Since the early twentieth century, modern Evangelicalism has continued evoke elusive and ambiguous meaning. It's meaning, future and direction has been debated by many including within consciously self identified Black Evangelical groups. What Evangelicalism is and who holds the authority to define it continues to be a point of debate. Should and can White Evangelicals determine Evangelicalism for a Black context, or is this to be solely self-determined? The malleable nature of Evangelicalism is rampant within this fractured movement; perhaps this ambiguity has resulted in its vulnerability as a movement outside its immediate context. In consideration of this growing reality, what is to be the future of Black Evangelicalism and who is to determine this? As Orthodox Christian traditions continue to be challenged both from places of higher learning and popular culture, what is the significance of mentorship for the future of Black Evangelicalism? The curiosity of meaning has only been just as difficult to determine than its future and exact mission.
Many of my peers know little to nothing about Black Evangelicalism - evangelicals and its significance. Both old and new Black Evangelical groups are unfamiliar to the large majority of rank and file Black church attendees. In spite of growing up in the Black church I was unfamiliar with Black Evangelical groups. I knew nothing of the National Black Evangelical Association, the Obsidian Society, Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter Varsity (Black Campus Ministries/Black Scholars and Professionals) or the likes, until introduced by a colleague in 2007 (I was introduced to Campus Crusade and The Tom Skinner ministries in 1995 while an undergraduate at Howard University. This introduction and brief encounter was less than positive though). My unfamiliarity and a seeming historical disconnection to these movements is the same reality of many others of my generation - I am, though, much further along in this knowledge than they.
The ambiguous nature of Black Evangelicalism may point toward the dearth of mentorship and ineffective mission of Black Evangelicals. Like any other movement or organization, the future of Black Evangelicalism lies within in the hands of the current generation of leadership who sat at the feet of the first generations of Black Evangelicals. The stories and strides of the Nottage brothers, William H. Bentley, William Pannell, Tom Skinner and others are nearly forgotten or simply not known by newer and potential mentees. Has the current generation of Black Evangelicals done what is necessary to continue the legacy, movement and mission? What does this look like or entail? Who are the recipients of the first generations of Black Evangelicals? The dearth of new Black Evangelicals is a chilling reality which remains bleak. Perhaps the mentoring and raising up of these individuals needs to be rethought primarily by asking the questions, "Should Evangelicalism remain a viable mission and task for Black folks? Is this really our heritage or have we simply been misinformed and misdirected in an attempt to belong, aquiesse and assimilate?"