October 15th, 2010
06:35 AM ET

Church expert: African-Americans’ place of worship changing

By Steve Almasy, CNN

CNN's Soledad O'Brien looks at how some are fighting debt from the pulpit in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special," premiering at 9 p.m. ET on October 21.

African-Americans go to religious services and pray daily more often than the general American population, studies show. And while those rates seem to be holding steady, the places of worship and the size of the groups are changing, says one expert.

Many people continue to attend mega churches, but the small communal gathering is rebounding in popularity, Teresa L. Fry Brown said.

“There is an increase now in house churches,” said Fry Brown, the director of black church studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “They kind of faded for about 20 years. But now more people are having small gatherings. And they may not even call it church - like Bible studies in homes.”

There are a couple of reasons for the change, she said. Some churchgoers find the bigger houses of worship too restrictive or simply don’t trust the leadership of the church.

She said people are meeting more often in club houses, homes and restaurants. And the gatherings aren’t always sponsored through a church.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center reported that 53 percent of African-Americans attended church regularly, compared with 39 percent of all Americans.

Fry Brown, who is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal church, said those numbers seem to be “holding,” even as the role of the black church is changing.

The black church has always been a place where a person could go without being judged, she said.

“There’s still that yearning to be with brothers and sisters who can love you no matter who you are,” she said. “I think that’s a consistent piece that has kept things going. That’s not a panacea because there are areas of woundedness in black religiosity.

“But there’s something about walking into the doors of a black church where I am accepted as myself that still rings.”

For many years, the black church was the hub for teaching, training, employment opportunities as well as acting as a community and social justice center.

“It was those kinds of things, but as more options opened some of that was diffused in some places,” she said, noting the increase in choices came after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “But now there is some kind of movement to re-establish that in some areas.”

- CNN.com

Filed under: Church • Houses of worship

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. leon everett


    October 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  2. Human

    Hmmm. My favorite part of religion is an always has been it's ability to quell thought in human beings. It is the perfect tool of domination. In fact, even those that practice say that it is the devil's way of separating you from God. Seriously people none of you are right. None of you know. You may believe, but trust me...belief is not the same as knowing. Countless of generations have killed and been killed in the name of a God that none of you have ever seen. Religion in and of itself is an oxymoron in that it limits the very being and philosophy that it exspouses. How is it possible that an omnipotent being is so limited in its omnipotence that it can't possible take other forms or be called by other names or be worshiped or reached in other ways. Are you THAT arrogant to think that a being of immense power such as God has only one path to humanity? It's sacrilege at it's finest to confine the creator of all existance to a manmade construct such as religion... especially when those religions have been used as tools of conquest throughout the history of mankind. Don't you see...you are all blind to the simple fact that there IS something greater, there IS a force beyond your understanding, and you are all simply wasting your lives in defense of a singular man-made construct that does nothing to describe the greatness that is the creator of all worlds. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism...etc... these are but labels for the same thing... something bigger than humanity...a Creator, unseen by the naked human eye...and so misunderstood by the human mind...and misrepresented by those that would use the concept to further their own ambitions for power over other humans. I pose these last questions to you: How large do you think the universe is? Do you think it goes beyond our own solar system? Given the fact that there are billions of galaxies out there, the chance of other sentient life is enormous. What do you think THEY call the creator? Do you think their creator would be the same as yours? Or do you think that God, in it's infinite power, wisdom, and creative authority...really singled YOU out of the many possibilities to be his chosen few? It's pure arrogance if nothing else...and again you are all wrong...and you know nothing of GOD. Oh for the goodness sake...stop quoting from texts as the word of GOD when those texts were cleary written and re-written by men and tailored to suit their political agendas during their power struggles... Does the council of Nicea ring a bell? Stop pretending to know... belief IS belief...but knowledge is really reserved for the creator. And none of you know...you're just guessing or regurgitating crap that other people have fed you who themselves don't know. Stop fighting over ideology that was derived to keep you in line and start looking at the world and the surrounding universe as one. Fools.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jay2


      October 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Raison


      An interesting post. Different. And all too human. lol

      October 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • KeiWi

      If this were facebook I would "Like" your post.

      October 16, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  3. Jim

    Yes, the atheists are so peaceful, over 100 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Yes, that progress of humanity is so advanced as to make religious wars look petty in comparison.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  4. Jim Weix

    There is nothing wrong with getting an education. There is nothing wrong with learning a trade. There is nothing wrong with being an unskilled worker. All are equally important. All need each other to survive. The only people that make success sound like a sin are the losers. They are human garbage and get lonely living in that garbage can they call life.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Jay2

      Complete lossers think that I agree, we have a Majority of loosers. We have a lot of sheep and very little shepards!

