The black church has been described as the single greatest institution in the black community. It has traditionally served the spiritual, social, cultural, educational, and political needs of its clientele. The black church is distinctive in a number of ways, owing to the early intermixing of African religious beliefs and practices with Christian influences. Although Christianity has historically been the form of religion most frequently practiced in African American communities, it was not successful in eradicating traditional thoughts and practices of the slave societies into which it was introduced. From the rhetorical style of ministers to its music, the black church has influenced the cultural life of America in general, and the black church has shaped the content and form of African American literature in specific ways.