Tony Evans, the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Church, said that because the Church instigated the problem of racism in the United States, it’s up to the Body of Christ to serve as the solution.
During a segment titled “Jesus the Center of Racial Reconciliation: Adopting a Kingdom Race Mindset” during the morning session of the second day of the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting in June, Evans cited 2 Chronicles 15:2 to explain the unrest seen across the nation.
“When it comes to our racial divide, it was the failure of the pulpit and the failure of the Church which has put us in this ignominious situation today,” Evans said. “And we are told in 2 Chronicles that only when they came together in unity did God bring them rest, verse 15 says, to the distress that was in the land.
“The political, the social, the racial, the class distress that we are facing, that has helped to be caused by the Church, can only be properly dissolved by the Church,” Evans said. “If God can’t get the Church right, the culture can never become right.”
Evans stressed that Satan has “been successful in illegitimately dividing the Church so that the power of God is absent.”
“So now is the time for us to come to the forefront with a plan to let the nation sees something different,” he emphasized.
In recent years, the SBC has faced criticism for how some leaders in the denomination have responded to racism, the debate over critical race theory and instances of sexual abuse in churches. During last year’s Annual Meeting, then-SBC President Ed Litton promised shortly after his election that he would “build bridges, not walls” during his tenure.
This year, Litton, along with former SBC President Fred Luter, announced an initiative called The Unify Project to build racial unity nationwide in tandem with local churches. The project will be conducted alongside The Urban Alternative, a Christian Bible teaching and resource ministry founded 41 years ago by Evans and his late wife, Lois.
“Southern Baptist Convention, what we hope to do is to start a grassroots movement, a local church initiative in your communities to cross barriers of race, different denominations and groups, to begin to meet with people who are like-minded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to offer a Kingdom solution for the divisions that exist in our land,” Litton said.
“The Church should be on the front line of bringing hope and healing to our communities for the glory of God,” he added.
Evans said that The Unify Project will be based on the acronym AAA: One day a year, the community of biblically minded, Kingdom-minded churches will assemble for an annual, one-day fast and prayer session to invite God into the well-being of the community; pastors and church leaders will address the issues facing their communities and present God’s perspective on identity, race, life, marriage and other issues, and finally, perform acts of kindness in their communities.
“A good work in Scripture is something that God is always visibly attached to … a good work is something done for the benefit of the people to which God gets the credit,” Evans said.
The Unify Project is an extension of The Pledge Group, which Litton helped found alongside church leaders in Mobile, Alabama, after the death of George Floyd.
As part of the initiative, which will launch in the fall, churchgoers will be given “kindness cards” encouraging them to do at least one act of kindness weekly toward a stranger. Along with the act of kindness, prayer and evangelism are also encouraged.
“When you do the act of kindness, then you pray for them because most people will accept prayer when you've been kind to them,” the pastor said. “After you've prayed for them, then you seek an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.”
Evans stressed that once the Body of Christ carries out good works, they will no longer “be ignored,” adding: “Right now we are being ignored because we're not taken seriously and God is not helping us because of our disunity.
“If Christ doesn't come soon, we better get going in a hurry because this is falling apart fast," he concluded. "God is not waiting on the culture. He's waiting on the Church. It's time for those who helped mess it up to lead the way in fixing it up.”
In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Evans encouraged Christians to act as “bridge builders” and foster relationships with those across the racial and cultural lines “without compromising the essentials of the faith.”
“From God's throne comes righteousness and justice. Righteousness is the standard of right and wrong that is established by God. Justice is the equitable application of God's moral law applied in society. So one is vertical obedience, and the other is a horizontal relationship. And whenever you have the vertical and horizontal you can have the cross.” Evans contended.
“The way you know you're being serious about the conflicts in the culture is that you are visibly and verbally involved in reconciling things that have been historically divided. If all we're doing is discussion, discussing our division and not creating the windshield of reconciliation, because we're living in the rearview mirror of our past history, we will not be moving where God is moving. And if we're not moving where God is moving, we're moving by ourselves.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org