In 2018, Black men in the District will have a new kind of church, strictly ran and attended by them.
Black Lives Matter activist and Christian pastor Jomo Kenyatta Johnson announced Monday, Nov. 27 that he has founded a new denomination of at-home churches, aptly named “Church For Black Men.”
“With Black Lives Matter Savannah I was one of the founding members and I’m directing it until Jan. 31, so that I can focus on Church For Black Men,” Johnson said. “The vision came last year but took some time to formulate.”
Johnson spent four years in the predominantly White Presbyterian Church of America, which ultimately led him to Black Lives Matter and then a ministry that centered Black men.
“So I’m one of few African-Americans who graduated from Westminster Seminary,” he said. “That kind of thrust me into this upper-class, White conservative Christian bubble. That kind of exposed me to interacting with Caucasians in a ecclesiastical sense.”
A few years ago, the Presbyterian Church of America hired Johnson to start a Black church in Savannah, Georgia, but he ran into a few problems.
“I was hired by White Presbyterians to start a Black church,” he said. “As I began to form relationships with this white church, I realized they didn’t really want a Black church, they wanted, if I could use the terminology, a ‘White-Black’ church.
“They wanted upper-class blacks without socioeconomic issues,” Johnson said. “That kind of created a divide and showed me that they didn’t want Blacks with problems. They wanted the Herman Cain, Ben Carson types.”
Johnson said that he had been basically a Black guy working for a White church, which sparked some critical thinking.
“Eventually that didn’t work out and that really kind of left me to understand what direction I should go in,” he said. “If the church wasn’t the route to reach people, how could I still help? That’s what led to my involvement in Black Lives Matter. Working with Black Lives Matter Savannah really allowed me to engage and interact with people who I normally wouldn’t.
“I had been in a conservative Christian bubble,” he said. “Not a lot of LGBT relationships or with poor African-Americans. Advocating for the people that we did it allowed me to wake up and broaden my perspective.”
Johnson said that after a year of trying to work with churches in the area with little success, he figured out why Black men primarily between 18-34 weren’t coming to church.
“I discovered that the reason that Black men primarily weren’t coming to church was because the church was focused on money, secondly a ‘come to us’ model. That model is not quite biblical,” he said. “The idea and hypothesis for Church for Black men is you’re not meeting in a building, but you’re actually meeting at homes, then you’re removing the financial aspect where there is no offering and then, thirdly, you’re able and willing to speak on political things that often times lead to Black oppression.
“Those three factors led to the formation and the desire to launch a denomination church for Black men,” he said.
Johnson who pastored Philly Open Air Church from 2010-2014 in Philadelphia, will deliver the livestream broadcast message to his virtual congregants and the house-host will then facilitate a discussion and application of the message.
“We’re training individuals to open up their homes in various cities,” he said. “Once they’re trained, we help them to recruit people to open up their homes for time of discussion, meeting, eating and fellowship.”
Church for Black Men will launch its first Sunday Home Meeting on Feb. 4 in D.C., Memphis, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta.
Johnson emphasized that Church for Black Men has no connection with Black Lives Matter, but some of its principles.
“My experience with them has allowed me to formulate some of the ideas we have,” he said.
“One of the things where there is a connection between Black Lives Matter and us is that we are LGBT-friendly.”