Today’s world is torn apart. Tension is everywhere. Brother is pitted against brother, sister against sister, citizen against citizen, even Christian against Christian. It’s so hard to find agreement—much less real harmony—in our polarized society. Can there be a way forward?
Tony Evans knows how elusive unity can be. As a black man who’s also a leader in white evangelicalism, he understands how hard it can be to bring these worlds together. Yet he’s convinced that the gospel provides a way for Christians to find oneness despite the things that divide us. In the Word of God, we find a kingdom-based approach to matters of history, culture, the church, and social justice. In this book, you’ll get:
- A Biblical Look at Oneness
- A Historical View of the Black Church
- A Kingdom Vision for Societal Impact
Although oneness is hard to achieve, the Christian must never stop striving. It’s a kingdom imperative. As Tony reminds us, “Glorifying God is our ultimate goal. Oneness exists to enable us to reach our goal.”
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About the Author
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Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together
By Tony Evans, Cheryl Dunlop
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2011 Anthony Evans
All rights reserved.
The racial problem is an unresolved dilemma of America. Racial problems have gone on since America's inception because their root has not been addressed by the people who are most qualified to address it: the church. When we can only bring people together in a limited way, without canceling who they have been created to be, under an umbrella that is bigger than the color that they claim, then how can we expect much more from the world?
The goal of the church should be to glorify God by reflecting the values of God among the people of God through letting the truth of God be the standard by which we measure right and wrong and the way we accept skin color, class, and culture. Until we can embrace how we were born and raised, we will never be able to manifest the values of God in history so that people can understand and fully see that God is a God of multi-coloredness. God loves the variety in His garden called earth, and each one of us has equal value; after all, He died for each one.
The Contradiction of Liberty
During my college summers, I lived and worked in Philadelphia as an associate evangelist with the Grand Old Gospel Fellowship, regularly setting up tent, church, or outdoor crusades. Frequently, I was able to participate in more than the logistics of the event, but also had the opportunity to do what I am passionate about doing, and that is to posit the truth of God through preaching.
I have always been drawn to the truth. Truth, at its core, is God's view of a matter. It is a powerful entity able to transform lives both in history and for eternity. While truth includes information and facts, it also includes original intent, making it the absolute, objective standard by which reality is measured. The presence of truth brings clarity and understanding. Its absence leads to confusion and the presence of cognitive dissonance — holding contradictory ideas simultaneously.
Located in this same city of Philadelphia where I once preached as a young man is a perfect example of such a contradiction rising out of the abyss of the absence of truth. Hung in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love is the Liberty Bell. Originally cast to commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, the quotation, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," was especially suited to the circumstances surrounding the intent of the charter and its anniversary. That quotation from Leviticus 25:10 came immediately after the command, "Consecrate the fiftieth year." It was followed by the statement, "It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan."
At this time in biblical history, according to this passage, all Jews who had been sold into slavery were set free (Leviticus 25:40–41). Not only was liberty a possibility in light of the Jubilee, but it was guaranteed. Liberty and the end of slavery were simultaneous realities, mutually dependent upon each other in relationship to the call for jubilee.
Yet at the time in America when the jubilee was inscribed on the side of the great bell, the liberty it announced had been aborted for many. Slavery continued with no foreseeable end, sanctioned not only by society but also by the church. Fifty years after William Penn's famous charter, our nation's bell proclaimed its own contradictory fifty-year jubilee, ringing out the bittersweet sounds of an emasculated freedom across the hilltops and prairies of our vast land.
The Breaking of the Bell
My friend Ray McMillan introduced me to the Liberty Bell as a perfect object lesson for America's racial divide. In addressing why "the bell won't ring," Ray describes the crack as a perfect illustration for how our distortion of the Christian history of our nation has helped to maintain the racial divide.
The Liberty Bell rang in celebration of momentous civic achievements or to summon people together for a special announcement. One of these achievements, according to tradition, was the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. It is said that the sound of the Liberty Bell called out to citizens both far and near to join in this heraldic event. Rich and poor, well dressed and disheveled came together as a community to hear the words,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration's truth rang deeply within those who heard it, echoing the resonant tones of the bell. For a moment in time, both the Declaration and the bell proclaimed liberty together. Yet fissures, or cracks, in the bell, a reflection of fissures in the conscience of our land, raised the concern of those most closely working with it. Attempts were made to bore out the cracks before they developed into something more severe.
In 1846, in honor of George Washington's birthday, the bell rang faithfully for hours until ultimately succumbing to the pressure put on the cracks. The Philadelphia Public Ledger reported that just after noon, the bell split widely on one side, rendering it unringable:
The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. ... It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zigzag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was.
In a city known for brotherly love, a compound fracture proclaimed otherwise. The jagged divide up the side of the symbol for equality and liberty could not be any more profound in its revelation of dualistic realities. There is a gap in the Liberty Bell, a missing point of connection preventing it from ringing clearly with the smooth tones of a complete union — of oneness.
Something is also missing in our nation today. The election of our first African-American president, and all that led up to it, reignited the discussion in our land on race relations and equality. What many thought would be racial healing in our land has only brought to light how deep the racial divide really is. Whether it is reflected in racially motivated acts of violence in the community or workplace or in political accusations between and within parties, racism has been reintroduced as an issue that simply hasn't been resolved. Issues of race smolder beneath the news headlines of today in the areas of immigration reform, racial profiling, zoning issues, and educational disparity.
Yet beyond that, and what concerns me personally even more, is that something is missing in the church.
Like the problem with the bell, a compound fracture has zigzagged through the body of Christ, keeping us largely divided along racial and class lines. This division has existed for some time, and while attempts have been made to bore out the fissures through seminars, racial-reconciliation events, and well-intentioned efforts at creating experiences of oneness, we have a long way to go toward strengthening the areas that have cracks or filling in the gaps that loom between us.
Why This? Why Now?
In light of all that has been done and how far we have come, you may be asking, "Tony, why write this book? And why now?"
A battle is going on right now in our nation about the meaning of freedom. This battle concerns the role of the church. Often we are divided over politics. A battle between socialism and capitalism is seeking to divide our nation even further than it already is. The emergence of the New Black Panther Party as well as the rallying efforts of the Tea Party are heating up public debate today.
We, the church, have allowed these battles to divide people of faith even more deeply than before. We cannot afford this. Our nation cannot afford this. Our sons and daughters — whether black, white, or any other color — cannot afford this. We can no longer afford to sit idly by representing the body of Christ as a "mere wreck" of its divine design. The solutions to the issues we face today are found only by applying a biblical and divine standard as answers to the questions before us. The church should be a model, at such a time as this, to reveal to the world what true oneness, equality, and freedom can produce. Hell advances on the church's doorsteps with fervent speed, and as long as we remain divided, it will continue to do so.
We can resist hell's advances and take back our nation for Christ if we are willing to come together by first filling in our own gaps — gaps in our understanding, our knowledge of our unique histories, and our relationships — while simultaneously repairing our own fissures that lead to even greater divides.
Our songs ring mournfully flat when the bells on our churches remain cracked. Even so, we continue to belt out our songs with tremendous passion at times, perhaps in hopes that by singing them loudly enough we can somehow cover the silence between us. We sing emotion-filled lyrics designed to draw us together by reminding us that "we all bleed red" until we are blue in the face. But the truth is that when the song is over, we go our separate ways.
We go our separate ways because we have discovered that it takes more than a hug or a friendly "hello" to bridge the gap. While some of us have, many of us have not taken the necessary effort to get to know each other on a level of an authentic exchange. Without a basis of shared knowledge, purposes, and mutual respect, we cannot come together for any meaningful impact.
I read an interesting quote in a book the other day that highlighted the reality that many of us often don't realize — authentic oneness comes as an outgrowth of shared lives, not simply through a cross-cultural experience here or there. The author's words originally caught my attention as I stumbled across my own name, but then I saw that the point he was making summarized a common theme in American Christian culture today. He said, "I know many of my white friends and colleagues, both past and present, have at times grown irritated by the black community's incessant blabbering about race and racism and racial reconciliation. They don't understand what's left for them to do or say. 'We have African Americans and other people of color on our staff. We listen to Tony Evans's broadcast every day. We even send our youth group into the city to do urban ministry. Can we get on with it already? Haven't we done enough?'"
With the racial divide still stretching wide for miles, we obviously haven't done enough. Much of what has gone on under the designation of racial reconciliation and oneness in Christianity is nothing more than tolerance. To be certain, we have come a long way from slavery, Jim Crow laws of segregation, and other overt expressions of racial hatred. But tolerating each other does not mean we have reconciled. The two are not the same, as demonstrated by the fact that we remain relationally separated most of the time, only coming together for a scheduled event as opposed to living out a desire for ongoing mutual edification and implementation of a shared vision.
The proof that we still have a long way to go in the church today is that a collective cross-cultural presence is not having a restoring effect in our society. We are more concerned about achieving the American dream than we are about letting the rule of God remake segregated churches and denominations. In so doing, we have limited the degree to which the healing balm of God's grace flows freely from us into our communities, and ultimately throughout our land. If what we call racial reconciliation is not transforming individuals, families, churches, and communities, then it is merely sociology with a little Jesus sprinkled on top.
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.
In a nation whose middle name is "Me" and where "time is money," being intentional about relationships is required even when connecting with others in our own culture. The very structure of our society impedes many of us in our pursuit of making authentic connections. This is even more so when it comes to developing relationships with others in a different culture than our own. But oneness, as we will see through a careful study of Scripture, is worth the effort. This is because oneness is the preeminent vehicle through which God displays not only His power and His presence, but also His glory.
This book at this time is set forth not only as a biblical call to oneness, but also as an invitation to an extended handshake. It is my hand reaching out to my white brothers and sisters to say, "Hi, my name is Tony Evans. Let me introduce myself, and the history of my people, in a way that you may not have yet heard." It is also my hand reaching out to my black brothers and sisters to say, "There is a lot more about you, and us, than you may have realized. And it is good."
More than a discipleship book on reconciliation, the kingdom, and justice, this book serves as a much-needed compilation of the spiritual history and development of the black church and black evangelicalism, stories too long shelved in the attics of our collective minds. This history is shared in order to introduce truth to those in the African-American community who may not know the richness of our own heritage in a nation and in churches that have often turned a blind eye. It is also done to introduce this same truth to my white brothers and sisters so that their vision may be clear, and through seeing, they may realize the benefits that can be found when embracing what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called our "inescapable network of mutuality ... [our] single garment of destiny."
While many books have chronicled the history of blacks in America and black spirituality, and many other books have laid the foundation for oneness in the body of Christ, this book presents a holistic story proffering not only a bid for oneness, but also providing the necessary elements to begin to do so by filling in the gaps of black church history. The merging of a biblical foundation for oneness along with a sequential summary of Christianity within the African Diaspora combines to present a broader kingdom perspective on God's view on race.
This perspective flows uniquely out of my personal situation of having been doubly influenced first by black culture through my intimate ties with black individual, family, church, and community life combined with the influence of white evangelicalism, having studied in its institutions and worked alongside its leaders. Weaving these two worlds together and placing them underneath the truth of Scripture has framed a distinctive lens through which to view racial oneness and biblical justice within the body of Christ.
If the truth is supposed to set us free and yet we are still not free from enormously destructive racial and class divisions in the church, then the truth is missing.
The result of this missing truth in our history and culture has kept segments of the black community looking to governmental systems for assistance rather than taking personal initiative. This lack of initiative often comes cradled in a victim mentality where racism is blamed for many more things than it should be.
This missing truth has also kept segments of the white community in bondage to a relational style based on stereotypical presumptions as well as a paternalistic expectation birthed in a spirit of entitlement. This prohibits many white Christians from adopting and benefiting from a learning posture underneath black Christians.
Excerpted from Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans, Cheryl Dunlop. Copyright © 2011 Anthony Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: A Biblical Look at Oneness
1. Broken Liberty 2. Bridging the Divide 3. Biblical Models of Oneness 4. Taking Sides or Taking Over
Part 2: A Historical View of the Black Church
5. The Myth of Black Inferiority 6. The Black Presence in the Bible 7. The Black Church’s Link with Africa 8. The Uniqueness of the Black Church 9. The Role of the Black Preacher 10. The Black Church, Black Power, and Black Theology 11. The Rise of Black Evangelicalism
Part 3: A Shared Vision for Community Transformation
12. My Evangelical Journey to the Kingdom Agenda 13. The Kingdom-Minded Church 14. A Kingdom Approach to Biblical Justice 15. A Kingdom Strategy for Social Restoration
Conclusion Appendix: The Urban Alternative Subject Index Scripture Index
What People are Saying About This
"Adopting God’s kingdom agenda for the unity, purity, mission, and ministry of the church by necessity drives a child of God to embrace the essential oneness of mutual righteousness God has achieved for every believer through Christ. Our obedience is tested in our responsibility to experience and maintain that unity. Oneness Embraced will both convict and encourage you in the how to’s as you seek to shrink the distance between righteousness and justice."
—Dr. Mark L. Bailey, president, Dallas Theological Seminary
"When I think of the ministry of Tony Evans three things come to mind. I think of balance, impact, and unashamedly biblically rooted. That is Oneness Embraced. Dr. Evans shows balance between the gospel and social justice in an evangelical world that often forces us to choose between them. His writing is clear and has impact through powerful exposition and illustration. Unashamedly biblically rooted because he challenges us to think afresh about race and reconciliation. This is a needed word and a crucial book.
—Darrell Bock, research professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"As police chief of the City of Dallas, the challenges I face reducing crime and public disorder have, in many cases, the lack of personal responsibility at their root . . . Biblical justice, as described in this fascinating book clearly is the prescription for many societal ills that play themselves out in numerous communities in the country and the world.
—David O. Brown, police chief, city of Dallas
Tony Evans is well known as one of the most prominent speakers for evangelical Christianity anywhere in the world. What many people do not know is that he is one of the foremost theologians and thinkers when it comes to interpreting what is happening in our society from a biblical perspective. In this book, he addresses oneof the most important concerns of contemporary Christendom—reconciliation of people in Christ Jesus. Tony’s own personal story will do much to bolster his claim to be an authority on this subject. Tony Evans is worth reading. I give him thumbs-up!
—Tony Campolo, PhD, professor emeritus, Eastern University
Kingdom-minded churches are those that hold the gospel of Jesus Christ in the highest esteem, while pursuing justice, restoration, and reconciliation. I know of no person better qualified to write about kingdom-minded churches than Dr. Tony Evans.
—Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family
For the last thirteen years I’ve not only been a student of Dr. Evans but also a spiritual son. Once again the revelation of the teacher takes the pupil into a deeper understanding of why the battle continues. May God use this book to help us become the solution and no longer the problem.
—Kirk Franklin, recording artist
Unity in the body of Christ is an essential biblical principle given by Jesus Himself. Dr. Tony Evans writes powerfully and convincingly in bringing us all together to advance the kingdom of Christ. This is a must read for Christians who desire to live in obedience to the heart of the gospel, which is to love unconditionally in the power of His cross and resurrection.
—Jack Graham, pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
Dr. Evans’s book caused me to reflect on how much we have allowed the world to dictate how Christians should embrace one another—in oneness. Oneness Embraced is a must read for those who desire to have a kingdom approach to restoration and reconciliation of our distorted social order. I personally encourage all serious-minded Christians to place this book as a top priority for understanding the dynamics of Oneness in Christ.
—Dr. Martin E. Hawkins, president, Southern Bible Institute
Rarely have I read a book with which I so deeply identify. I found myself filled with hope and at the same time broken and ashamed at the inability of the church to draw upon the power of the gospel to transcend our cultural and racial barriers. Tony paints a compelling picture of the kingdom and a kingdom agenda that reflects the supernatural unity of the body of Christ. Oneness Embraced is a must read!
—Dr. Crawford W. Loritts, Jr., Author, Speaker, Radio Host, Senior pastor, Fellowship Bible Church, Roswell, GA
This book is a real gift to the whole church, a compelling call for racial reconciliation centered in the truths of the gospel. No one is more qualified to write on this topic than Tony Evans, reared in the “Black Church,” but also connected to the “White Church.” Given Tony’s personal journey and deep commitment to the church of Jesus Christ, you hold in your hands a readable book that probes how we can better understand one another and celebrate the unity Jesus prayed for. Do yourself and your church a favor and read this book!
—Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, senior pastor, The Moody Church
Dr. Evans has chosen to frankly and theologically engage the racial issue at a sociopolitical fermenting kairotic moment in the church and society. We of the African-American evangelical community applaud and stand with him in his proclamation for the transformation and reconciliation of America’s racial equation along the lines of biblical justice and social restoration through the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—Rev. Dr. Walter Arthur McCray, president, National Black Evangelical Association
It is sad, yet true, that race among many evangelicals inAmerica is the structural underpinning of policy regarding justice for the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, and the sick.The church needs to address this issue. By dealing with the ideology of blacks and whites in depth,Dr. Evans concludes with the necessity of both sides working toward unification. He brings both correction and direction, and provides action steps to bring about healing in both the church and the community. I highly recommend this book as an instructional resource for the body of Christ, especially pastors and leaders.
—Pastor Ray McMillian, president, Race to Unity
Oneness Embraced strikes a chord at the heart of one of the preeminent themes of Scripture. Dr. Evans in his usual style makes God’s truth clear to everyone no matter what age or stage of life. This compelling reading could be used by God to help us reflect the heart of God in our relationships.
—Dr. Larry Mercer, president, Capital Bible Seminary
This book awakens many of the experiences I encountered as an African-American male growing-up in Birmingham,Alabama, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and Dr. Evans challenges the reader to recognize the realities both past and present in our nation, culture, and church. Truly, we are at an un-restful gap in Christendom in regards to racial reconciliation that has hindered our progressive appeal to advance God’s kingdom agenda. The eyes of the future are looking back on us. What will be their verdict?
—Dr. Maxie Miller Jr., director, African-American Ministries Division, Florida Baptist Convention
The church needs bridge-builders.At a time when our nation is facing division on all fronts, this new work on unity from Dr.Tony Evans has the potential of transforming communities. It provides a strong biblical basis for oneness by addressing the causes and cures for our cultural divide.Oneness Embraced is must reading for all who are serious about bringing people together. I can’t think of anyone who is more equipped to lead the charge than my friend Dr. Evans.
—James Robison, president, LIFE Outreach International, FortWorth, Texas
My siblings and I have had the privilege of watching our father promote, encourage, and develop a philosophy of ministry that has impacted people from all walks of life. As his children, our view of the global community of faith has been expanded primarily because of his cross-cultural delivery of a gospel that knows no racial boundaries. Our families, our friendships, and our ministries are better because of it.
—Priscilla Shirer, Bible teacher and author
Tony Evans is biblically based, historically accurate, intellectually integral, and personally inspiring. It is an analysis of our past problems and a prescription for our future endeavors concerning race. If the American church embraces this book, race relations will be transformed in the twenty-first century.
—Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, NJ
One of the blind spots in the history of the American church is the area of race relations. In Oneness Embraced Tony Evans reminds us that the church cannot remain silent about the racial injustices in our country.
—Richard Stearns, president World Vision, U.S., and author of The Hole in Our Gospel
I am a raving fan of Christ’s work in our world and have a lot of confidence in the words of my friend Jesus who promised that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it! Unfortunately, we tend to complicate the path to victory by speedbumping the forward progress of the kingdom with our fallen ways and perspectives. Bravo for my friend Tony Evans who has taken the biblical bulldozer to the obstacles and smoothed the way for us. Since being “one” is the unanswered prayer on Jesus’ heart, this is a very important read!
—Joe Stowell, president, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids,Michigan
I believe history will record that Dr. Tony Evans is one of the most prolific and significant theologians of the 21st Century. In a rare synthesis of the black experience,white evangelicalism, and biblical exposition Dr. Evans confronts and challenges one of the most pervasive and recurring multidimensional issues of contemporary society: racism. Dr. Evans brings the reader to the intersection of intellectual stimulation, spiritual revelation, and personal examination.
—Kenneth C. Ulmer, DMin, PhD, president, The King’s University and Presiding Bishop, Macedonia International Bible Fellowship
For the past thirty years I have had a passion for promoting biblical reconciliation among the people of God. Diversity and unity discussions among the people of God often are based upon secular tolerance, which lacks biblical moral discernment, or a blind denial of our lack of biblical diversity among us. Dr. Evans makes a great contribution to the church by laying a theological foundation and challenging the church to a faith versus feeling discussion of biblical oneness. Addressing the African-American church history is brilliant decision in Dr. Evans’ call for oneness within the evangelical community. He lifts truth above ethnic, denominational and political groups and seeks to deal honestly with historical failures and current blindness present among each group. Dr. Evans call the church to action in embracing oneness from the perspective that Christ is not taking sides but taking over. A timely contribution to a national dilemma.
—Dr. A. Charles Ware, president, Crossroads Bible College
In many parts of our country it is difficult to tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to the issue of race. Thank you, Tony, for your clear understanding that the bodyof Christ should act and think differently.
—Dolphus Weary, Mission Mississippi
This well-researched and biblically sound book unashamedly examines the issue of black/white relations in the culture at large and the church in particular. Tony Evans helps us see that if we are going to have victory over sin in our world and redeem our culture, we must be about reconciliation and unity. This book is a must read for individuals both inside and outside the church.
—Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, GA
If ever there were a topic lost in the mists of misunderstanding and miscommunication, it is racial reconciliation. Tony Evans argues powerfully that a biblical view of reconciliation must have as its end and aim the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Writing with clarity and passion,Tony calls the people of God to a new commitment that will enable a more fruitful and powerful witness before a watching world.
—Frank Wright, PhD, president and CEO, National Religious Broadcasters
As a pastor of a multi-ethnic church you tend to read it all when it comes to matters of race. But when I encountered Dr. Tony Evans book, Oneness Embraced, I was so moved by what I found in these pages that I immediately went out and ordered copies for all of our staff here at Fellowship Memphis. What followed was one of the most inspiring, spirited and challenging staff conversations we have ever had. I’m trying to avoid the typical superlatives that one feels compelled to use when writing an endorsement, but it honestly describes how I feel: This is the best book I have ever read on race.
—Bryan Loritts, Lead Pastor, Fellowship Memphis, Author, A Cross Shaped Gospel