The first step of the transformation journey : an in depth look at the role of the pastor as he leads an African-American congregation through change
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The African-American church has been one of the many storied institutions that has played significant a role in shaping American culture. However, the African-American church and American culture exist in a reciprocal relationship; changes in American culture have impacted the African-American church in numerous ways. In order to maintain its relevance, the African-American church must undergo transformation. Working from the hypothesis, "The pastor as theologian can lead an historic, urban congregation through a journey of transformation from being a congregation of commuters lacking significant presence in its surrounding community to one that is more responsive to the needs of the community and maintains a felt, empowering presence," l initiated a five-step discovery process. This process becomes the first step in the transformation journey. The process consists of: a series of sermons, ethnographic interviews with a sample of the congregation, a tour of the surrounding community, a panel discussion with community leaders, and a network mapping exercise.
This project focuses on the role of the pastor and how it influences and impacts the congregation as it seeks to align itself with the heart of Christ. The project begins with a brief survey of the role of the African-American pastor and compares the role from a national perspective to the history of the role in the life of the New Hope Baptist Church. The survey is followed by a narrative about the five-step process and analysis of the data collected. As a result of following this particular process, several discoveries were made. We discovered: as the visionary and shepherd, the pastor has the most influence on the congregation; inconsistencies between our profession and practice; there are significant needs in our surrounding community that we are not addressing; and our inistry paradigm primarily serves only those who sit in our pews each Sunday. This project has also validated skill for congregational and community assessment as core competencies for pastoral leadership. It is my prayer that our (myself and the New Hope congregation) learning become a significant contribution to the learning and practice of ministry.