Tony Evans, Race, and the Bible
The following is a transcript of the audio.
Pastor John, you were recently in Memphis, Tennessee speaking at the Kainos [kai-naws] conference along with Tony Evans. Any impressions or thoughts you want to share about the event, the movement, or what you heard there?
Ok. Yes. I want to celebrate the Kainos event and the Kainos movement. I want to celebrate Tony Evans’ message that he gave on April 16 in Memphis. Those two things are just brimming right now in my heart. Brian Lorrits is the lead pastor for Fellowship Memphis. He was part of the church when it was founded, 2003. The aim was a multi ethnic church of disciples and disciple makers in the old South of Memphis, the very city where Martin Luther King was killed, so a kind of swimming against the stream vision of multi ethnic churches there and the Kainos movement wants to encourage pastors to grow those kinds of churches. I think Brian’s church has about 60 percent white and 40 percent black and other ethnicities in the mix as well. So that is what the Kainos movement is. And the event that was held there in Memphis I was a part of and Tony Evans came in and it was to encourage pastors to move. And, by the way, I should mention that I was also happy because of loving this vision to be a part of the book that I think was just recently released in the last week or two called Letters to a Birmingham Jail, the kind of response that Brian and John Perkins and I and others responded to in that book. So people might want to look at that.
So, all in all, I just want to celebrate what Brian is doing and encourage people to be aware of it and to dream their own dream about growing the Church of Christ into the kind of multi ethnic face that it will have in the kingdom.
The other thing I wanted to celebrate was Tony Evans’ message. I had never in person heard Tony Evans preach. Tony was the first African American to get his doctorate from Dallas Seminary and is the pastor today of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and he and I did a Q & A together with Brian asking us questions, kind of two old guys. I think he is 65. I am 68. So we have lived through a lot of racial stuff. And he wanted us to get into our stories. And my head was just spinning with amazement listening to all the ministries that Dr. Evans’ church has spawned. But what I really came away with was a super happy celebrative response to his message that evening. He preached and then I preached. And I just sat there enthralled at the way he used the Bible and spoke about the Bible in relationship to the whole issue of racial diversity and racial harmony. He took his text from John four, the woman at the well. And he walked us through it, dropping nuggets of wisdom everywhere. And let me give you just a few. The people really ... I assume this will be online somewhere. People have that. I don’t have that right now, but if they can listen I think they will be greatly helped.
So Jesus goes through Samaria. Jews don’t go through Samaria. They skip through Samaria. Why did he go through? Answer, quote: Spiritual needs overrode cultural differences. And that was kind of the banner that was flying over this message. And that is so right. She knew that he was a Jew. She calls him a Jew. How did she know? He didn’t say, “I am a Jew.” His answer: Well, he looked like a Jew. He dressed like a Jew. He acted like a Jew. And she knew he was a Jew so, implication, he didn’t stop being a Jew in order to reach this half breed Samaritan. You don’t have to stop being who you are in order to reach out across the line. But, you don’t let who you are get in the way of reaching either. And those are the two prongs that moved me. So don’t stop being who you are and don’t let who you are get in the way of reaching out to people different from yourself.
Stunningly he pointed out, Jesus asked if he can get a drink from here. He is going to push his lips to the very vessel that this unclean, non Jew brings. And the point that he made was: He is going after this woman’s soul. That is clear. He is going to try to reach her, bring her to be a true worshipper of God. But, he pointed out, I am not going to touch your soul until I am willing to drink from your cup. That was very, very insightful, I think.
Best of all, for me, because of the long term implications, is the forceful way Dr. Evans put the Bible as the plumb line not racial preferences as the plumb line in all of our activity with regard to race and ethnicity. So he said things like, quote: Jesus is not calling white to be black or black to be white, but both to be biblical. He said: Biblical truth overrides cultural difference. He said: Adjust your humanity to you faith, not your faith to your humanity. He said, quote: Black is beautiful only when it is biblical. White is right only when it agrees with holy writ. Now that not only sounds good, that is good. I mean, that is just plain powerful and good.
Then he made this little side trip over to Galatians two where Paul has to scold Peter for walking not in step with the gospel. And he pointed out: Clearly the gospel has implications for relational behaviors. And he used the terms—and I thought his was pretty carefully done—he said: There is the content of the gospel and then his other term was the scope of the gospel. And he defined the content of the gospel from 1 Corinthians 15. He died for us. He rose again. He must be believed on by faith alone. And he will give us eternal life. But the scope of the gospel has these radical implications for whether you eat pork chops with Gentiles or not.
And the last thing, very confrontational, he said that I took to heart is: American Racism would not have lasted so long if things had been right in the pulpits. So he is pleading with pastors, with me and others to see these things and to proclaim them with clarity and power. So I came away from the Kainos movement the Kainos event and that time with Brian and with Dr. Evans greatly encouraged and I just hope lots of people get on board with what Brian is trying to do there. It was an honor to be part of that event.
Excellent, thank you Pastor John. And to find more information about the Kainos [kai-naws] conference and movement, see their website: kainos.is. I assume this will also be the place to find the John 4 sermon from Tony Evans, although right now I don’t see it yet. Also, I want to reiterate the new book Letters To a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Bryan Loritts and published by Moody. Pastor John wrote chapter 2, titled: “Waiting For and Hastening the Day of Multiethnic Beauty.” We’ll be back with a new episode tomorrow. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.