On July 7, 2016, a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas turned deadly when Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed a group of police officers, killing five and injuring several others before being killed himself by a police robot. The tragedy sent shock waves throughout the nation and highlighted once again the need for racial reconciliation in our country.
Near the epicenter of this event, two churches had already begun moving in that direction. In 2015, Dr. Jeff Warren of Park Cities Baptist Church (a predominantly white church) and Rev. Bryan Carter of Concord Baptist Church (a predominantly black church), friends and fellow clergy, decided to do a “pulpit swap” for a week to preach at one another’s churches and highlight the need for racial reconciliation in our community. They repeated this the following year and have done so every year since.
When the tragedy of July 7 occurred, Mayor Mike Rawlings called on these two pastors to help lead a special prayer gathering at Thanksgiving Day Square to bring our city together. That same night, Concord Church hosted a vigil that united believers and churches from across the Metroplex to pray for hope and healing for our community. Since that time, Dr. Warren and Rev. Carter have spoken together at other local and nationwide events highlighting the need for racial reconciliation.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
— 1 Peter 2:12
Certainly there are many in this city who might speak against Christians and churches as evildoers. One does not have to look far to find stories of misconduct, mistreatment and misappropriation by Christians and church leaders. But when tragedy struck our city, it was the honorable conduct of two committed pastors that allowed them to become the voice to a hurting and grieving community.
As believers, we are called to something even greater than racial reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
If we are to carry out this ministry of reconciliation, we must first conduct ourselves in a way that presents the gospel for what it truly is: a divine message of grace, forgiveness, love and self-sacrifice. Do our words and actions reflect these truths? Does our behavior burn bridges with unbelievers or open doors for them? Do our deeds validate the accusations of others or refute them?
I have known Dr. Warren since he was my youth pastor 30 years ago. It was his life and his character that first ignited a desire in my heart to pursue Christ. Under his leadership, I grew in my understanding of the Word, my love for God, and my experience of his kingdom. But it was the life that I saw in my youth pastor that made me want to pursue these things in the first place.
As we reach out to people with the information of the gospel, are we also giving them the inspiration they will need to give their lives to him? Ultimately, we are not just calling people to believe something. We are calling them to receive the life that only Christ can offer them. Does our life in Christ look like something worth receiving?