Returning America Back to God
About the Guest
America is in serious trouble. That's the sentiment of respected pastor Dr. Tony Evans as he considers the acceptance of homosexual marriage, legalization of marijuana, and the general lawlessness sweeping over our land. Is there anything believers can do to stop this landslide? Tony believes so, and shares what Christians can do to help turn the tide.
Dr. Tony Evans considers the general lawlessness sweeping over our land. Is there anything believers can do to stop this landslide? Tony shares what Christians can do.
Returning America Back to God
Bob: When you think about the United States of America, do you think about a nation divided?—strife and discord? Pastor and author, Tony Evans, says there is reason for hope.
Tony: The beautiful thing is that now, with the chaos in America, the church has a unique opportunity because there are no solutions out there—there are just problems. If the church of Jesus Christ, around the banner of the cross, can go back to the rebuilding of the family—as God defines it, not as culture defines it—for the churches to be forces of change in communities and working together, cross-racially, for impact and demonstrate the power of God’s people—now, the church will be respectable and respected because there’s no force like a unified church.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
Having just celebrated our nation’s birthday, it’s a good time for us to pull back and ask ourselves the question: “What kind of salt and light are we, as Christians, to be?” We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I find myself sometimes looking at where we are in our culture / where we are as a nation. I think back to when I was growing up—I remember my parents being concerned about where we were, as a nation, and about popular culture and where things are. I think to myself: “Am I just overreacting to where things are?” or “Is it really as bad as it seems to me like it is in our culture today?”
Dennis: I think every generation thinks their generation is the worst, but I think there are some storm clouds on the horizon that we have to pay attention to and have to address.
I’m glad we have men like Tony Evans, not only with us on the broadcast today, but also standing strong in the church—helping to guide the next generation how to take on these issues. Tony—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Tony: It’s an honor to be here—it’s always an honor to be with you. Thank you again for the great work that you, at FamilyLife, are doing.
Dennis: He’s a great model of a lot of things, but I love it that he’s been married to Lois for 44 years. He’s the author of more than a couple dozen books. The most recent is America: Turning a Nation to God. He gets—really, I think much of your credentials because you pastor a local church and have pastured that church for more than four decades—Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.
Tony, I want us to just kind of cut to the chase here. Bob grew up in St. Louis. St. Louis has been in the news recently.
I just want you to coach us and give us some godly wisdom about how we are to view what’s taking place, racially right now, in our country. Take us back to the beginning and give us a context for what’s taking place today.
Tony: Well, that’s a big question, and there’s a lot to it. The history of race in America is not a pleasant one. It’s not a pleasant one, nationally, and it wasn’t a pleasant one for me. I remember growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, and being told by my father, “We can’t go into that restaurant because they don’t allow Negroes”—as he would say it back then—“in there.”
I remember being told that there were churches that we can’t go into because of the color of our skin. These were evangelical Bible-teaching churches—back then, fundamentalist churches. So, there was disparity between the Word of God being proclaimed and the relationship, or lack of relationship, being exemplified.
When you had the church endorsing the evil—of either segregation through the curse of man or a Jim Crow—so slavery/segregation—all of that given a theological endorsement—then it was even okay for God and with God.
Now, the good part about it is—that in the African-American community, God was never left because of the reality of slavery. There was this holding onto the hope that was in God, in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, but there still was a separation in the church.
When things like Ferguson—I just went to Ferguson, Missouri—they asked me to come and to unify the black and white Christians there. When you see an event occur, that event—that everybody’s reacting to—is merely an explosion of something that is consistently just under the surface—that is that feeling of inequity / that feeling of mistrust that’s there.
When you see a blowup, it’s just the visible expression of something that’s there. The government can’t fix it / generic social services can’t fix it—only the church of Jesus Christ can fix this. It’s too deep for too long. This solution will not come on Air Force One. Neither will God skip the church house to change the White House. It has to happen with the church of Jesus Christ—being the church that He created, which is different people in one body, for His glory, to advance His Kingdom on earth. Until that happens, none of this will change in any deep way.
Dennis: And I couldn’t agree with you more. I think families—who are listening to this broadcast / who are a part of a church—have to understand what’s taking place, though, to be able to teach their sons and daughters and to model what it means to love all people and to not live out racism themselves. I mean, Tony, there’s a lot of people who are watching what’s taking place and they’re going, “That shouldn’t happen,”—
—yet, they have attitudes / they have issues in their lives they need to deal with.
