A Conversation on Race, Reconciliation, and the Gospel

A raw conversation focusing on how to deal with injustice and racism.

George Wright
Jun 28, 2020    55m
In this message Pastor George Wright, Pastor Ed Stewart, and Deacon Erving Mack have a raw conversation focusing on how to deal with injustice and racism. They share true stories of racism and the impact that has had on their lives. They finish up by looking at ways to move forward toward reconciliation. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, as we've been walking through Second Corinthians 5, one of the things that the scripture makes very, very clear is that the message of the gospel really is a message of reconciliation. And we get to celebrate the good news of what God has done to reconcile us to himself through the gift of Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 00:19 And with that in mind, we are entering into a conversation today that is incredibly important and certainly incredibly relevant in light of recent events that have happened in our culture. And so we want to have just an honest, straightforward conversation on race and reconciliation and where the Christian should be in the midst of this conversation. And so it is my privilege today to be able to introduce two great men of God from here at Shandon, who are going to engage in this conversation with me. And so first I want to say to Ed Stewart, thank you for being a part of this. Ed is one of our pastors here at Shandon, a longtime member of Shandon, and has some great insight for us. And then Ervin Mack, Erv is a longtime member here as well, a deacon here at Shandon, a Sunday school teacher in our student ministry, and also serves in a very important role in our community as an administrator at A. C. Flora High School. I'm so grateful for both of you men, and just the privilege to dive into this conversation.

George Wright: 01:22 How y'all feeling as we get into this, you ready to talk through some of this a little bit?

Ed Stewart: 01:26 Let's do this.

Ervin Mack: 01:27 This is great. I'm really excited.

George Wright: 01:27 Well this really is an important conversation, and this is something that's been on a lot of people's minds. But it's also one of those conversations that sometimes is very tricky to enter into because there's a lot of emotion involved, and there's a lot of different angles to look at this conversation. And so I just want to start by hearing a little bit of your personal story, and so if you all would just share just real brief, kind of how you were brought up, just where you were raised, and just a little bit of your background before we dive into some of the questions for today.

Ed Stewart: 02:00 Take this brother.

Ervin Mack: 02:02 Well, I was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina, a little small town, and I grew up in a household where my father was a deacon of the church, my mother served on the usher board. It was a church where everybody, everybody was family, you knew everybody. And growing up in that small town, I learned a lot, saw a lot from my dad. We had some hard conversations growing up, just about what it is to be a black man in today's world. And those things, those conversations continued to shape and mold me in my pursuits, and in my life as I grew up. I didn't choose to come to find Christ until much later, that was a personal decision, just kind of rebelled because I was kind of forced into the church at a young age. So I wanted to...It definitely has played a major role in where I am today as a man, as a father, and as a husband. So I'm grateful for my family, and my upbringing, and everything that I've experienced in between then because that is why I am who I am today.

George Wright: 03:14 That's good, that's awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Ed..

Ed Stewart: 03:16 And that's so interesting because whereas you grew up in Winnsboro, I'm a product of Detroit, Michigan. Which at the time when I was growing up is one of the largest cities in the country, murder capital of the world. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember the Detroit riots. And I can still remember the orange glow and the gunshots and the sirens, and that was my environment. My dad was a social worker and an activist. He was gloriously transformed by the gospel of Christ. And seeing the change in his attitude, in his walk, so influenced and transformed my life and all my three sisters and brothers, we all came to faith in Christ, even in that environment. And what's so interesting, my whole environment growing up was all black. And then that one Sunday, we went to the church that my father decided we would serve, and it's an all-white, suburban church. I still remember getting out that first Sunday, and all of us always were looking like, dad, didn't say...Shut up and get in church.

George Wright: 04:29 This is different.

Ed Stewart: 04:30 Yeah, it was very different. We went from, you know, black gospel, you know, Andre Crouch. To man we're singing, Bach and Beethoven, what is this stuff. But, you know, but in that climate it's so informed and changed all of our attitudes. To see the transformation in Christ, and to see that two different races can worship and serve and be one was so informative.

George Wright: 04:57 That's awesome.

Ervin Mack: 04:58 That's good stuff.

