Ten days before the Super Bowl, the Rev. Tony Evans had a message for Christians in a racially divided city.
Realize what team you’re on, and it’s not defined by skin color, culture or economic strata.
“Your faith must define your humanity,” Evans said at the Believers for Baton Rouge event Thursday night in the Raising Cane’s River Center.
Billed as a racial reconciliation event, it follows the 2016 police slaying of a north Baton Rouge black man, which prompted several days of protests, and the subsequent killing of three local law enforcement officers by a Missouri man. Evans mentioned tensions in anticipation that the U.S. Justice Department will soon announce whether to charge police officers in the death of Alton Sterling that sparked the local strife.
Pastors, led by the Rev. Kevin McKee of Chapel on the Campus, and the Rev. René Brown of Mount Zion First Baptist Church, invited Evans, pastor of a Dallas megachurch and president of The Urban Alternative, because he has made similar efforts following the unrest in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
A mixed-race crowd of about 3,500 came out Thursday for a two-hour worship service that included music from a 200-voice, multichurch choir, words from Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, a videotaped greeting from Gov. John Bel Edwards and a collection to cover the event’s $50,000 cost before Evans’ 50-minute sermon.
“I was thoroughly pleased with the turnout,” McKee said. “It would be great if the room was full, but there was obviously a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm.”
Evans said Christians have the power to heal the city’s divisions, but not if they are divided among themselves.
“You cannot be white first, or black first, or red first or yellow first,” Evans said.
Evans employed several illustrations encouraging Christians to make their faith the biggest defining aspect of their lives. He compared Christians and the church at large to:
Football officials at the Super Bowl, representing a higher authority and committed to imposing the order of the rule book to the strife of the game.
“Unfortunately, far too many of God’s officiating crew have donned jerseys of the competing teams,” Evans said. “Some have donned a white jersey, because that’s where they’re comfortable. Some have donned a black jersey, because that’s where they’re comfortable.”
A U.S. embassy, which is considered American soil even though it is in foreign country. The church, he said, is supposed to be a little bit of heaven on earth.
“But the church has become full of Benedict Arnolds, turncoats to the kingdom who reflect their culture and their background more than they represent the embassy they are a part of,” Evans said.
His favorite childhood superhero, Superman, who could do great things because he was from Krypton, and who made use of his powers when people were in need.
“I challenge you to change your clothes, take off that old way of racial thinking, that old way of political thinking, that old way of class thinking and put on your kingdom jumpsuit, so that when people see you leaving this arena, they see … you’ve got an ‘S’ on your chest,” Evans said. “The ‘S’ doesn’t mean you’re Superman, but it ought to mean you’re saved.”
The River Center event did not address specific actions Christians should take. But Evans spoke earlier Thursday to a racially diverse luncheon crowd of a few hundred local ministers at Istrouma Baptist Church. He shared a three-point plan for pastors and congregations of all Christian denominations to meet annually for a spiritual celebration and revival and become a unified voice for addressing important issues.
Source: The Advocate | George Morris, Kyle Peveto