By Tricia Murdoch Zmaj
For most of 2020, the nation has been struggling with a pandemic that disproportionally impacts communities of color; in addition, we have been confronting the social injustices of the African American experience. To meet the needs for future evangelism for the Black community, the Southeastern California Conference’s Black Ministries, the North American Division’s ministerial department, Breath of Life Television Ministries, and Message magazine joined to sponsor a new evangelistic series: The Next NormalX.
“After the upheaval of the last year, there is no going back to normal,” said Marquis Johns, Black ministries evangelist and host of the event. “In the title of The Next NormalX, X stands for the unknown. This series represents a departure from the old normal and discovering a new way of fulfilling the Lord’s work.” Through his relationships throughout the Black Christian movement, Johns pulled together an inspiring lineup of speakers. According to Johns, the presenters were able to equip listeners with tools designed to help minister in a way that is “unapologetically Black.”
Meeting in an online format from September 15-17, The Next NormalX featured speakers who addressed subjects such as the history and future of evangelism in the African American Seventh-day Adventist context, community development and engagement, racialized trauma, and pertinent topics for pastors and laypeople.
Johns highlighted the interactive component employed after each presentation that allowed the audience to fully benefit from each of the speakers’ insights. “For example,” said Johns, “on the second night, W. Franklyn Richardson of the National Action Networks discussed how a social justice hermeneutic should inform the programs on the outside and inside of an African American church. After his presentation, a panel of Black millennial pastors discussed the ideas while answering questions from YouTube and Facebook users.” As the panel met with the wider online audience, Johns said, “SECC pastors were able to pose questions to the speaker in a separate Zoom setting.”
Allowing each of the speakers’ ideas to be discussed in real time while allowing pastors to ask questions in a small group was a great way to capitalize on the rich content on each of the evenings. Johns shared that he hopes The Next NormalX was a step in the right direction toward allowing Black pastors to share the unique Adventist message in a way that allows them to be both unapologetically Black and Christian.