A Tale Of Two Black Churches

Sunday morning, 11 o’clock at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Chicago’s south side: So much stature, nearly a century of tradition.

“It was written up in ‘Aristocrats of Color,’ so it has that strong distinction,” Rev. Jesse Knox says.

But there are so few members in attendance. Just a few miles north, on the same morning, 5,000 thousand people packed an arena on the UIC campus. The New Life Covenant Church has become so popular its sanctuary on the South Side is now just too small.

“As I stood there and I saw people turning around and going back home, I knew that we needed to make room for more growth,” Pastor John Hannah said.

Two churches, moving in opposite directions.  One is growing; the other is struggling to attract young members. Hannah and his fellow pastors acknowledge there can be tension between young churches and old.

“We have churches that are becoming more fossils than anything else. They’re dying on the vine,” Rev. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ says.

Many in the African American community are alarmed that congregations of older black churches are dwindling. The churches that sustained the community for generations.

Takisha Wade and Torrance Barber, in their early 30s, believe they know why young people are turning away from older churches. Wade says the churches are “stiff and boring and not fun.”

They say New Covenant is certainly not that. From the cheerful greetings at the door to the rousing music performed by a choir wearing sports attire, young people clearly have embraced this church.

“This place is fun and lively. You don’t feel ashamed or nervous to give praise to God when you come here,” Wade says.

Hannah founded the church only seven years ago. Asked about whether his congregation is attracted more by the entertainment value, he says, “It’s not about entertainment. I literally think that it’s all about Christ, and if we preach the Gospel — the word he’s given us — it draws.”

Rev. Moss recalled answering an older deacon’s complaint that a young member’s clothes were too casual for church.

“So I had to sit them both down and say ‘You must understand the young man right here you’re critiquing is wearing Sean John jeans and is wearing a Rocawear shirt, and his outfit costs more than your suit. He’s wearing the best. He’s bringing the best to the worship experience.’”

You might wonder whether the ministers feel any competition. They all say no.

In fact, New Life Covenant’s pastor says he tells his members not bring people from other churches, but reach out to alcoholics and drug addicts — people who may not go to church at all.

  • Frederick Penman Jr

    Finally something positive on the News Three Mighty men of God who has a wealth of knowledge!!!!

  • Deborah Henry

    Pastor John F. Hannah (New Life Covenant Oakwood) leads you out of the religious experience into a WORSHIP experience. You can’t help but have a closer RELATIONSHIP with God. It’s inevitable! This is an awesome church!

  • Dr. Goldberg

    Do we know anything other than church as a culture? The poorest race on earth with mega churches on every corner. What a paradox I’m personally tired of pastors preying on the Weak and vulnerable. We have been on this merry go round for centuries isn’t it time for a change yet? Wake up black people.

    • Average Guy

      What exactly are you speaking of? The black church is needed in the black community with the righteous participation of the entire community.

    • Tanya Manicurist Cox

      Really Dr. Goldberg Really? Are you saying we dont need churches? With that title in front of your name I am assuming that you would be smart enough to do your research before you speak we are not the poorest race on earth.

  • Keith Kysel


  • Keith Kysel

    There should not be such thing as a bnlack church

  • Avg Joe

    druve down Ashlans or Halsted from 95th St north every other blg. is a store front church, with them tax free leeches driving caddy’s and wearing Da gold….

  • Marilyn Velez

    @ Avg, Keith and Dr. Goldberg, we have not only Black members, our Pastor at times will not take any offering during service and gives back to the community and members. New Life is not preying on its members, but a place where you can openly worship and learn how to enhance your personal relationship with God thru his Words. As a member, I thank God for Pastor Hannah’s leadership.

  • ESJ

    I agree with Marilyn.. Our Pastor is a man of God with vision and purpose who ushers you out of a church experience into a GOD experience. He does not wait on you to bring worship he worships with you and most of all encourages you to not focus on him but focus on GOD and the finished work of JESUS…. I don’t know what experience you have or have not had with JESUS but I encourage you to come to a service ans see won’t you too be changed . Jesus said come as you are- so don’t dress up or dress down. come to recieve the word that gives life -health- deliverance and peace…. And helps US to not be so VERY judgemental@Mr.(DR.)Goldberg

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/20/black-churches-going-high-tech-to-attract-members/ Black Churches Going High-Tech To Attract Members « CBS Chicago

    […] Check out Jim Williams’ first part in this series, ‘A Tale Of Two Black Churches’ Print Share 0 […]

  • A.Knight

    I here the praise for Rev. Hannah and the others and the issuse of faith comes to the forfront.I am lead to ask this question is it really being done for faith or something else. All I see are the packed mega church, but none of the membership in the streetsnor caring for their elders. But I see the kids hanging out, swearing , showing a complete lack of respect for themselves and those around them. if this is the teaching one can look for in a mega church ,I for one am saying you can keep them. I’ll continue to praise My God in my way Without the fellowship of the ‘Brotheren’.

  • Dr. Goldberg

    Knight you are right. Black ministers are simply opportunist with great charisma and orating skills that take advantage of very vulnerable women and children, as well as weak men or either cater to other men that are trying to do the same thing the minister does, prey on weak and vulnerable women. It’s all a big front for power & women hungry men. Jesus is just a smoke screen to cover up their obsession with money, power and a herem of beautiful women. Redeveloped the ghettos that surround your mega church, then I will be impressed. To all of you minister zombies, one day after you wake up broke down and out remembering that your tithes and offerings in your lifetime added up to hundreds of thousands and your pastor wouldn’t and won’t offer you a dollar. When you all hit rock bottom and realize the game that has been played on you, you will wake up. Good luck?

  • http://davidswanson.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/weekend-reading-7/ Weekend Reading | signs of life

    […] local CBS station ran a story, “A Talk of Two Black Churches,” that highlights a trend I’ve heard folks talk about in Bronzeville, where our new […]

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