Tony: Well, you start with the family. If parents would teach their children to measure people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin / if we would use biblical criteria to evaluate relationships, then a lot of this could be solved. At our church, we have more and more Anglos coming. It’s predominantly African-American, but more and more Anglos are coming. A person could not come into our church, who is of a different race, and be treated wrongly and it go unaddressed. That would not happen—it would not be allowed to go on for days, and months, and years.
Neither was it allowed in Scripture. When Peter distanced himself from the Gentiles in Galatians, Chapter 2, Paul says, “When I saw what Peter did, I confronted him then before them all.” He didn’t have this long sensitivity session and “Let’s take a generation to work it out,”—he worked it out biblically and clearly.
In fact, whenever I sign books I quote Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, the life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God…” That verse comes at the end of that story—the main verse on your Christian identity comes at the end of a story of a racial conflict. God wants our identity to be first referenced in Him, not first in our culture.
Dennis: And He wants us—as men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads—to address these issues when we see them happening in our neighborhoods, in our churches, and also in our families.
Tony: Absolutely. When you expose your family to people who are different—but who share a value system that you can be comfortable with / but who have a background that’s different than yours—then you are helping your children act on it.
When Jesus was with the Samaritans, and he crossed the racial line in John, Chapter 4, the Jewish disciples of His were upset that He was talking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus said, “Don’t say four months and then comes the harvest.”
He says, “If you look up, you’ll see the opportunity is right in front of you.” That’s when the Samaritan men were coming over. He gave them a spiritual law booklet and said: “Let’s go to work. Let’s give you a practical opportunity.”
That’s why, across the nation, we’re showing how black and white churches can come together and have reconciliation through service, not reconciliation through seminars. We don’t need seminars—we need serving together.
Bob: Tony, you know that there are a lot of people who look at Ferguson—as you said, it’s really a symptom of that undercurrent—but they would say the undercurrent is that we have power structures in this country that are inherently biased against ethnic minorities. We have law enforcement—they would say law enforcement—it is endemic among law enforcement to be inherently racist. Do you think that’s true?
Tony: Well, it is true to some extent because I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced being hassled because of the color of my skin. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced it in the Christian community. A few years before I went to Dallas Seminary, I would not have been admitted to Dallas Seminary because Dallas Seminary would not accept some African-Americans.
I only got on radio—every radio station turned me down—one said, “You have to understand the reason why they will not let you on radio is you’re presence will offend too many of the white listeners.” Only when Jim Dobson wrote a letter to the radio stations did that open up that door. So, when the Christian community is fermenting this, then you can’t expect the culture—in fact, the culture was often doing better than the Christian community was doing.
It is time for the church to stop being the tail and start being the head, and get out in front of this issue. It doesn’t mean all churches will be integrated—it simply means that we will work together for a common cause. So, through The Urban Alternative, we have taken communities, all over the country, through a three-point plan:
Point one: Have a solemn assembly / a sacred gathering. Bring together churches, cross-racially, to invite God’s manifest presence back into your community.
Point two: You churches adopt every school in your community and provide mentoring, tutoring, and family support services to the at-risk students in that school—if you have to—across racial lines.
Then point three: Because you’ve done one with God, and two with good works, now you can do three and speak, with one voice, to the issues that face your community—because, now, you have the power of unity that Jesus said God would bless in
John 17—because when the church gets unified, it’s now unstoppable.
Dennis: I want to go back to something you said a little bit earlier about feeling like law enforcement was biased, racially. I’ll tell you—the “aha” moment for me was when a friend of mine asked me the question, “Did you train your sons to know what to do if they were pulled over by a law enforcement official?” I thought: “No. I really didn’t.” That thought really never crossed my mind—that I needed, for their protection, as young men, to tell them how to speak respectfully and to know how to relate to an officer if they got pulled over.
Some of my African-American friends said, “Not us.”
Tony: Yes; because I told both of my sons—I said: “Guys, if you’re pulled over by an officer, it’s ‘Yes, sir,’ it’s ‘No, sir,’ or ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and ‘No, ma’am,’—it is the utmost respect—because my experience has been in some situations—many exceptions—but in some situations, that any opportunity you give that can be taken advantage of in an illegitimate way—since you don’t know what this officer’s racial perspective is—you don’t want to give any reason for an overreaction. You go overboard to be respectful—other communities don’t have to do that—because there is this history.
