Black History Month & Recommended Resources

February is Black History Month. Last Sunday morning I read over some reasons, written on Meridian Hill DC pastor Duke Kwon’s social media post, why we ought to intentionally observe and celebrate Black History Month at Redemption Church. 

  1. To deepen fellowship with our black Christian sisters/brothers by honoring their family stories, learning about the historical and cultural contexts that shape who they are.

  2. To cultivate cross-cultural skills in order to love our black local neighbors more genuinely and more effectively; after all, we cannot love our neighbors well without knowing their stories and without sharing a “common memory” of the past.

  3. To learn more of the all too neglected history of the Black Church, recognizing that Black Church History is Church History.

  4. To model the gospel ethic of mutuality/interdependency by esteeming a subdominant culture—historically, one devalued/subjugated even in/by the Church—celebrating its people and achievements and witnessing its vast potential to fortify the ministry and mission of the Church.

  5. To grow in repentance for corporate sins committed against Black people, often in the name of Christ—sins past and present, of commission and omission—as a necessary step toward true reconciliation and interethnic unity in the Church.

I would add, for Redemption Church, that as we are praying to be a diverse community of believers representative of our community, celebrating and observing Black History Month intentionally is a practical step, however small, in that direction.

Therefore we are doing a couple of things this month with intention. 

First, we have asked a couple of our African-American friends to join us in continuing to preach through the book of Acts. We highly value their voice and perspective, and we want to deepen our fellowship with them. Here is a quick introduction:

  • John Farmer will join us this Sunday, February 11th. John is a pastoral intern at First Presbyterian Augusta, and he is the Paine College Director for Campus Outreach. John and I have been meeting to pray together regularly for several weeks, and he has become a friend and a real blessing to me personally. 
  • Dante Stewart will be with us on Sunday, February 25th. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jasamine, live in Augusta, Georgia, where he teaches Bible at Heritage Academy Augusta. They are members of Crawford Avenue Baptist Church. Dante is a great writer, and he has published several articles – many are recommended below.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to spend some time utilizing a few suggested resources – books, articles, media – to learn about Black History and racial divisions in our culture in order to cultivate your ability to empathize, repent, and love cross-culturally.

There are certainly many more great resources out there, but here are just a hand full of suggestions from myself and others.


Divided By Faith – By Michael Emerson And Christian Smith

United – By Trillia Newbell

God’s Very Good Idea – By Trillia Newbell And Catalina Echeverri

The Genesis Of Liberation – By Emerson Powery And Rodney Sadler

Free At Last? – By Carl Ellis

White Awake – By Daniel Hill And Brenda Salter McNeil


The Witness: A Black Chrisitan Collective “engages issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective.” There are several resources there worth checking out. Here are a couple by our friend Dante Stewart:

Dante has also been published at The Gospel Coalition:

Monét Robinson, also one of Augusta’s own, recently had this excellent article published at

The C&MA posted an old Alliance Life article honoring several African-Americans who “played a significant role in early Alliance history”:

One of the most stirring articles I read last year was written by D.L. Mayfield at Christianity Today:


If you’re more into listening than reading, here are a couple of good podcast recommendations:

Lastly, I recently attended an Acts 29 & Carolina Greenhouse sponsored event called Race, The Church, and The Gospel. Antony Frederick shared a “plea to my brothers and sisters in the faith that lead predominantly white Christian churches, denominations, networks, etc to pursue racial harmony on a “macro” level, with your African-American brothers and sisters.” You can watch the video here: 





Some Practice in Listening

Over the last several weeks we have published a series of blogs pushing us to lean into tension together and asking that we begin by practicing our listening skills.

About a month ago I attended the Just Gospel Conference in Atlanta with a few others from our congregation. To say the least, it would be difficult to unpack all of the insights that we gained during those few days. If I had to bring back one thing to share, I don’t think it would be any single point that was made – although the wisdom imparted was rich and plentiful. Instead, I would say that the most impactful part of the conference was the format; how it led me to listen empathetically and to be postured so that understanding could be received  over mere information. 

With that in mind, I would encourage you to carve out some time to listen to one or more of the following panel discussions from the conference. Practice listening. I’d love to hear back from you personally with thoughts and questions as you strive to listen well and allow the Holy Spirit to inform your heart with the gospel.

There are several sessions available if you’d like to check out more from the conference, but here are a few to get started with:


A Different Approach for Addressing AbortionsA discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile and Roland Warren.


