BLACK CHURCHES IN AMERICA
African-American churches’ roots go back to the North and South of the Revolutionary War period of the 1760s and 1770s. Like whites, blacks also began to come to Christ during the religious revivalism of the period.
African-Americans shared a common belief with European-American evangelicals that the biblical account of God’s past dealings with the world offered clues to the meaning of life in America. But, there was a difference. White Protestants often likened America to the Promised Land — the New Israel — a “city set on a hill.” Black worshipers were more likely to see America as Egypt — as the land of their captivity. They longed for their own emancipation, just as God had delivered ancient Israel in the Exodus.
Over time, growing numbers of African-Americans formed their own congregations. In 1816, representatives of these congregations joined to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E. church), with Richard Allen as the first bishop. The most significant growth of this church occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
African-American churches took up what has been their historical mission to care for the spiritual and physical needs of black people, since they were neglected and discriminated against by white society. Yet, they did not forget the ultimate mission of the church — to make disciples in all nations and among all peoples.
The year of 1843 is generally looked upon as the year of the beginnings of work among Negro Baptists in Tennessee. It was in this year that the first Negro Baptist Church was organized in Columbia, Tennessee by Rev. Richard Sanderson. In 1848, First Baptist Church of Nashville was organized by Rev. Nelson Merry, a church from which the present First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Spruce Street, and other churches draw a common heritage.
Think About It: Do you know the history of your CHURCH?