.
The number one reason ministries do not grow is they are run like this guy’s hobby shop. They are run like a bad business. If you want that nursery, you've got to take care of business. You want that new building, you've got to take care of business. You want more resources and more programs, you want to provide the same level of ministry our brothers and sisters in other ethnic groups can afford? Well, here’s where you start:
Return my phone call.
I knew, from the beginning, that getting this website up and running would be a real challenge. Not the computer code or the graphics— that I could control. I knew the challenge would be in getting the attention of church folk in this town. When I say “church folk,” I am invariably referring to black churchgoers, as white churchgoers are usually spoken of as Christians, while we tend to refer to ourselves as church folk. I can. most likely, call any white church in town and get a call back within twenty-four hours. In fact, in 25 years of ministry, six of them here in this town, I have never once failed to get a return call from a white church. These days, I can eMail a white church and receive a reply within the same time span, typically twenty-four hours. The black church, on the other hand, is, typically, a dead letter office.
Of the forty-one phone calls I made to various black churches introducing the PraiseNet, I received about seven callbacks. Of the seven, two were within 24 hours, another two came in the Monday after the weekend (still reasonable), and the remaining three came at odd times later in the week. I only sent out a handful of eMails to black churches because the majority of black churches either have no eMail or do not make that information available on their church bulletins or voicemail (while the majority of white churches in town have both eMail and a web site). Of the few eMails I sent out, I received no replies at all (I received two replies after sending follow-up eMails, those replies taking roughly four or more days to come).
If you ran a business this way, you'd be out on the street.
If you call ENT Federal Credit Union, for instance, ENT is bound by company policy to return your call within one business day. You can call ENT now, whatever time now is, leave a message, and your phone should start ringing early the very next business day. If you eMail most online businesses, you will receive an immediate automated confirmation of receipt, and, typically, a living person will eMail you back within twenty-four hours.