The Black Church and Prophetic Witness – A panel discussion with Kevin Smith, Eric Washington, Tony Carter, and Mika Edmondson.


Women’s Voices on Issues of Justice – A panel discussion with Christina Edmondson, Zakiya Jackson, Jadine Johnson, Trillia Newbell, Dennae Pierre.


Saving Our Sons – A panel discussion with Louis Love, Eric Mason, and Bobby Manning.


Caring for Orphans – A panel discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile, Vermon Pierre and Dennae Pierre.




After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 3): Two Kingdoms

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Members of the Electoral College have cast their ballots, and it is official, Donald Trump will be President of the United States for the next four years. Some are pleased with the outcome, some are indifferent, and others are devastated.

If you paid attention at all to this election cycle, you know that what Ben wrote in part 2 of this series is so true, “No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety.” As a former U.S. History teacher, I spent time studying elections and campaigns, and found that in each political season powerful and effective rhetoric is employed to convince the public of one position or another. The goal of political rhetoric is simple, vote “X”.  This is how politics work. The process is much more sophisticated but often looks something like this:


Person or party “X” is wrong- either dangerously or ignorantly so


There is one hope to maintain stability, security or integrity- person or party “Y”


You must save _______ by voting for person or party “Y”


Get others on board to save the world- encourage social pressure and shaming


Because, fear, hope, and social pressure are dynamically powerful motivators, I want to begin by inviting you to consider the following questions:

  • Who or what do you fear?
  • Where do you place your hope?
  • How does this affect the condition your heart?
  • How does this shape the way you interact with others?

Some Relevant History

The 1970s facilitated a surge in evangelical involvement in American politics. This particular surge was primarily a response to a transitioning national and cultural identity- away from what some believed to be “Christian” to one marked by secular humanism. Throughout this transition, many prominent evangelicals shared a deep conviction that the United States was falling further and further from its “Christian” identity and the proper response was to mount a counterattack to “take America back for God.” This resulted in an array of party alignments, agendas, and affiliations for many evangelicals.

In the early 1980’s, three well respected professors of U.S. history, Mark Noll, George Marsden, and Nathaniel Hatch, sought to help evangelicals sift through some of the political rhetoric and arrive at a more accurate view of the past. They explore the following questions:

  • How Christian is America’s past?
  • Was early Christian America a distinct source of Christian values?
  • What was the mix of Christian principles and baptized ideology in Puritan New England, the legacy of the Great Awakening, and the American Revolution?
  • How much Christian action is required to make a whole society Christian?
  • Is the “Christian nation” concept harmful or helpful to effective Christian action in society?

Convinced that a proper view of the past, a) helps us rightly view the present, and b) leads us to effective Christian action in society, Noll and his colleagues published their their research and conclusions in, The Search for Christian America.

In short (sorry for the spoiler, but well worth the read), Noll, Hatch, and Marsden explain that although America has had a generally religious past and it’s history has been liberally sprinkled with genuine Christian influence, the facts of history show that early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctly, or even predominantly Christian. Furthermore, careful examination of Christian teaching on government, the state, and the nature of culture actually reveals that the idea of a ‘Christian nation’ is very ambiguous concept which is usually harmful to effective Christian action in society.”

If you are interested exploring this topic more, but don’t want to read an entire book, check out this interview with Mark Noll (my apologies ahead of time for the cheesy intro music).

Why does this matter?

First, the aforementioned mentality or sentiment has carried over and shaped the landscape of American evangelical involvement in politics in the 21st century.  Noll explains that, “proper perspective profoundly affects the way we approach the public arena,” and “allows Christians to more clearly speak the gospel in evangelism and to put it to work in social concern.”

Second, for many evangelicals it is difficult to differentiate between the Kingdom of God and the American kingdom. And even when find ourselves able to differentiate, it is even more difficult to know how to operate first as citizens of the Kingdom of God and second as citizens of our country.

Two Kingdoms

As followers of Jesus it must be clear to us that, “the kingdom Jesus came to establish is ‘not from this world’ (John  18:36).” It is fundamentally distinct from any kingdom of the world.

Our understanding of the proper relationship of the church to society can be clarified by one of the greatest of the church fathers, Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ in the era just after Christians had just gained access to political power in the Roman empire. Augustine thought that Christians should loyally perform their duties to the powers that be and thank God for any blessings that came from their country, but they should not have illusions about the nature of human governments. Ultimately every human government belongs to what Augustine called the “city of the world,” in which self-interest rules.