George Wright: 04:59 I appreciate y'all sharing, I that really do. And just know that your story has been an incredible story of God at work, pursuing you with his love, and you've seen that show up in your families. And there's a great faith foundation there that both of you stand on, and that's such a privilege. Well, I want to get into really just the current situation that we're navigating as a culture right now. And certainly, in recent weeks, we have seen some very shocking, very alarming scenes playing out on the news and social media. Whether it was George Floyd, whether it was Ahmaud Arbery, whether it's been even in recent days with some of the developments that have happened in some major cities around the country. Even here in our own city, we've seen some things playing out that that provide confusion, they lead to anger, they lead to a lot of different emotion. I'd love to hear from y'all personally, how have these recent events impacted you? How have they hit you personally? What have you felt? What have you experienced as you've seen some of these things playing out?

Ed Stewart: 06:12 Anger, you know at first you see these images and the first thing that comes to your mind is why is this still happening? Why are we still seeing this in 2020? When is this going to stop? Anger, frustration, having to have conversations with my sons. Here's how you need to act if you get pulled over, here's how you need to respond. And I know I have to do it, but it's like there's this bitterness in my mind like, I can't believe that I've got to have my son grow up. What I tried to tell somebody the other day, I tried to get one of my brothers to understand where I'm coming from. I have to be honest with you, I live in fear. Not for me, I'm not worried about me, I can take care of me. But the idea that my 19-year-old son could be coming home from work and I could see him on television, that someone could look at him in a negative way and treat him...It terrifies me honestly, and it concerns me, and it gets me in this loop of kind of anger, frustration, fear. So I think these images just well that back up in me if I was going to be honest.

Ervin Mack: 07:39 Yeah. And for me, I feel...I have the same feelings that you’re getting at. You know, it takes me back to some of the times I've experienced similar situations growing up, to right now. And I have two boys and a daughter, and when we shared the Ahmaud Arbery situation with our kids, the thing that hurt the most was to see the fear in my eight-year-old son's eyes. And he said, daddy, I don't want you to go running again. That hurts. To know that a lot of my friends, my circle, my community, a lot of them don't have to have these conversations with their kids.

George Wright: 08:38 That's right.

Ervin Mack: 08:43 I have to go into prayer, cause I don't want to get angry, I don't. It's easy to go there. But you know to lean on my wife, for us to come together and pray and to have healthy conversations and teach our kids, you don't have to be afraid, we want you to be aware. We want you to be aware, understand what racism means, what does it look like. So that they can know how to conduct themselves if they get put into that type of situation. But it's been tough. It's been really tough.

George Wright: 09:17 Well, I so appreciate both of y'all sharing that, and just your honesty because this has been incredibly difficult to watch. But as you're sharing what you're sharing, I know that I have not had to experience some of the things that you're talking about. I mean, it would never even cross my mind to have to say to my two boys, hey, here's how you have to respond when you get pulled over. I mean, that's just not even a thought that would be on my radar until something like this comes up, and you share the personal experience. So just, I really appreciate you sharing what you're feeling, and I know it's incredibly heavy. It really is. You both have mentioned that it brings up some things from the past, or brings up some experiences you've had. I'd just be curious, how have y'all experienced racism in your life in a personal way? Or have you? Maybe you haven't, but I'm guessing there have been some times where you have experienced this in a very real way. Can you share any of that with us?

Ed Stewart: 10:19 I remember a time when I was in college, my girlfriend now wife, was invited to sing at my roommate's church. And this is hilarious because again, I'm a product of Detroit, Michigan, a big city boy. My roommate is as country boy as you could be. He's going to watch this, and Dwayne, you know I love you, but you are. Madison Heights, Virginia, his father owned a cattle farm, and so we were as opposite as you could be. But Dwayne, you know, loved me, loved my girlfriend and invited her to sing it his church. So we drive out there and you know, quintessential country church. Right? We pull up and we notice all these people outside the building. And I'm thinking, okay, well they're just talking fellowship, and that's cool. We walk in, nobody looks at us, nobody talks at us. We go into the church, nobody's in the church except my roommate, and he's just crying, frustrated. And he told me, and he told her, the church has decided they will not come in here until you two leave.

George Wright: 11:29 Wow.

Ed Stewart: 11:31 This is 1987, not 67, 57, 1987. And we got back on our car and we drove back to campus. They didn't even want to hear the gifted, beautiful person that she was share her gift because of her race. And it's just, how can that be?

George Wright: 11:57 Man, that's painful.

Ervin Mack: 12:02 That's painful. For me, I go back to my senior high school. I had just graduated high school, and I was working a summer job with my dad, he did construction work. And I was working a job with him, and he asked me to go pick up some supplies and told me to drive his pickup. And a normal routine traffic stop, he had a busted tail light. As the officer made his way to the vehicle, I'm now having to kind of replay all the things that my dad told me as far as how to respond, and how to react if you ever get pulled over. So I knew to put both hands out the window just from the very beginning because I don't even want to take the chance of anybody assuming that I may be doing something illegal or wrong. The first question the officer asked me was, are you a drug dealer? And this is because I just got paid, I had a wallet full of money, and I'm a high school student who hadn't been taught bank accounts and things of that nature. So I just had my money on me. And it stunned me because it was, why did it have to go there? And let me paint the picture. I'm leaving a construction site, I have cement on my face and mortar, I'm dirty, I'm filthy. And the first question was, are you a drug dealer? And so he went back to his car, called another officer on the scene. And when he came back, he asked me to step out of the car, and then both him and his, his counterpart came up together and they both had their hands on their gun. So I stepped out of the vehicle, and I proceeded to stand at his vehicle, which he asked me to. And when he came back, he had a brown bag in his hand. And I had no clue what it was, but apparently there was a liquor bottle that my dad's, one of his coworkers has slid up under the seat that had been open. They never really said much to me, at that point him and his counterpart, they forced me down on the hood of the car and used some racial slurs that I won't repeat today as they forcefully handcuffed me, put me in the back of the car, and I was arrested with no explanation, no conversation. And it wasn't peaceful, it was almost as if I was resisting. And I stood there because I was afraid that if I did resist what could happen. But the questions of the profiling, the bias, of are you a drug dealer? Because I had some money from working. To using the racial slurs, when I never opened my mouth to say anything to them. And that, as a 17-year-old boy who was on the verge of going to play college football, right now the only thing that's going through my mind is my future is going to be ruined, like there's no future from this point on.

George Wright: 15:03 That's a helpless feeling altogether. I mean, man, that is incredibly painful, incredibly painful. And so I know, obviously, these events, these situations, these circumstances, they shape a part of who you are. I mean, it's part of your story. And then it also, I'm sure has to shape how you parent, and how you lead your own family. You both have talked about dad's pouring into your life, and what your dad's taught you as you were growing up. I'm just curious, what as a black man, as a father, as a Christian, what are some lessons that you feel you really need to teach to your children? You are teaching to your children, as it relates to this conversation? Because this conversation continues to be incredibly relevant and important. So how do you talk to your kids about this? Because I know that's challenging, it's really, really challenging.

Ervin Mack: 16:01 Well, for me, I've had the luxury of leaning on my wife, and us coming together to have these conversations. And we try to put the focus back on what the word of God says on how we're supposed to live. We, of course, we want to educate our kids and help them understand what racism is, what it looks like so that they are aware. My 14-year-old, he understands a little bit better he gets it. My eight and my four-year-old, they're having to process it all. So we're having to paint this picture so they can understand. Because of our community and what they've been around, they've haven't seen it yet. And I'm praying that they don't, but I want to make them aware. And it's like God created us in his image, and there's technically one race, a human race. But under that, he made us black, and white, and Hispanic, and all these different ethnicities because that's who God is. He's amazing in that way, and he wants to remember that he gave up his son for us, that we have a freedom in that. And that we are to forgive, that God forgave us, he's forgiven us, but that, that's why he gave us his son. And I want them to know that through Jesus, who is the greatest example of what it is to love, and treat people and love people the way that you want them to love on yourself. Those are the conversations we've been having, and also to teach them, don't be fearful. Don't be fearful because God didn't give us a spirit of fear. That scripture from Second Timothy has been resonating in our home. He's given us his power, love and self-discipline. And we are not to fear, but to love and to embrace the power that he has given us so that we don't react in a way that's ungodly when there may be an injustice done to us.

George Wright: 18:04 Right. That's good, man. That's powerful. Yeah. That's really powerful.
Ed Stewart: 18:08 And to come alongside that and say, Amen, to that concept, it's like we raise our children to be culturally aware. You've got to be real in what, I guess you could say how the deck is stacked and how things are. You need to be realistic and understand the society, the culture, the times, the history, you need to be totally understood by that. But the key is to be culturally aware, but spirit-led.

George Wright: 18:43 Oh, that's strong.

Ed Stewart: 18:45 You've got to have a balance kids, of understanding the way the world is, the way you have to navigate the world because of who you are. But if that's all you have, you will always be driven by the whims and the desires and the bents of other people. The thing that's got to drive you is the Spirit of God, like you said, not our anxiety. Which by the way, like Paul said, if God didn't give a spirit of fear, okay, we know where that came from, right? That anxiety, that fear is not God-given. It is in the world, it is the devil himself and his people that want to keep us divided and down. God's spirit of power to overcome and face and live through this successfully, to live a life of love that puts the cares and the needs and the compassion of others first. And that's self-control, that when you're angry and you're frustrated that does not drive you, it is the spirit and the power of God. Kids understand the times, but know God, and be doers of the word. If we don't teach our kids that, I've missed the boat and I have not done my job as a parent. That's the goal.

George Wright: 20:20 That's such a gift. I think that any father that's hearing what you all are sharing, that is a tremendous gift. I mean, what y'all have provided insight on here is a tremendous blessing. And Ed, as you're talking about that spirit of power. Erv, as you brought that up as well. I mean, that is what is necessary for true unity in the body of Christ. I mean, you have to stand on the strength that God alone provides because this is not something that just comes naturally. I mean, it's just not. We see the world in different ways, and we are quick to judge and quick to draw conclusion., But that spirit of power, that's unifying, and that's beautiful, and that allows us to reach across the aisle and to venture into something that feels unknown, and to have hard conversations, and to do so in a peaceful manner. And that's such a gift to be reminded of that. Well, I want to piggyback on something you just said there at about the cultural awareness, because I think that's important in any context. We want to be aware, we don't want to be tone-deaf, we don't want to just turn an eye and act like nothing's going on. There needs to be cultural awareness. And one of the things in this conversation that is so challenging as we think about just where our culture is, is there are some terms that are used a lot in this conversation and have been used recently on repeat. And the terms are often charged, the terms create some polarization. I mean, the term black lives matter, there's a lot of different meaning that swirls around that. The term systemic injustice. The term, no justice, no peace. You know, I mean, we see these flash up on signs, or on social media posts, or be in the headlines, or the news, and it can create this kind of emotional, almost visceral response in us based on where we're coming from. And so I'd love for the two of you if you're willing to speak into, how do we navigate this language from the standpoint of our faith as a follower of Jesus. How do we speak into this conversation in a way that can be helpful, but at the same time, courageous, bold, truthful? Because we're all being hit with all these terms and they are loaded with meaning, but we want to navigate the right way. So what are your thoughts in that? And how can we navigate these terms and this language?

Ed Stewart: 22:55 And again, I think what you said is so important. To ignore, or seek to push aside, and not give the attention to a personal unbiased look at this, you do yourself a great disservice. We do need to look at these terms, and I'm going to editorialize just a little bit. I think for the church, we make a grave mistake in taking all of our knowledge and wisdom of what we get in the media and social media.

George Wright: 23:28 I totally agree with that. Preach.

Ed Stewart: 23:34 Well, I don't mean to but MSNBC, Fox, whatever you connect to, there's an agenda. They're trying to get a point across, they're trying to get people on their side. So I need to be wise enough to be able to do my own personal look at these things, to myself, look into it and come to my own preferences, convictions, and values, as I look through this on an earthly perspective. But George and Irv, I cannot do away with the need, once I've done that, to wash all of that through the word and the truth of scripture. As we educate and look at things, I have been struggling personally, guys, I'll just with justice. Like you said, no justice, no peace. And I was just trying to figure out what does justice look like? You in these organizations, what is the justice you seek? And the deeper I look into it, you know what I find guys, everybody's got a different interpretation of justice. For this group, this is justice. For this group, this is justice. Oh, they're all wrong, this is justice. And as I've struggled and looked at it, it brings to my knowledge, as I look at it as a believer, there is only one who knows who justice is, there is only one who actually has the rights, and is actually practiced true justice. And that one died for my sins when I had no, right, no hope, no future. He took the penalty that I deserved and paid for it all. And the only reason I have found justices is God, is Jesus. So as I look and see what other people say, justice is, there is a truth that is constant, it is sure, and it carries through all time. The justice and the truth that comes from him. So for me, for my brothers and sisters from Christ, learn, be informed, know what's going on, but please don't stop there. Make sure you wash all that you see through the lens of the word of God and let that be the final word that determines how you live and go,

George Wright: 26:19 Man, that's so good. Look through the lens of the gospel. I mean, we try to say that as often as we can, and I've had to remind myself of that. I mean, you know, just in the emotion of all this, and the desire to do what's right in the sight of God in all of this, it's so easy to get caught up in just the storm. And we must stop and filter all this through the lens of the gospel. Ervin, any other thoughts there?

Ervin Mack: 26:50 I want to just piggyback off of that because it's so important that as you stated, those words, those phrases are so charged. And there's so many different angles that people come at it with black lives matter, systemic racism, white privilege, and the no justice, no peace. And it all boils down to what is the root of it all? Where's this all coming from? I do believe black lives matter, especially in light of what we're going through right now. But there've been negative connotation from black lives matter, and I believe in that. No justice, no peace, what else can you say? I mean, it's self-explanatory, and in my heart hurts for those families who have to be a part, or witness murderers walking free and no conviction. I'm not here to judge, that's God's place, and I understand that. But there's no peace in their homes and their communities. And when it's, how can I feel safe to walk out in my neighborhood, or go for a run, to go into a store and knowing that if I may be perceived wrong, that could be my last day. We have to educate ourselves, all of us, educate ourselves. Do the research, and not do social media, but do the real research./ Read scholarly articles and fill yourself up with knowledge, to be able to understand me as a black man, you as a white man. First of all, we have to have an understanding of why this has taken place. And of course at the end of it all, filter it through the lens of the gospel, because it all stems from what I've shared before with my own family, it stems from sin. It stems from saying racism is a sin, and racism is the pillar of social injustice, it builds upon why people are fighting for black lives matter. It is a pillar that needs to be addressed. And until we educate and fill ourselves up with knowledge to first of have an understanding, and then say you know I'm a filter this as Christians, I'm going to filter this through the gospel. So that I can have healthy conversations, and I can help join together and be unified to start walking in the light of God to make a difference.

Ed Stewart: 29:57 Well, let me jump on that real quick if you don't mind. I remember when the George Floyd video broke and Michael was at the house and you can tell when your son has got something inside of him, he's just boiling. I said, let's have a conversation, let's talk. We talked, it must have been four hours just pouring out our heart about what was going on and channeling his anger to something useful. I encouraged him to find out who your local senators and your congressmen are, engage them in a conversation about how we can move forward. Reach out to the Columbia police. They said on television, they want to be heard, reach out to them, sit down and have a conversation, inform and try to be a bridge. But you know, you're talking about no justice, no peace. The idea that we as human beings can be the arbiters of peace is ridiculous. We have been seeking peace for all time, and we've had peace at times and we haven't. What comes to my mind, and forgive me for going down this road with the word, but it's just burning a hole in my heart. What Jesus said in John 16:33, "I have told you these things that in me, you may have peace." Peace is not going to come, I could picket, and lobby, and change laws, I may have peace for a moment, it's never going to be lasting. But as a believer, I need to look to God, and in him have a peace. Do you know what he said in the rest of that verse in this world, guess what? You will have tribulation. There's going to be other videos, and other instances, and other things that we have to go through. Jesus knew that, but do you know what he said, take heart. Be encouraged through all the tribulations. Why? I have overcome the world. Again, it's that reality that gives me encouragement, that gives me hope, that gives my kids hope. Yes, tribulation is here. Yes, this is hard. Yes, we've got work to do. Be encouraged, don't be small, don't be discouraged. To all my brothers and sisters who are struggling, don't stay discouraged, take heart. The one who lives in all of us, you know, I don't look at you as my white pastor, my black deacon friend, y'all are my brothers. We are one in him, and together in him, we have peace and we move forward in him. See, this is what happens you give an old [inauduble] the ability to talk, you can't shut them up

George Wright: 32:59 That's so good though. But Ed, as you're saying that, I mean, really that, that brings me back to what has been our theme for this series. Second Corinthians 5, and that this gospel is a gift of reconciliation. That's our text for today, that God in Christ is reconciling us to himself, and that's peace. The way to have peace is through Christ, apart from Christ, there is no path to peace. I mean, we can achieve momentary peace in momentary matters, but to think that we're going to have true peace apart from Christ, according to the word of God, it's not going to happen. But when we have that peace with God, through the ministry of reconciliation, and what Christ has sacrificed and given so that we can live. Then we are empowered as instruments of peace, so to speak, in the world around us, because we are called ministers of reconciliation. That's why this conversation is so important for someone who loves Jesus, and so important for someone who says they're passionate about the gospel. We become ministers of reconciliation. We become a picture of peace to a culture that is a longing for peace. The other thing I just wanted to say to our church, but specifically to my white brethren, to our white members here at Shandon. In this whole topic of language, the scripture in James chapter , it says, that we're to be quick to listen, quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. This is a time for the white evangelical church to listen. And yes, we need to stand on the truth and yes, we need to speak up for what's right? Absolutely. We cannot be silent about sin. We have to speak up, but we need to listen. We need to listen to our brothers and sisters that maybe don't have the same background we have, or the same skin color that we have, and we need to listen even to why some of this language is being used the way it is. And some of these terms are being used, we need to listen, and then we need to choose to not be so easily offended. And that's been incredibly frustrating watching the way many white quote unquote Christians have responded in some of these terms, is they're just immediately looking to debate, or fight, or correct a term. Like, you know, maybe we could choose to not be so easily offended, and we could listen and we could learn, and we could reach for unity. And we could try to do something in the midst of this, and realize the pain that is so real, and try to move forward in reconciliation. And so I just think this is a great opportunity for us to be learning like crazy, but also to choose to not be so easily offended and to move forward in love, and compassion, and kindness, in the midst of this conversation that's so incredibly important.

George Wright: 36:13 Well, I do want to ask y'all just one or two more questions before we wrap this up, and so I appreciate all your thoughts in this. But as we think about reconciliation, I know there's a lot of folks in this conversation that realize without question, racism is wrong, they're not going to try to defend racism. They realize there is injustice that needs to be addressed. And they've seen these images, and they're saying something needs to be done. And I want to do something, but I don't know what to do. I know there's a lot of people in the church that are saying that. I want to do something, but that don't know what to do. What would you say, especially in light of Second Corinthians 5, being a minister of reconciliation because of the good news of the gospel, how can people be involved in this conversation? What can people do as it relates to this very important topic?

Ed Stewart: 37:13 I feel like first of all, it's got to come from a life yielded to prayer. You've gotta be willing, it's a picture I can't get out of our mind. You gotta be willing to come to God with the picture of your life, with all your experiences, all your knowledge, all your feelings, and turn that thing upside down in his presence and empty yourself of everything you think you know. And then turn that empty picture over to him and say, okay, Lord, I'm willing, I'm clean, I'm an open canvas, fill it, not with my interpretations or feelings, with you. The picture of that, that was made so real to me was a man who was a leader at Liberty University who reached out to me when I was 19 years old and invited me in to a mentoring teaching relationship. We had a casual off campus discussion, I said, man, I love the way you preach the word, I'd love to be able to learn from you. What I didn't know is he had been in deep prayer about mentoring other people. And because he was sensitive and had been praying that conversation, because he was listening to God, God said, choose him, invest in him. And what was amazing, I go to the first mentoring thing and there's like university vice presidents, and leaders, and a 19 year old, wet behind the ears, from Detroit guy sitting there. Why in the world am I here? And that man, Dr. Ed Dobson, a man from Belfast, Ireland, PhD, author, world renowned person, didn't see me as a black man. He saw me as a man he had been praying for, he didn't know, and he poured into me how to study the word of God. And over 18 months he invested himself into me, and we had conversations about how he grew up in Ireland, and how I grew up in Detroit. And he prayed, he sought the will of God. And when God gave him an opportunity, as he prayed, he acted on it. What we need to be doing as a church is to be willing to empty ourselves of us before the Lord in prayer, and say, Lord, I'm willing, I'm willing to learn, I'm willing to reach out. Bring into my life an opportunity, a person that I can connect with and invest in. And if the church does that, George and Erv, it lights out, man, it's nice lights out.

George Wright: 40:10 There's a humility there that is so Christ centered, that is such a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us pouring himself out. So it goes back to the gospel, back to the good news of the cross. But there's also there, Ed, what you're talking about a discipleship issue, a willingness to grow and learn in the knowledge and understanding of the word of God, that then shapes how we enter into these conversations, and how we navigate some of this tension, but we do so through the lens of the gospel. That's beautiful.

Ed Stewart: 40:45 And we do something.

George Wright: 40:47 Yeah, that's right. Absolutely.

Ed Stewart: 40:48 We don't watch and get angry, and anger passes, we do. God is a doing God.

George Wright: 40:56 Yeah, that's right.

Ed Stewart: 40:56 And he calls us to join him in action.

George Wright: 41:00 That's good. Erv, do you got any thoughts?

Ervin Mack: 41:03 Yeah. When I think about what, you know, I think by individually, I always start with myself. And I have to remember to ask God to come into my heart every single day at the start of every day, at every given moment to check my heart, because of the world. Just to always make sure that my heart is being cleansed, it's being pure, there's no part of a bias or anything in my heart first and foremost. Because who am I to say anything to anybody if I'm holding anything in my heart that's not of God? So it starts with me first. And I would say to my white brothers and sisters, to do the same thing, do a heart check. Ask God daily, like come into my heart, and if there's any part of me that is not a part of you, is not of you, to remove it. Remove it from me because that opens the door for us to start having conversations. Ask questions, you know, just ask, to gain an understanding. And then from there, let's talk about uniting and building on that. I think the bottom of it all, it starts with self. And really like you said, praying and asking God, come to my heart, release me of anything that's not a you. So that I can now be the salt and the light and walk in your ways. I.

George Wright: 42:36 That's really good, that's really good. Well, as we wrap this up, I would love for the two of you, as you think about just all that's been swirling around in this conversation, in our culture, and all that's been happening even in our city, as it relates to race and the need for reconciliation. What would your prayer be for our church right now, as it relates to this conversation? What's your prayer for Shandon? Because yes, we need to be praying. We need to be on our knees. But the reality is for a long time in the midst of this conversation, the church has been praying, but the church has not necessarily been praying about this. Or the church has not necessarily been responding to the prayers that have been prayed. So what would be your specific prayer for us as a church right now, as it relates to race and reconciliation?

Ed Stewart: 43:38 My prayer for the church that I love, the church where all my four children have come to faith in Christ, baptized and grown, is wrapped up in a song that I can't get out of my head. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. And get this sequence in the song, melt me, take everything I think I know, all my perceptions, my anger, whatever, melt it away in your spirit. Once you melt me, mold me, take what has been left and make me a vessel that you can use. Melt, mold me, then fill me with your Spirit. And then George and Erv, use me, put into motion the truth that you know, the gospel that has saved you, the grace and justice given to you by God, let that inform your actions. Don't be like the two in the Samaritan who walked past the man who was broken on side of the road. Be like the Samaritan who was racially was at war with one another, who didn't see that man as a Jew, he saw that as somebody who needed help, had compassion, and invested. So ask in your prayer for God to lead you, be willing to pray with the Spirit that God is going to do something and make me move. And when he puts it on your heart to move, Shandon move. However he puts it on your heart, do what God puts in your path.

George Wright: 45:48 That's really good.

Ervin Mack: 45:49 Yeah, that's really good Ed. And you know, for me, it's along the same lines. It comes down to collectively now, we come together. And my prayer for Shandon's that we can create a safe place, a place where no matter what you look like, no matter the color of your skin, no matter the socioeconomic status, that you can come into this place, you can be fed the word of God to equip and empower and have hard conversations when they arrive. And feel good about it, leave, feeling uplifted and not beat down, and not feeling like I've been judged and looked at the wrong way. My prayer is, that we all come together and unify, but we all walk this marathon. Because this is a marathon, nothing's going to change immediately. But this is a marathon, and we need to unify. I Pray that our church unifies, comes together, and stands up for what is right. Not by my standards, not by yours, but by the standard that God has said in his truth. And I really feel like if we can all do that and come together, and build authentic relationships, that's what reconciliation is, it's building those authentic relationships and bringing it all to the one thing that matters, and that's the love of Jesus. That those movements, and moving in that direction, checking the heart, calling and identifying and repenting of our sins, and truly being the salt and light of this earth, in our church, and our neighborhoods, our community, that's my prayer for our church.

