DALLAS (BP)–He used to “play the preacher” after church for his brothers and sister.
“Back then the preacher would really preach and sweat and throw his hands up in the air and spin around and everybody [would] shout and just have a great time,” said Roosevelt Broach, who recalled hollering to get the right sound and putting water on his face to get the right look.
But it was all just play to the 12-year-old boy who never dreamed of being a preacher. After he became a Christian at 14, that all changed.
“When I surrendered to the Lord, I really wanted to do something for God,” Broach said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before God was going to call me to the ministry.”
In 1984, Broach felt called to be a pastor. He served as an associate minister at New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dallas, before starting Macedonia Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, in 1989 and serving as its senior pastor until 1994.
Then, the Dallas Baptist Association (DBA) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) asked Broach to be a church growth consultant for African American churches. Broach, who thought his ministry would be as a pastor to a congregation not to pastors, accepted the position as a missionary and soon found God’s confirmation.
“Once I got [to DBA], I found out that God really had gifted me and that I had a passion to do what I’m doing and I really enjoy doing it,” Broach said.
Broach and his wife, Roslyn, are featured missionaries during the Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 5-12.
Broach’s ministry includes 122 African American churches, 80 percent of which have less than 100 members. He counsels pastors and church planters, helps churches locate resources, and helps churches and pastors work through problems. His goal is to help existing churches and church plants reach a community he said has a high spiritual sensitivity and openness to the gospel.
“You don’t find a lot of atheists in the African American community,” he said.
The sensitivity and openness, however, increase the need for churches to be relevant, Broach noted.
“[African Americans] have plenty of religion, but they want the religion to be real, to be personal, to be something they can have a grip on, something they can apply in their lives,” he said.
With 12,000 to 15,000 African Americans attending the 122 churches, DBA’s goal to plant 10 new African American churches a year might seem high. But a growing African American population estimated now at 427,000 in Dallas County means the association is only reaching 3 to 4 percent of the populace.
In addition to planting churches, Broach also works to keep at least 80 percent of existing churches healthy. He defines healthy as a congregation that is growing. And to grow, churches must be relevant.
“We can’t do church the way we did church 50 years ago [or] 30 years ago,” Broach said. “There’s an openness, but many [African Americans] are not open to the old traditional ways.”
While all Southern Baptist churches to some extent are experiencing the struggle between tradition and relevance, the problem is compounded in African American churches because many African American pastors learn to minister from their pastors.
“[Young pastors] take on their pastors’ preaching style, the way he pastored and everything,” Broach said. “So many young preachers will come and start a church with the same pastoral style and philosophy of a pastor who has been around 30 or 40 years, and that sometimes doesn’t fit.”
Part of Broach’s job is to help pastors develop a relevant ministry. He does this in part through one-on-one discussions and association workshops to help pastors “minister out of who they may be and not so much who they heard,” he said, noting the emphasis in many African American churches on sounding like another pastor.
Broach also encourages young pastors to do as he did and get ministerial and theological training from college and seminary.
“I felt to be the best I could be I needed to get all the practical, personal mentoring experience I could get from the church, but I also needed to get all the academic training, development and exposure that I couldn’t get from my pastor,” said Broach, who is a doctoral candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Broach does not believe younger African American pastors should forget the past. He knows firsthand the value of his spiritual father and mentor, R.E. Price, pastor at New Mount Zion for 35 years. From Price, Broach traces his desire to love people, to preach the gospel and to minister with integrity.
Broach said that he would probably tell a new pastor facing the tradition-relevance conflict to wait before trying to make changes.
“I think a pastor has to be willing to outlive and outlove those who are there,” he said.
Outlive, Broach added, means pastors should show church members “how to live this Christian life” over a long period of time.
Too many young pastors are in a hurry to make changes, he said, and forget that African American pastors typically serve at the same church for decades.
“You can’t expect a church to take on your identity and personality in two or three years,” Broach said. “The church has been around 60, 70 or 80 years and you want them to take your identity in three years. It’s not going to happen. But being willing to work through the process is very important.”
Calling African American churches the fastest-growing group in the association and the state convention, Broach senses that pastors are upbeat and excited about the spiritual and numerical growth.
“They have an excitement about what God is doing,” he said.
In December, nearly 350 people gathered at Dallas Baptist University for a banquet to encourage African American pastors and recognize those who had done exceptionally well in 1999.
Some churches in the association do have problems, Broach acknowledged, and he does step in to mediate but only at the church’s request.
“It’s like a couple at home having difficulty with their marriage,” he said. “Unless they call you to come, sometimes it’s best to just pray for them and encourage them.”
When he is called, Broach said his role is to create an atmosphere for dialogue that allows all sides to be heard.
But those problems are few, Broach said, and although some pastors are discouraged and tired, “across the board African American churches are doing very, very well.”