Augustine explained  that all human governments are resolved to defend things of material and worldly value, and they will unhesitatingly destroy (in some form or fashion) anyone or anything that challenges their authority. Only in the City of God, says Augustine, or in the church, can we find a community that is dedicated not to defending self-interest, but rather to the love of God.


When we die with Christ and are raised again with him, we give up our ultimately allegiances to the principalities and powers of this world-even to the relatively good powers that benefit us. Although we are to be good citizens who value the civil order God has provided, our ultimate allegiance is to a higher power.

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “I am afraid that… your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Many of us, myself included, have wrestled this political season with having our eyes, hearts, and minds led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Political participation is a privilege, but with it comes a tremendous temptation to be drawn into and consumed by powerful rhetoric and propaganda. Our political ideologies can become to us our hope – that which saves and delivers us from our fear- taking the place of God.

We must realize that a gulf lies between the church and any human government no matter how admirable or how relatively good it may be. “Despite some overlaps, the church’s goals are never going to be nearly coextensive with the goals of the civilizations of the world. We should work for the relatively better.” We have important obligations to do whatever we can to help our neighbors-promoting just laws, good order, peace, education and opportunity. Nonetheless we should recognize that as we work for the relatively better in the “city of the world”, our successes will be relative.

“The church declares that the solutions offered by the nations of the world are always transitory solutions, themselves in need of reform. Such sobriety about the world should not lead to political cynicism or dissolution. It should however, reinforce the ultimate Christian truth that our final hope rest only on the grace of Christ” (Noll).

The failure of many Christians in the political realm has not been political engagement, rather, a failure to recognize and pronounce Christ and His Kingdom as supreme and independent.

The Truth We All Need

A political party, candidate, or ideology cannot satisfy the longings of our hearts or fully resolve the brokenness that surrounds us. It would serve us well  to evaluate the position of our hearts towards the kingdoms of this world, the little kingdoms we make in our individual lives, and the better, true Kingdom that is ultimately demanding of our affections and the only way to true flourishing.

Let me encourage you to spend some time with the following questions. If the Spirit leads, repent (turn from your idolatry, and turn to Jesus) and rejoice in the good news of the Gospel!

  • Who or what do you fear?
  • Where do you place your hope?
  • How is Jesus and His Kingdom better?
  • If you believed this, how would this it affect the condition your heart and reshape the way you interact with others?

Don’t forget what Reggie wrote in the first post;

“One day, America and all her Presidents will just be a footnote in History – a kingdom that lasted for just a moment in time.  When that day comes, Jesus will still be reigning supreme.  One day, King Jesus will return, and the only Great King that has ever existed will rule this earth with the kind of glory that earthly kings can only dream of possessing.  Church, let me remind you of what King David said in Psalm 20:7 (ESV): ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.’  Church – don’t put your hope in earthly kings. Likewise, don’t despair over earthly kings. Instead – remember your true king!”


After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 2): Prayer

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In less than six weeks President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated into office. As the date approaches the media is abuzz with forecasts of what will happen next. No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety for many in our nation. To be sure, this particular election cycle has heightened the anxieties of many and revealed just how divided these United States have become.

In his previous post, Reggie Horne posed the question, “How is it that I should respond to the state of our society and culture now that this election is complete?” His answer was threefold; we must pray, we must remember the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called, and we must remember that God is sovereign.

I’d like to take a moment to expound on the first of these three calls to action: prayer.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 

While Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all people, he makes special emphasis on “kings and all who are in high positions.”  Notice, Paul not only tells Timothy to pray for kings and leaders, but to give thanks for them. Some of us may need to let that sink in for a minute.

Paul is not alone here, his sentiment echoes that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Here’s the thing, prayer is more than asking for “stuff” and seeing how God answers. Prayer is a discipline and a grace through which God shapes and sanctifies us as we commune with Him. Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to offer thanksgiving for kings and leaders because they are so great. Rather, Paul reveals how the posture of our hearts toward others either enables us or disables us toward peacemaking.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer that, “Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.” Christians living in the United States today must make prayer our first action towards unity. Any other action won’t be a product of our wholly leaning into the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to change hearts and minds. However, through prayer God will prepare our hearts to take the healing work of the gospel into our divided culture. Furthermore, our sovereign Father will hear our prayers made on behalf of our leaders and all people, and He can be trusted to answer with all wisdom, compassion, and justice.

Four Suggested Prayers:

  1. Pray for the President and others in high positions.

    It’s important for us to remember that people are not equal to their position or role. We were all created to be image-bearers of the Creator and are valued by God.

    This article by Kevin DeYoung  has been a helpful template for my personal prayers for our current administration. I would recommend adding a portion for giving thanks for these leaders as well.

  2. Pray for your enemies.

    First, let’s define enemy. Is it a person on the other side of an issue than you, a Republican, or a Democrat? A genuine enemy is a person who is actively opposed to or hostile toward you.

    Honestly, when I spend time in prayer for my “enemies” I often find that I’ve been more of an enemy toward them then they to me. If that is the case, let God deal with you and your heart, and go be reconciled with them.

    If there is somebody who is actively opposed and hostile toward you, pray diligently for them. Ask God to have mercy on them, change them, and bless them. Pray for justice, peace, and future unity. Remember, we have been called  ministers of reconciliation through the power of the gospel.

  3. Pray for the centrality of the kingdom of God.

    In addressing the issue of anxiety, Jesus charges His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). As our culture wrestles through division and tensions run high, we Christians need to hear and respond to our King.

    Rather than putting trust in our own reasoning or ability to lead, we need to pray. The simple act of praying is a response to Jesus’ charge as we intentionally look to Him first. So, pray that your attention be increasingly drawn to Jesus and His ability to rule with all power and wisdom.

  4. Pray for your heart.

    I love that that the Lord’s Prayer, also in chapter 6 of Matthew, begins with “Our Father” because it reminds me of His sincere desire for involvement and His deep love for me as His child. We can be honest with Him without fear.

    With that truth in mind, take some time to be honest with your heavenly Father, and yourself, about any cynicism, anxiety, or hate that may be lurking in the shadows of your heart. Ask Him to help you give thanks genuinely for those whom you are not thankful. Ask God to help you see your enemies the way He sees them so that you can love them the way He does; the way He loves you.

After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 1)

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The 2016 Presidential Election is over.  I think very few people could have ever imagined or predicted the events of the last year.  I have some very real and very deep differences with our new President.  If I’m honest, I could have written that same sentence in reference to either of the major party candidates after the election.  However, this post (and the follow-up posts to the discussion below) is not really about any Presidential candidate: It’s about where we go from here.  As a Christian in the United States of America in 2016 – As a member of Redemption Church in Augusta, Georgia in 2016 – How is it that I should respond to the state of our society and culture now that this election is complete?

When I evaluate the state of our nation and the severe divisions that have arisen over the last year, I am deeply saddened.  The day after the election, I came across a social media post from a friend who said something similar to this (and I’m paraphrasing): if this election has shown me anything……it’s that misogyny and racism aren’t a deal breaker for most people.  My heart broke as I read those words.  Those words confronted me once again with the fact that we live in a lost and broken world.  We must not turn a blind eye to the fact that some will see the results of this election as an opportunity to promote ideologies of hate, racism, and misogyny.  Where those ideologies arise we must confront them as sin, and we must call for repentance.  There are people in our nation who are genuinely frightened over what the next four years will bring their way.  At the same time, there are people who are genuinely hopeful about the prospects of the next four years.  Wherever you and I might fall on that spectrum, I know that the following statements should be true of anyone who follows Jesus.  What must I do – what must we do – moving forward?            

First, I must pray.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV) reads this way:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Second, I must remind myself that the church has been given the ministry of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (ESV) reads this way:

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 reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Russell Moore, in this linked article, states this: “Moreover, no matter what the racial and ethnic divisions in America, we can be churches that demonstrate and embody the reconciliation of the kingdom of God. After all, we are not just part of a coalition but part of a Body—a Body that is white and black and Latino and Asian, male and female, rich and poor. We are part of a Body joined to a Head who is an Aramaic-speaking Middle-easterner. What affects black and Hispanic and Asian Christians ought to affect white Christians. And the sorts of poverty and social unraveling among the white working class ought to affect black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ.”

Third, I must recognize that God is sovereign, and His Kingdom is far greater and far different than any earthly kingdom, country, or political leader.  Hear these words from Psalm 2:1-6 (ESV):  

“Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

One day, America and all her Presidents will just be a footnote in History – a kingdom that lasted for just a moment in time.  When that day comes, Jesus will still be reigning supreme.  One day, King Jesus will return, and the only Great King that has ever existed will rule this earth with the kind of glory that earthly kings can only dream of possessing.  Church, let me remind you of what King David said in Psalm 20:7 (ESV): “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  Church – don’t put your hope in earthly kings. Likewise, don’t despair over earthly kings. Instead – remember your true king!