Community Transformation and Justice Require More Than Preaching


Community transformation and justice require more than preaching. Kevin Slayton calls preachers to put their faith in action by cultivating relationships and establishing partnerships with people and organizations working for justice in the local community, sharing their prophetic voices by engaging social media platforms, and developing an awareness of the local political process. 

There is a trend of thought suggesting that if a Black preacher takes a stance on a certain issue, their congregants will immediately follow suit. This belief is shortsighted. When it comes to the issues impacting the African American community, the local pastor must do more than just preach. The preacher must be well informed and skilled in engaging local policy and decisionmakers. Preaching alone will not accomplish outcomes necessary to benefit his/her community. 

Preachers must engage political dialog. 

One of the most effective ways local clergy could begin to engage the political dialog is with media using opinion pieces.  

In this new age of technology, local clergy must become familiar with the various social media platforms and media outlets that allow their prophetic voices to have reach. No longer can the preacher rely simply on Sunday morning messages. The preacher must become acquainted with the operations and functioning of local governments. Issues that plague their local communities will inevitably go through the local chamber of government — be they local school boards, local agencies, or city councils. The preacher must also have a certain knowledge of the political process of policy implementation.  

The normal response for years has been one of reactionary advocacy. But there are groups and organizations that one can participate in to keep them abreast of the local issues on the table. They can develop relationships at the grassroots level of advocacy with those who can advise the preacher on the minor and major details of any policy or regulation being considered in the government chambers.   

Upon gathering the appropriate knowledge and information, the preacher must then be prepared to advocate in a manner that bends the moral arguments toward justice for their people. There has never been a need for a preacher to work in isolation on any issue. There are always willing and welcoming advocacy groups looking for partners to help fight for justice.  

The challenges 

One of the major challenges preachers face today when it comes to electoral politics is simply that they don’t know the issues. Ideally, one would think that, with all that is going on in the world around them, the preacher would be abreast of the issues because he or she is preaching about them weekly or at least once a month. 

Too many preachers are concerned with what elected officials think of them rather than what God does. They are concerned with how the political elite will treat them if they are too vocal in the public square. Will their support or opposition of certain policies and public issues reduce their presence in the local scene? 

Another challenge hindering clergy from being more politically engaged is the lack of formal educational acumen to engage in policy discussions. Because of the lack of education, many will be constrained to only discuss issues that are generic and lighthearted. 

It is clear then that moving forward the Black clergy must not only educate themselves on the workings of local and state government process, but they must also find ways to partner and build unity amongst themselves. The interest of the parishioners is all similar and would benefit greatly from a combined voice of advocacy. The local pastor can no longer only be concerned about their church and the size of it. The people living in the shadows of these institutions are depending on their voices to rise among the many that are demanding equality and fairness. The time has come that the Black preacher must be able to do more than just preach. The time has come that the preacher must literally put their “faith in action.” 

Politically Preaching book coverCondensed from Politically Preaching: Why Politics are Local to the Black Church by Kevin A. Slayton (Independently published, 2023), available at Amazon. This article is shared with permission from the author. 

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About Author

Kevin Slayton

Rev. Dr. Kevin A. Slayton, Sr. as pastor of Northwood Appold United Methodist Church, the Campaign Manager at Maryland Center on Economic Policy and an adjunct professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

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Discovering God’s Future for Your Church

Discovering God’s Future for Your Church is a turn-key tool kit to help your congregation discern and implement God’s vision for its future. The resource guides your church in discovering clues to your vision in your history and culture, your current congregational strengths and weaknesses, and the needs of your surrounding community. The tool kit features videos, leader’s guides, discussion exercises, planning tools, handouts, diagrams, worksheets, and more. Learn more and watch an introductory video now.