By: Lisa Fields
As I scroll through my social media timelines, I am constantly struck by the use of the word “urban” in the idea of black apologetic ministry. While urban is usually synonymous with major metropolitan cities, it seems to be taking on another meaning in the minds of many. Now instead of thinking of urban as metropolitan cities, it now seems to be synonymous with blacks in the inner city. This redefinition of urban seems to have infiltrated the minds of many evangelicals and has limited their scope in the area of apologetics. Now in the minds of some, urban apologetics is synonymous with black apologetics in the context of the inner city. As a person who has devoted my life to helping black people know what they believe and why they believe it, many people assume that my focus is limited to their idea of urban. That is not the case. It is of the utmost importance that we understand that urban and black aren’t synonymous.
The black church not only has a diversity of thought, but it also has diversity in its socioeconomic status. While many black churches are located in the inner city, many are not populated with those that have the same struggles as those in the inner city. Several black churches located in the inner city are populated with the black middle class. In the book Preaching to the Black Middle Class, Dr. Marvin McMickle explained, “The people inside and outside the black churches of inner city America may look like each other, but in terms of values, vocabulary, world-view, and a vision for the future, the socioeconomic factors that divide them are far more significant than the single racial identification that links them together.” In other words, while our skin color may unite us, our experiences divide us.
The issues that plague the inner city are not always the same issues that plague the black middle class. Therefore, painting with a broad brush is very dangerous. Hence, we must have a holistic approach to apologetic ministry tailored to all black communities. To effectively engage all black communities, I believe that there are three essential keys:
1. Don’t assume.
Assumptions are deadly things. Assumptions allow our presuppositions to dictate our approach. Not every black person is wrestling with whether or not Christianity is the white man’s religion. Neither are they troubled by the racist history of evangelicalism. Many are more concerned with the problem of evil, authority of scripture, exclusivity of salvation, the doctrine of hell, etc.
Many times we try to answer questions people are not even asking. Remember we are all are complex. Many times we fall into the trap of viewing people through the lenses of statistics and media depictions and fail to actually listen and get to know them. I have discovered that often people’s issues with the Christian faith are related to deeper emotional experiences that we have not dealt with.
Sometimes, we are too defensive when it comes to objections to our faith. It is important that we acknowledge that the questions and challenges that people have are valid.
If we approach every situation without assuming, listening intently, and making sure to acknowledge; we will be more effective at defending the faith. In order to effectively engage Black culture, we must always remember that there are subcultures within the community. Furthermore, to successfully contend for the faith, we must acknowledge the diversity within races in the faith.
 McMickle, Marvin Andrew. Preaching to the Black Middle Class: Words of Challenge, Words of Hope. Judson Press, 2000., 2
Lisa Fields graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Religious Studies and Liberty University with a Master of Divinity with a focus in Theology. She has spoken at evangelism, apologetic, and biblical literacy events at various universities and churches and is also the founder and President of the Jude 3 Project.