When a lot of people heard about / saw the movie, Selma—when you saw some of the brutality that has taken place, even by Christians who were worshipping God on a Sunday, it’s pretty despicable. Because that is logged in the memory-bank—not because you’ve experienced it but because you know it can happen—it produces this insecurity and, sometimes, even maybe an overreaction—sometimes, an illegitimate reaction. That’s because, when you hurt yourself and there’s a sore spot there, you’re going to be really tender around that thing because it can hurt quick and it can hurt bad if you hit it wrong. So, that’s a sore spot.
Bob: There are also folks who look at the conviction rate for African-American men and the conviction rate for Anglo men and they say, “Our justice system is fundamentally, inherently unjust.”
Tony: Well, what you often have in the Anglo community are relationships that the African-American does not have. Certain people can call certain people in their church or in their sphere of influence and get interjection into their situation to help with their circumstance, where those relationships may not exist among the poor or among many African-Americans.
They don’t have access to that system—the better lawyers, the better defenders, and that kind of thing.
So, you do have injustices. Now, let me be quick to say some of that is our fault because we shouldn’t be doing some of these things that should need that anyway. I’m saying some of this we have to bear responsibility for—you’ can’t blame all of this on somebody else—but I don’t want to use that to say that that reality does not exist—because it does.
Dennis: Yes; well, you used the term “relationships”— those relationships in existence within the white community. On the flip side of that, there are some other relationships that are not in place, even beyond connections in the African-American community to good attorneys, etc.—there are some missing connections with daddies.
Tony: Absolutely. It is the missing connection in our community. When you have
72 percent of your children being born out of wedlock, and most of those fathers are not in play—you have created a context for poverty, you’ve created a context for lack of discipline, for mis-definition of manhood / for the misuse of women.
We’ve created a generation of women with no one to marry. I mean, it goes on, and on, and on. We are, to that extent, imploding ourselves through the breakdown in the family. You can’t blame that—racism does not impregnate you, and racism does not make you a deserter of your family. So don’t give me that line—if you’re African-American—to talk about why you’re not taking care of the children you sire. That belongs to us, and we have to, as I say, fight for our families. If we don’t have a nuclear family, we have to come up with surrogate families.
When God says, “I’ll be a mother to the motherless and a father to the fatherless,” He didn’t mean some floating spirit in never-never land. He meant He would work through His men and work through His women to provide surrogate parenting. That’s what we try to do through getting churches to adopt schools—to provide surrogate parenting for kids who don’t have them.
Dennis: 1Corinthians 16 challenges men to stand firm in the faith and to let everything they do be done in love, but to act like a man—not just any man—a godly man.
Tony: Absolutely. That’s why I love Exodus 34, verses 23 and 24—God says, “I want all the males in Israel to come meet with the Lord your God three times a year.” He uses three Hebrew names there: Elohim, Jehovah, and Adonai—His three foundational names—and He uses that with men. He says: “Leave the women home / leave the children home. You come meet with Me. I’m going to tell you what to do. I’m going to tell you how to do.” He says, “And if you will pay attention to My rule in your life when I send you back to your families, I will protect your lamb, I will protect your family, and no nation will be able to impose itself on you when you come to meet with the Lord your God.”
We have a generation of men who are not meeting with the Lord their God and taking instructions from Him; therefore, not acting like a man / a godly man. So, we’re imploding our families and imploding our culture because of it—because God does not rule manhood.
Bob: I was 12 years old in 1968, when I heard on the news that Dr. King had been shot in Memphis. I grew up in suburban St. Louis. I grew up going to a junior high school that was—I think we were about 70/30 in terms of our racial mix—but what I had heard in my home, growing up, was that Dr. King was a rabble-rouser. He was stirring up trouble in the black community, and he was the source of the unrest.
Dennis: I want to underline something you just said, Bob—you said what you heard in your home.
Bob: I heard this in my home—yes; okay. So, when I heard Dr. King had been shot, there was, as a 12-year-old, there’s a thought in the back of my mind that maybe this was a good thing because it would bring some peace. First of all, that’s a sick way of thinking; but secondly, the racial unrest that followed Dr. King’s assassination—and that exploded in the late ’60s and in the early ’70s—was a tumultuous time.
It feels like—not that we’re back there—but almost like we haven’t made any progress since then.
Tony: Pointed in the wrong direction.
Tony: Yes, and that is because there still has been left many things that have not been addressed. Let me go back to the original point—Dr. King would not have been needed if the church was doing what it should have done—we wouldn’t have needed him because the church would have led the way. Finally, the church came into it, which was helpful with this whole civil rights movement. Without Dr. King, you would have had the Black Panther emphasis—and the Muslim emphasis would be the dominant one—but he was emphasizing love—but he was emphasizing love against the plight of injustice.
Tony: When you have Bull Conner out there and George Wallace out there, telling you: “Not in this city. Segregation now…segregation forever,” and the church pastors endorsing it—then you have confusion, in the name of God.
So, now—the beautiful thing is that now, with the chaos in America, the church has a unique opportunity because there are no solutions out there—
—there are just problems. If the church of Jesus Christ, around the banner of the cross, can go back to the rebuilding of the family—as God defines it, not as culture defines it—for the churches not just to be weekly meeting stations for biblical inspiration but to be forces of change in communities, and working together, cross-racially, for impact—not only doing missions across the seas but missions across the street / and then implode upon the culture and demonstrate the power of God’s people—now, the church will be respectable and respected because there’s no force like a unified church.
Dennis: You know, one of the things—and Tony, I couldn’t agree more with what you just said—one of the things that the church—and I’m speaking of the white community now—we really have not done a good job of educating people in our churches about injustice and that God is a God of justice.
The Gospel, at the core of it, has to settle the issue of us offending an Almighty God and being under condemnation as a result of that.
Dennis: Now, I grew up in a town that wasn’t a diverse town.
Dennis: It was a small town. We just didn’t have many people of color in that town. I don’t remember a negative word—but I was just clueless—we didn’t talk about it. I didn’t understand injustice—I watched it happen on TV. It wasn’t that I didn’t love people of other color—I just didn’t understand the context of their lives and what they’d had to endure and suffer.
Tony: And therein is the problem. When you’ve not sat where I’ve sat, you can’t feel like I feel—but when you get to know me, and I have the freedom to share that with you, and you can hear me and, therefore, empathize with me and, therefore, understand me—then you can walk with me as we try to work this thing out together.
Bob: So, do you think that America in 2015 is in the same place we were in 1968; or do you think we’ve made progress?
Tony: We’ve definitely made progress because you have a black middle class now that you didn’t have before. You don’t have segregated higher education like you did before—so, we’ve definitely made progress—but what we haven’t done is address, now, coming out of the racial issue, the class issue that has erupted because of it. So, now, you have a class issue—not only whites to blacks but also blacks to blacks. It’s now a convoluted situation that’s both racial, and class, and cultural—it’s an amalgamation of mess!
Dennis: And if I might add, we also have a family structure within the African-American community that we must find a way to help, assist, and rebuild.
Tony: Whoever owns the family will own the future of America. The black family is now being eroded at such a devastating rate that we won’t have much of a community unless this changes, and the government can’t do it.
Since the government can’t do it—doesn’t know how to and, in fact, shouldn’t be doing it—then it takes the people of God to say: “We will build families. We will make family ministry a major component of what we do in our churches / in our communities, and we will provide surrogate families, where we need to, to raise up a godly generation of young people who love God and who care about people.”
Dennis: And that has to happen. For that to happen, we have to have a nation that does turn its heart toward God.
Dennis: That’s at the core of your book, America: Turning a Nation to God. In this book, you talk about those days of gathering in a community—of a few hundred churches getting together and having a solemn assembly. You walk through how we can begin to come together and, really, a rally cry for what needs to happen across our country.
Bob: Well, and I think this is a book that pastors ought to read. I think churchmen, who want to see the Kingdom advanced in their community—they need to read this book.
Dennis: Yes. I would say to a churchman / a layman: “Buy two copies—one for yourself and one for your pastor.” Then, maybe, read it together and interact: “What’s our responsibility here? What should our church do in response to what we’re seeing occur?” because we’re either going to be effective and speak or we’re going to be silent and, I’m afraid, be victims of what’s happening.
Bob: The book is called America: Turning a Nation to God. It’s by our guest today, Dr. Tony Evans. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see copies of Dr. Evans’ book available there. You can order from us, online, if you’d like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Again, ask about the book, America: Turning a Nation to God—it’s by Dr. Tony Evans.
Now, let me just say a quick word of thanks, here in the middle of the summer, to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible—those of you who support this ministry. We’re grateful for our Legacy Partners—for your ongoing monthly support, especially here in the summer, when we often see a drop in donor support for this ministry. Folks get busy, and they fall into a summer routine. So, we’re grateful for those of you who faithfully, month in and month out, help provide the financial support necessary for this ministry. FamilyLife Today is here to provide practical, biblical, authentic help and hope for your marriage and for your family. We appreciate those of you who share that mission with us.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation with Dr. Tony Evans, talking about the need in our country for a spiritual awakening. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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