Fifteen years ago, I partnered with my dear friend, Pastor Wiljean Compere, to start Open Door Haiti, a U.S. based non-profit that supports Pastor Wiljean’s ministry efforts in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. During that time, we’ve raised several million dollars to support church planting efforts, build a Disciple-Making Training Center and Bible College, start Christian schools and feeding programs, open a medical center, build an orphanage, and support sustainable agriculture projects. I’ve traveled to Haiti over one hundred times. In addition to serving as the US President of Open Door Haiti, I’ve also traveled to and ministered in various countries across Africa more than thirty times. We lived in and adopted a daughter from Kenya. We’ve adopted two daughters from Haiti. It would be easy for me to think that with my vast experiences in Haiti and across Africa that I understand the black voice, but I know I don’t. I understand that the black experience in Haiti or Kenya differs from the black experience in America. So, over the past two weeks of tension and turmoil, I have sought to listen and understand. In addition to friends I’ve spoken with personally, here are many of the black voices I’ve listened to, some of which have been shared with me and some of which I’ve sought out on my own. They speak with pain, passion, and perspective.
- Tony Evans Pastor, author, and founder of The Urban Alternative, speaking and writing on Oneness Embraced.
- Jason Petty (Propaganda) Friend, speaker, hip hop and spoken word artist.
- Bishop T.D. Jakes Pastor and author, interviewed at Hillsong Church NYC.
- Dr. Anita Phillips Therapist, speaker, and author interviewed at Hillsong Church NYC.
- Thomas Sowell Economist and social theorist at The Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
- Bob Woodson Civil Rights activist, founder of the Woodson Center and the 1776 Initiative (combating the 1619 Project).
- 13th A Netflix documentary on the impact of the 13th Amendment on the American Prison System and the African American community.
- The Uncomfortable Truth An Amazon Prime documentary on the history of slavery, segregation, and civil rights.
- Candace Owens Conservative commentator, political activist, and former communications director for Turning Point USA.
- Pastor Tim Johnson Friend, pastor and founder of the Orlando Serve Foundation.
By sharing these voices with you, I am in no way endorsing everything every one of them has to say. That would be impossible, as they all wouldn’t even agree with or endorse everything one another says. But it’s important to listen. It is a sign of humility and wisdom to listen to differing viewpoints and learn from them.
I’d like to allow two of these voices, Dr. Tony Evans and Dr. Anita Phillips, to be heard in respect to the racial divide we’re facing.
“Only when truth is the absolute standard by which thoughts and actions are aligned will we experience the full manifestation of God’s glory, purposes, and plans in the body of Christ.”-Dr. Tony Evans
“Transforming our nation’s communities and restoring hope to all who need it… begins through removing the lens of our own fleshly worldview, our culture’s worldview, and even our denomination’s worldview, and replacing it with a biblical worldview.”-Dr. Tony Evans
“Bible is my first language. Jesus is where I start. The Bible is where I start. And then, with the help of the Holy Ghost, I’m able to translate what the Word of God says to these various issues… if it doesn’t match the Word, it’s not happening.”-Dr. Anita Phillips
Do we have a biblical worldview? What does the Bible have to say about these issues, and are we interpreting culture through the lens of scripture, or are we allowing culture to distort the truth of scripture?
“Unity can be defined in its simplest of terms as oneness of purpose. It is working together in harmony toward a shared vision and goal. Unity is not uniformity, nor is it sameness.”-Dr. Tony Evans
“One body with many parts… we want many parts to become one, but we don’t know how to be one with many parts. 1 Corinthians 12 calls us to be both! This is not a social justice issue. This is a body issue… We need each other… There’s something incomplete if we are not connected to each other.”-Dr. Anita Phillips
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NIV
“Spiritual oneness always and only comes to those who are under God’s authority because in that reality He enables them with the power of His Spirit.”-Dr. Tony Evans
We want the oneness Jesus prayed for in John 17, as long as it means sameness. We can be one as long as you change so that you think, act, and feel like me. Maybe we don’t say this explicitly, but implicitly, this is the attitude we portray. The Apostle Paul says we’re “not made up of one part but many,” which means we need to understand and celebrate our differences as the body of Christ.
