Union Baptist Association is blessed to partner with many African American churches. In honor of Black History month, we spoke with the pastors of some of these churches to highlight their vision and ministry in Houston. While many of these churches choose to celebrate Black History month in specific ways during the month of February, all of them incorporate the rich heritage and history of African American culture year-round. From highlighting historical figures, to providing books on African American history, to celebrating the contributions made by these brothers and sisters, these churches remind us of the importance of learning about history and celebrating the contributions made by so many who risked everything for the Gospel.
A Common Vision
These churches share a common vision. All seek to make Jesus known, reach others for Christ, and transform lives. Pastors are leading their churches to be a visible expression of God's love for all people. Pastor Walter August, of The Church at Bethel's Family, stated a vision that could sum up the commission of all churches. The church's vision is predicated on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. God has commanded us to love Him above all things. We are to love our neighbor as ourself, which is best demonstrated through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bethel's Family Church has thrived under this vision for twenty-four years, growing from a church of 11 people in an apartment complex to over 17,000 members in Southwest Houston. Likewise, First Southwest Baptist Church has sought to raise spiritually healthy families that disciple others into the family of God.
As they seek to make disciples, these churches' visions spur on work in their communities, many of which have great needs. Agape Community Bible Church, led by Pastor Parris Patrick, is located in a community of people who live below the poverty line. As Pastor Parris put it, "[many] often face the problem of having more month than money." In addition, this community is largely absent of fathers and male leaders. Most of the households are run by single moms and, to date, there are just over 2000 homeless children in the church's community. One way Agape Community Bible Church is seeking to address these concerns is through a non-profit founded by the church called Alief Coalition for the Homeless. Through this non-profit, the church ministers directly to the homeless children in their community.
Bethel's Family Baptist Church faces similar concerns in their community, as well as a large population of adults who do not have a high school diploma. The church has offered educational training through partnerships with Houston Community College and Belhaven University. They also offer job placement services, a food and clothing bank, a dental office and many other services to those who live around their facilities.
Higher Expectations Church, led by Pastor Bryant Lee, also focuses on education, job coaching, and food assistance. Members of the church volunteer in local Title 1 schools, and the church also offers Adult Education and ESL classes to parents of the students. They provide weekend meals to 30 elementary school students who are on the free or reduced lunch program. Through these services, they are able to share the gospel with those who need the hope of Jesus Christ.
First Southwest Baptist Church, led by Pastor Rickie Bradshaw, partners with community organizations such as the YMCA, Alief ISD, and other non profits to create a rapid and reproducible discipleship movement. Members volunteer at community sporting and recreational events, Healthy Kids program, Music Matters programs, and community Bible studies. They are heavily involved in foster care, adoption, and discipleship among inmates in the local prison. All of this work is supported by a strong prayer ministry. The church has started prayer stations in some of the community agencies, and all members have been trained to pray over the activities and events in which the church is involved.
Often a lack of resources prevents churches from ministering to the felt needs of their surrounding communities. But the beauty of the local church—especially in Houston— is the fact that there are hundreds of local churches that can cooperate and share resources, increasing the impact on the city for the gospel of Christ. Monetary and human resources are the largest needs among some of these churches.
Monetary donations can help keep non-profits like Alief Coalition for the Homeless running and serving the community. On the other hand, many churches can use more volunteers for service projects. A specific need Pastor Bryant Lee mentioned is that of bilingual leaders. Higher Expectations Church works in communities where they may face language barriers with parents of students, so leaders who can speak Spanish are valuable. This church is blessed to partner with larger congregations in their area who can provide some of these needs.
Rickie Bradshaw pointed out that partnering not only with other churches but with community agencies allows congregations to be outwardly focused and in contact with people who are far from God. Through sharing the gospel in word and deed, churches can fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of those in their communities.
Black History Month
We are grateful for the work of the churches named in the article as well as the others who are partnering together to bring the gospel to Houston. Black History month reminds us to learn from the brothers and sisters who have gone before us, to reflect on the past and to learn from it. Through their example, we are reminded of how we are bound together through the gospel of Jesus Christ.