The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Book poses reasons why black men have left churches

by André Green
reporter

   The sounds of gospel music echoed throughout the SSTU Forum Room on South Campus.
   The Feb. 15 event, sponsored by the African American Heritage Committee, featured James T. Branch Jr., NE Campus reading instructor, who spoke about his new book The Vacant Pews: Why Aren’t African American Brothas Going to Church.
   “ Success is a journey. not a destination,” he said in his opening. “When I started writing this, I had no idea where it was going. There were some things I wanted to keep and some things I wanted to take out. So there wasn’t a destination for me. It was just basically a journey.”
   Branch said his intentions for writing the book stemmed from various conversations in barbershops, beauty shops, cookouts and various churches. He then posed the question “Why do you not go to church” to the black men he came across.
   Branch said the answers ranged from “the most hilarious to the most thought provoking.”
   “ Being a person with a business degree, I thought maybe I should put this on paper and make something happen out of it. It took off from there,” he said.
   Branch said several factors contribute to a growing trend of African American men abandoning the church altogether.
   Incarceration, mistrust of the church and non-interest are the major reasons he attributes to the growing dissociation between black men and the church.
   Politics was also a reason. In his book, Branch explained the situation in 2003 involving Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and local ministers as they tried to oust her from office. Branch said that he observed how the ministers used various means to have her removed but failed each time.
   While this was going on, black men sat on the sidelines watching the issue play out, driving another wedge between black men and the church because, as Branch and many others saw it, nothing was accomplished.
   Money was another issue brought into the presentation.
   “ When there are people working 40 hours a week and you have a preacher working 15 to 20 hours a week and he is wearing $900 suits and $500 shoes and you have to sit in church and listen to him, it’s hard … ego comes into play,” he said. “That’s where all of the reasons came down as to why people aren’t going to church.”
   Branch reiterated that African American men need to lose their excuses and simply go to church. The last chapter of his book, he said, was “pretty much on me.”
   “ I pretty much talk about why you should go,” he said. “A couple of scriptures are involved, and that’s the bottom line of why we have to go.”
   Branch introduced the Rev. Tommy L Brookins, youth minister at Inspiring Temple of Praise, to offer his view on the decline in church attendance by African American men.
   “ Men want to be taught, and they want someone to be real with them,” Brookins said. “We need someone that’s going to give us some guidance. I believe that’s been the problem, and that is why a lot of men don’t go to church. They’ll join a social club before they will go to church because at least then they can talk about issues and vibe off of each other.”
   Brookins said the direction and the message the church issues push men away.
   “ The church has gotten to the point to where they have become businesses, and they don’t help those they are there to help,” he said. “Winos will give quicker than the church will. ”
   During the question-and-answer session, several audience members voiced their concerns about the direction the church is heading while a few offered defense of the church.
   “ No one needs to be in charge because God is in charge,” one woman said. “The pastors are out of order because the men are out of order. If the men will do what they are supposed to do, then the women will be in line, and then the children will be in line.”
   The church’s deep-seated traditions also are having a negative impact on church attendance and participation. With mega-churches like Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, becoming more and more racially diverse, Brookins said the black church possibly could become obsolete.
   “ Churches shouldn’t just be for black men or just for one race,” he said. “Billy Graham and Joel Osteen teach the word to the world that’s gonna reach everybody and not just their race. They are feeding their souls. The word is being taught to the world and not just to races.”
   Branch told about a time he sought a change. He was attending a church with an aging pastor, so he started visiting other churches.
   “ I just wanted something different and wanted to get more and more flavors so to speak,” he said.
   At a speech designed to target the young African American male, very few were in attendance. Branch noted that the majority of his audience was mostly women and older men.
   “ This is the problem that we are talking about,” he said. “When you deal with things from the black community that’s needed, they just don’t show. It’s just apathy in the black community especially in the younger generation. The people here are older and middle-aged, and we need to get younger people involved.”
   Branch thinks it will take much effort to get people involved. Church leaders are going to have to get more involved helping their congregations and then their communities.
   “ People want to see their churches get involved in their communities and help bring their people back up.   Then they will probably be more likely to get involved with the church,” he said.
   Branch said he would like to organize ministers within the black community and get feedback on what he says is a major problem that needs immediate attention. Afterwards, he plans to follow up Vacant Pews with a book about the possible solutions to what he deemed a crisis in the community.
   “ Black folks are from the show me state, and we have to show them that they need to go,” he said. “We can go on and on about why we can’t go, but if you want to go to heaven, we better go.”
   Branch is scheduled to appear on the Robert Ashley show on Heaven 97 AM/KHVN in March, but an exact date has not been established.
   The Vacant Pews: Why Aren’t African American Brothas Going to Church is available for purchase at www.vacantpews.com.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian