In his recent book, “A Multitude of Peoples” church historian Vince Bantu calls attention to a common misunderstanding, “Too many people, both Christian and non-Christian still perceive Christianity as the white man's religion.” As the story goes, Christianity might have started in the Middle East, but most of its growth and development took place in Europe. Through the advance of European missionaries, it has become increasingly diverse, especially in the last hundred years due to the massive growth of the church in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. From this perspective, Christianity is growing into John’s vision in Revelation, where the people of God will represent every tribe, tongue, and nation. However popular this way of thinking might be, Bantu argues that it’s wrong, Christianity isn’t becoming a diverse and global religion, “Christianity is and always has been a global religion.”
Unfortunately for many of us, especially in American evangelicalism, we’ve only grown up hearing the story of Christianity through the life and ministry of white pastors, theologians, and leaders. To hear the Church's story told in this way is like hearing only one part of a choral harmony, it’s simply incomplete. You can hardly claim to have a real sense of a song if all you’ve ever heard is a single harmony. More than that, it further reinforces the misunderstanding that Bantu points out, and it forms us in unhelpful ways as we think about what it means to be a Christian in our cultural moment. After all, the way that we talk about where we came from has serious implications for how we think of ourselves, and where we’re going. The stories we tell matter, and when those stories are profoundly incomplete, it has consequences. For far too long, we haven't told the whole story.
So in honor of black history month, I’ll be taking the time weekly to tell the stories of some of the great black Christian heroes of the faith. Men and women who are a part of the fabric of the global body of Christ, who have accomplished mighty things for the kingdom of heaven. My prayer is that in the coming weeks you will hear the witness of these faithful black Christians, and be reminded afresh of the beautifully diverse bride which Jesus has purchased for himself, through his precious blood.