The meeting notice was to the point: Some pastors are contributing to the neglect of their communities by following a “white evangelical model” of preaching while ignoring the equally important issues of political and economic oppression and injustice. The meeting was the first Gospel Practitioner Planning Conference hosted Tuesday night at Koinonia Worship Center and Village in Pembroke Park. “Practitioner” as in what the practice of faith should entail.

The conference included a panel discussion of pastors, who, for the most part, acknowledged that the Church has not been providing a rounded ministry that actively caters to not only the soul but also the body. They also acknowledged that this shortcoming is contrary to the traditions of the Black Church which, for all the years of Africans in America, has been looked upon as a bulwark against political and economic oppression and injustice.

“We need to take authority over ourselves and stop blaming others, to make a way to buy our own 40 acres,” said the Rev. Dr. Anthony Davis, pastor of the Church of Brotherly Love in Deerfield Beach.

How do we take charge of our own affairs? We do so first by realizing that our people are in crisis. At the top of the list is education. The Church led the way in founding schools all the way up to universities to ensure our young people receive an education that reinforces their cultural heritage and identity, that is based on sound moral values, that produces graduates who know right from wrong, who would practice the Golden Rule and who would respect all people and the sanctity of life. Our churches have drifted away from that original plan. They are no longer sponsoring schools that would save our young people, especially our young black men. Instead, even the few remaining schools founded long ago must depend on handouts from government and the willing wealthy to stay open.

And this at a time when we are getting more and more “megachurches” with tens of thousands of members and millions of dollars in annual offerings.

“Leadership,” the Rev. Dr. O’Neal Dozier of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, told the conference, is not about finances or ego. Those things need to be parked so we can clearly address what needs to be done.”

And there is a whole lot more to be done besides education. Our adults desperately need help in their daily lives, help to weather crises of all kinds, from the personal, such as forming families and families staying together, to finding a job, to saving a home, to putting food on the table, to just simply to be able to hold their heads high and be proud in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The institution that has historically provided the help to meet such challenges has been the Church.

“We are at a critical point in history and cannot sit idly by and do nothing,” said Elder Mathes Guice, director of the men’s ministry at Koinonia.

We cannot agree more. The comments that came out of the panel discussion Tuesday night are intended to help with planning for next year’s conference and to inform the actions of pastors. They should not wait a whole year, just to return and again lament over the obvious. The time for action is now. The Church must again be the place where our people turn for help. Our pastors cannot let them down.