      October 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  5. Jay2

    I am not sure they really talk education. I am mean i never heard in the church I went to. I felt like being to succesful was a sin. I really was thinking that was wrong to be rich or too sucessful. All wars roots are based or religious beliefs. Look at our Country you are a American only if you are a Chirstian hard worker! Hard workers are only the ones that get their hands dirty. Going to college and sitting at a desk making 6 figures or more is not a hard working American or a good Chirsitian. Majority is what dictates what is right in this world. When you are the Minority your way is wrong.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  6. Jim Weix

    "Pushing your ideas on others in a way that makes your beliefs better is not spritual or human like."
    LOL. Christians and Muslims have been trying to kill each other since their respective religions were created.
    As for why there are so many churches in the black community...it beats getting an education, a real job or not talking ghetto. Just hang a sign and create "The chuch of what's happening now."

    October 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Jay2


    I respect your choice in beliefs! I don't feel no ill will with anyones choice of belief we all have different view, even within the Christianity. We have different religions that read the exact same bible and get totally different things out the book. Most read the New testament, and Jews don't believe in the New Testement.
    Both are totally different tell of God. One doesn't have Jesus in it. So is there beliefs wrong that most Jews don't think Christ really was the Son of God.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  8. Jay2

    That saying is not saying that being rich is wrong. I think that people take that for that meaning. Plus I feel that with the words that are written in the bible it is so out dated for the times of now. If you take what you read in the bible we are all rich beyond the times of when the book was written. I thinik that being happy in your own spritual beliefs should be enough for yourself. Pushing your ideas on others in a way that makes your beliefs better is not spritual or human like.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
  9. Jay2

    Explain this to me people, Why is it in most our Black communities is there Churches blocks away from each other? Why
    I never understood that.... I see churches 4 houses down from each other.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  10. claud

    Mega churches and wealth based faith teachings lies designed by the adversary of our souls to deceive us. Jesus said it will be easier to squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle than a rich man getting into the kingdom of heaven. He told us to LOVE each other mankind. simple request!.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Kiesha

      do not misqoute the Bible. God does not have a problem with people being rich, just greedy. Many of the mega churches and rich people do a lot for others, and that is why thy contiue to get more . . God trusts them to do what is right with it.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Religious"NO"Christian"YES"

      God said that it is he that gives us the power to get wealth. But he tells us to not forget that he did it. It is not by our own strength and might that we become wealthy. It's when we forget that and become too greedy that we lose the kingdom. Christians don't have to be broke or living pay check to pay check.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  11. Jim Weix

    Ditto for wackjobs that try to sell towels and the Muslim garbage.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  12. Jay2


    Who is to say that anyone person religion is right or wrong. There are people that are not christian and are of different beliefs so they are not right in there choice of religion. You belief is what gets you through life so if a person is Muslim or Buddah or whatever is there choice and is what makes them feel complete. But all people are no Christian secondly we as African Americans was taught by our slave owners of Christianity. Tell me do you know what are religion was before that point in AFRICA

    October 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • claud

      Jay2 I'm not knocking anyone's religion. I'm simply stating what I beleive as truth acording to the Bible. There is 1 God and Father over all of us. He sent his son to be the atonement for our earthly sins. African's were worshipping the SAME God.

      October 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Raison


      It is an individual that follows a religion, whatever it is and whenever it is followed. What anyone did back then by way of belief systems should have nothing to do with you as an individual. But I rant about religions everyday, anyway, so you might think my opinion is pretty clear by now if you've been going through these threads...

      Not to be a dork about it, but were you really a slave or is that just the way you are trying to make a point???
      I only ask because there is still slavery in the world in other countries. The thing is not impossible.
      But assuming you weren't ever a slave yourself, why load yourself down with the burden that is SUPPOSED to have been lifted from all who were ever slaves in this country in the past?

      And as an American, couldn't you just say that you are an American without the extra stuff? You are a person. An American. A brother to us all. Is this so hard to bear? Do you think you'd be betraying the memories of your ancestors who suffered so horribly or something?

      You are one of us and that's all that should matter!
      Equality under the law means everybody as far as I am concerned.
      If you persist in labeling yourself as a special separate group of people, how can you expect other people not in your group to understand that you are equal when you refuse to do it??? And after all the effort we've all put into it?????
      But I stand outside your group and ask that you simply become everyone along with everyone, free and equal and not separate – not ever again – ever...!

      You separate yourself and then complain that you are somehow not equal??? or not separate??? When you are making such an incredibly huge fucking deal over something that happened so long ago????
      Sorry to dump this on you, but I've had these questions a long time. A very long time.

      We'd love to have you with us. I can understand that some of you are still upset, but, dammit, you are Americans!!!!
      If my questions make you mad, would you please explain why??

      And if not, could you give me a clue here? I mean, I almost had a date or a friend just a few days ago who was "African-American" I think...but then I've heard that "African-Americans" discriminate against other people of color because of some damn technicality that says only people who are descendants of former African slaves can "truly" label themselves as "African-Americans" - so maybe she was not "African-American"....!!

      Is this true? 'Cause it just boggles my damn mind.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Raison

      I guess some people just can't handle the hard stuff.

      October 16, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  13. Jay2

    Ok Church what are you going to do about all the single Black women out here that can't get a man. I feel that our churches are putting why too much in these women head to the point the become prude. Not all churches but some needs to become the voice to my sisiters. I am married now, but when I was single trying to date a sista was like interviewing for a job.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Raison


      wow. that sounds like an ordeal. The best employers I've ever run into have always been the ones to hire me on the spot without a lot of grilling over stuff that they had been taught to ask potential employees by "clever" HR analysts and the like.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Alfatu

    I can understand why people are turning away from the Mega churches because they are impersonal and can send you broke with all their demands for money. Sometimes it seems like those who spend the most money get the most attention and those who don't go unnoticed. I doublt if that's what the Bible teaches. Also these churches seem to be competing amongst themselves as to which one is the biggest, which one has more services, and which ones have the largest number of well-to-do and/or celebrities as members. Too much attention is paid to fundraising as opposed to bringing souls to Christ. The smaller church is not prefect but more personal and hands on and members know one another and care about one another like family.

    October 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Faith

      Why does it have to be the small church against the large church? I'm just wondering how many assumptoins you're making and if you've ever been involved in a "mega church". Posting things like this is just fighting against big churches, when we should be on the same team. I am a member of one and it has none of the problems that you're mentioning. Our church is constantly talking about the good that God is doing in other churches (big and small) and talking about what we can learn from each other. We don't compete, we partner, literally. We work together often. We definitely don't brag about well to do or celebrity memebers...I don't even know if we have any. If you were to come to my church, you wouldn't just be asked for money, in fact, if you're not a member, or if you're just giving out of obligation, we ask you not to. The thing that we teach about money is just that you can't out give God. If you give, God is going to provide for you. We preach from the Bible, and we preach that you can only reach people by showing God's love and compassion. You can't scream at people and expect non-believers to live like believers.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  15. Reality

    Once again: Considering the flaws and errors in the theology and history of all religions, all priests, rabbis, imams, preachers and evangelicals should be given "pink slips". Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues should be converted to gardens with the following sign over the entrances: Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself and Do No Harm.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • kaheynu

      PREACH! I love this. It's as simple as that people 🙂

      October 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Raison


      Hi Reality! Always glad to try to understand you. lol

      That statement looks familiar....hmm. (joking) I've always liked that paragraph. It's no wonder you keep posting it. It's good and best of all it's short. A good combination. 😛

      October 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  16. Jim Weix

    Selling anti-religion or atheism on the Internet is as bad as the Jehovah witnesses that bang on my door selling religion. Beliefs that have value will attract others through attraction, not promotion. It amazes me how insecure people feel the need to try and sell their beliefs to others.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • ReallyDoe

      "sell their beliefs to others"......isnt that what Christians have been doing for thousands of years.....spreading and forcing their christianity on every foreign lanfd they come in contact with?

      October 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • Joanna

      I'm pretty sure Christians have a monopoly on shoving their beliefs down the throats of unwilling victims. And they have the audacity to get offended when an agnostic or atheist says, "Um, hello, I'm here, too, and I don't care to have my life dictated by your magical beliefs. But I do hope you have a lovely day. Would you like a slice of banana bread? I just took it out of the oven."

      October 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  17. Muhammed Ackabar

    The blacks in America are following a false God. The only blacks that will saved are the ones that are Muslim.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Muhammed Ackabar, I thought the God of Abraham was the same God of Muhammad or are there more than one God?

      October 15, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • claud

      Muhammed, I'm praying for you. Faith in Jesus Christ the son of the LIVING God is the only way to be saved from eternal hell, once your earthly flesh has ceased to function. There will be no virgins waiting for you, Money will be of no effect, so you won't need the gold that was promised. I'm praying for you.

      October 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Kingkong


      October 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • Sami

      Good day Muhammed, I am not trying to offend you or anyone but please answer me this; why does your god(allah) ask you to send your sons to die for him? When, my GOD sent his only begotton Son, JESUS, to die for us all (including you) Now whether you chose to accept this free gift of salvation is up to you. I'm not knocking anyone's religion or belief but that is a legitimate question.

      October 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Muhammed Akabar & claud: I say we settle this in a cage match. Mano a Mano! Muhammed, you get Mohammed. Claud, you get Jesus. We stick em in the octagon and watch the blood fly! Whoever wins, we all convert to that religion!