“We are a brilliant people. We are a beautiful people. We are a powerful people. We are a loving people. We hear God. We know Him in an intimate, intuitive way. There’s so much to be learned about God’s character from who we are, and that’s what we have to begin to recognize… that one of the reasons God made all of these colors and all of these ethnic groups is because none of us is big enough to reflect Him in full alone. Each of us is a magnifying glass on some dimension of who God is, and by missing us, you are missing God. You’re missing a dimension of who He is. Seeing Him bigger is one of the keys to getting through this issue, because we’ve made Him too narrow, too small.”– Dr. Anita Phillips
“Cultures express emotion differently. Some cultures view someone who is loud as being angry and out of control. In white western culture, if you’re emotional, you’re not rational. In the African American culture, being emotional and being rational are not mutually exclusive. So if I think they are mutually exclusive, when I see someone who is emotional, I assume they are dangerous. We misinterpret one another if we’re not trained to see this.”-Dr. Anita Phillips
“Yet how many of us know that on the very same night (Paul Revere took his well-known Midnight Ride), a black man, Wentworth Cheswell, the freed grandson of a slave, also rode a Midnight Ride? Cheswell was the first black judge elected, in 1768, a devoted husband, church member, father of thirteen children, and for forty-nine years he served our nation in some form of public office…. Cheswell’s commission as messenger… was the same as that given to Revere. Wentworth Cheswell rode north. Paul Revere rode west. Both had a part to play in the fight for the American Revolution… Yet Wentworth Cheswell is virtually nowhere to be found in our historical accounts. (Things like this) disconnect African Americans from any personal heritage in our nation.”-Dr. Tony Evans
“I’m a third generation pastor’s wife. In our tradition, you’d call me First Lady. That goes back to segregation, before we had the right to vote, and the pastors were the leaders of our communities who everyone looked up to, like their own president, so the pastor’s wife was the community’s First Lady.”-Dr. Anita Phillips
Oneness without sameness. Our culture is trying to bridge the racial divide, but it has failed miserably for decades. Sin divides us. It is only God’s Spirit who makes us one. The church must lead the way. The divide will continue for decades if we rely on manufactured solutions from our culture’s government and educational systems.
“The reason we haven’t solved the race problem in America after hundreds of years is that people apart from God are trying to create unity, while people under God who already have unity are not living out the unity we possess.”-Dr.Tony Evans
“We use statistics to prove our biases. If I really believe people are made in the image of God, when I see them behaving in a way that is broken, I should ask, “What happened to them?” Not, “Why did they do that?” When I love somebody, you have to convince me something bad about them. We’re all guilty, and guess who died for us. Jesus! So stop asking us to be perfect before you accept us.”–Dr. Anita Phillips
As leaders among the body of Christ, the responsibility for the unity the world hungers for rests with us. Are we listening to each other? In humility, are we learning from one another? Are we celebrating that we are beautifully “one body with many parts” and that it takes all of us to reflect the full measure of the goodness of God to the world we’re trying to reach with His love?
“Biblical racial reconciliation may be defined as addressing the sin that caused the divide for the purpose of bonding together across racial lines based on a shared commitment to Jesus Christ with the goal of service to others.”-Dr. Tony Evans
A shared commitment to Jesus Christ with the goal of service to others. I’m in! How about you?
As the Executive Director of Sonlife, I want you to understand our commitment in this moment. As a leadership team, we are making these two commitments to the body of Christ in North America.
- Sonlife will strengthen our disciple-making training based on the life of Christ by exploring more fully how Jesus modeled an active response to poverty and injustice as an integral part of the life of the disciple. This priority will be reflected in our training, coaching, and writing.
- Sonlife will intentionally prioritize better serving the diversity of leaders and churches across North America through strategic partnerships and a more diverse leadership team. Without this, it will be impossible for us to fulfill our M72 Vision of seeing disciple-making model ministries multiplying across 50 US States, 10 Canadian Provinces, and 12 Caribbean nations by 2025, transforming the culture of ministry in North AMerica, restoring it to the disciple-making heart of Jesus.
Together, we can reflect the oneness Jesus prayed for and see disciple-making movements multiplied across our continent and to the ends of the earth!