George Wright: 47:40 That's good.

Ed Stewart: 47:41 George, I've got to say one thing, and this is going to seem like pandering and me seeking out brownie points. But as I looked at that, there's something you said a couple weeks ago in a message, that again, I can't get it out of my head. Confidence in eternal things leads to courage in earthly things. And man, Erv, George, when we know God, we know what we've been given in his gospel, and we are confidently...It's as sure as we are sitting here today, that gives me courage to know I can have that conversation and not be destroyed. I can live for him courageously because I know who holds me. I know who is the source of wisdom and peace, and he wants to inform me and he's generous. And if I'm confident in that in my walk with God, it changes everything. And I move forward, not in self-defensive fear or whatever, hey, let's talk. Because I know who holds you, I know who holds me, and in the end it's all good.

George Wright: 49:09 That's great. I so appreciate y'all sharing that. And the prayer I have for our church would actually come straight from our text for today. And so I just want to read it as my prayer, and then I want to close in prayer in light of what y'all have shared here today. And I just want to thank you for your willingness to speak into this, I know it's not easy. I know y'all have both risked something by being willing to engage in this conversation, but it's such a gift. And I'm so grateful for each of you, your friendship, I'm grateful for you as men of God. I love you guys. And really just the gift you've provided me, not only in this conversation, but just in this whole process over the last few months, to be willing to dialogue with me, and to pray with me, and to share your insight with me, it's been a tremendous blessing, so thank you.

George Wright: 50:08 So Second Corinthians 5 beginning in verse 16, this is my prayer for our church, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconcilingc the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" What a powerful, powerful passage of scripture, what a beautiful prayer for our church.

George Wright: 51:37 So with that in mind, let's close this time with a word of prayer. And let's ask God to continue to bless his church, and use his church as a minister of reconciliation, and point to Jesus. Let's pray, Father God, I am so very grateful for the privilege that it is to share this conversation with these two men of God. I'm so grateful for Ed and for Erv, and for what they mean to our church here at Shandon, the way they point to Jesus over and over again, the way they've encouraged so many in their faith and through their example, the way they're leading their families. Lord, I pray your hand of blessing on their families. For Ed and Alberta and their kids, for Erv and Ashley and their kids, Lord, I pray your hand of blessing on them, continue to give them wisdom, and guide them as they seek to point others to the good news of Jesus.

George Wright: 52:37 And Lord, for Shandon, for our church, for your people, we are so grateful for the opportunity to engage in difficult conversations, knowing that the word of God is our foundation. The word of God shows us what is right and good and true, and the spirit of God prompts us to respond and to live by faith when we need you the most. And Lord in this conversation we need you, we need wisdom, we are praying for spirit-filled power to fill your church. To give us the courage to say what we need to say, to speak the truth, but to do so in love, to do so in grace. To be willing to listen, not just to speak, but to learn and to grow and to follow after you, and to change where change and repentance is needed. Lord, I pray that we, as a church would be ministers of reconciliation, that we would not regard others according to the flesh, but we would look through the lens of the gospel, and be reminded of what you have done for us through Christ that we could never do for ourselves.
George Wright: 53:56 And I pray Lord that we would then respond, respond in faithfulness, respond in courage, respond as people of action, not to earn your love, but fueled by the love that you have freely given us in the good news of the gospel. Lord, we desire for reconciliation, and we long to be, as the word says, ministers of this reconciliation that those in Christ have received. We do pray for any who joined us today, who have never been reconciled to you through Jesus Christ. We pray that today might be the day, where in faith they would say, Jesus, I'm ready to follow you. I'm ready to be reconciled to God. I'm ready to know the peace of God that comes through the good news of reconciliation, and the cross and resurrection of Christ. Lord, thank you for what you have done. Thank you for inviting us into a very important conversation. Lord, use us to be a light of the gospel, and a picture of hope as we trust in you. It's in Christ's name we pray. Amen.

George Wright: 55:21 Well gentlemen, thank you, thank you for all that you've shared. And I want to thank all of you who've joined us today for this very important conversation. You may want to share this conversation with others, and so feel free to forward the link of this service, or to pass this along to someone else so that they can join into this very important conversation through the lens of the gospel. God bless you. We look forward to seeing you again real soon.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206