      October 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Ackbar

      "Ackabar" is trolling you, fools. He even spelled "Ackbar" incorrectly - not that any of you noticed.

      October 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • bigb19

      @Muhammed Adkabar,

      LOL!! I know your post was placed to grab some attention. You can't be serious.
      Stick a "bow tie" up your butt!

      October 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • rm

      Baal. The only true god is Baal. Omniprustifar Baal! Proto!

      October 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Muneef

      It is said by God Allah that only good people will inherit earth and did not say white or Black and did not say Muslim or not Muslim but said believers:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      And indeed We have written in Az-Zabûr [i.e. all the revealed Holy Books – the Taurât (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel), the Psalms, the Qur'ân] after (We have already written in) Al-Lauh Al-Mahfûz (the Book, that is in the heaven with Allâh), that My righteous slaves shall inherit the land (earth) (105)
      Sura 21:105 

      October 15, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  18. Tanya

    One day, the society will be developed well enough, and people will not need shells for their emotional well-being.

    October 15, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Tanya, I hope sooner than later.

      October 15, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  19. JohnQuest

    Hopefully, one day we will all be free (of religion) Amen

    October 15, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • why

      why post this?

      October 15, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • JohnQuest

      why, because blind obedience to religion or anything is dangerous. Believing in a myth and imagined beings doesn't make sense to me and it stops or slows down real human development.

      October 15, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Zuriel

      "For many years, the black church was the hub for teaching, training, employment opportunities as well as acting as a community and social justice center."

      Does that really sound so bad to you?

      October 15, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Zuriel, no it doesn't sound bad but is it needed now, if so, we need to rethink what we are teaching our children.

      October 15, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • why

      What do you believe that makes you so special?

      October 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • richunix

      Agree, it is time that for religion to just "go-awy". but at the same time we do need something to replace it, as people wish to feel good about something, even if it"s just a story

      October 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Raison


      A good point. I don't think we need to worry about that too much though. Not really.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • LiberateUs

      Politics are the root of all evil.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  20. Raison

    "The black church has always been a place where a person could go without being judged, she said."

    mmmhmmm, you tell 'em, sister.

    "“But there’s something about walking into the doors of a black church where I am accepted as myself that still rings.”

    mmmmhmmmm. Let it ring, sister!

    Let's all pray that these people SEE that light! Amen!

    October 15, 2010 at 6:43 am |
    • Chip

      A "black church" is inherently racist. That's nothign to "Amen!" about.

      October 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Raison: Those were the two statements I question most. Would that still be true of a gay person or a white person for that matter. They seems to be blanket statements, esp. considering all black churches, according to the article, are very much not the same.

      October 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • bigb19


      I don't understand what you're Amening about. When any one steps into ANY place of worship, they should be welcomed UNLESS they attended a house of worship to create discord. Statements like yours and the person in the article don't breed racism, they breed separatism. That's now what God is about. For once, I'd like to read a CNN article about the White church, maybe even the Hispanic American church.

      October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • bigb19


      oops. I had a typographical error. I meant to write, "that's not what God is all about".

      October 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • Suzanne

      Yes, you can always go without being judged.

      Unless you're gay.

      October 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Raison


      October 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • TruthTimeNow

      I am a spiritual person not religious, but in defense of Raison I must state the a black church is not something that was choosen by black people. The idea of having our own church was forced due to whites not wanting to have a place of worship with people of darker skin tone. Martin Luther King Jr. was no white man, he was black. No one ever step forth from the white community who was a beacon of integration. I find it racist that you guys do not take the time to learn American History in its full context.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • Raison


      I have no doubt that any "white" man who tried was immediately and angrily vilified by those he was trying to help as not being "quite the right sort of guy". And I'm sure they had a few, but I do not expect to find much in the way of proof.
      They would not have followed a "white" man in those days. Get real.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
    • bigb19

      @Raison and TruthTimeNow,

      now, both of you are taking yourselves too seriously. This observation comes from the length of your posts and what's been written. Like "Raison" wrote, "laughing", I'm laughing. Hey, Raison, it should have been "LOL" or "LMAO"!!

      October 16, 2010 at 8:07 am |
    • the-WHOLE-truth

      PLENTY of white people stepped forward to end segregation. The fact is, EVERY right a black person has was VOTED ON by ALL WHITES. If whites were racists, you wouldn't have ANY rights because they are the majority and they could continue to out vote blacks. And lets not forget, even the very right to vote was given to blacks by WHITES. If whites were really as racist as blacks think there wouldn't be a single black person left in this country. it's time blacks stop expecting whites to GIVE them everthing and start WORKING FOR IT.

      October 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.