Racial tensions beg return to godliness, Page says
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (BP) -- The church must return to God's lordship to adequately serve communities struggling with such problems as racism, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page told North Carolina Baptists at an associational meeting.
"[God] is in the middle of what's happening in your church," Page said, preaching from Revelation 2:1-7. "He is walking in our midst, and He is doing what the Lord does -- to reprove, to convict, to convert. And, yes, He is still saving men, women, boys and girls -- even now!"
Page referenced renewed racial tensions in the U.S., and said the church must be Gospel-centered to meet ministry challenges inherent in the conflict.
"Friends, we are in a serious, serious situation. Our country is a mess. Black people fighting white people. White people fighting black people," Page said. "Everybody's pointing fingers. We're in a mess, and inside the church we're doing no better.... It's time to get serious about the Gospel."
In comments to the Biblical Recorder, the news journal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention (NCBSC), Page elaborated on the church's purpose and calling.
The host church for the July 19th meeting has faced a demographic shift in its community surrounding Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the world. Sperring Memorial Baptist Church's membership has changed from predominantly white 30 years ago to 90 percent black today, host pastor James Fields Jr. told the Recorder.
"This is a church for the community," Fields told the Recorder, citing racial reconciliation as a particular concern.
"We prayed for America to wake up and hear God," he said. "Vengeance is His. He will repay. There is never a time when we should take up arms against one of our brothers or sisters, no matter what a person does. They have to answer to God.
"I teach my church that God says, 'I will fight your battles.'" Field said. "The only fight that you're supposed [to] fight is the fight of faith."
Brian Kinlaw, pastor of Southview Baptist Church in Hope Mills, N.C., and president of the NCBSC Board of Directors, described the meeting as significant.
"Our convention is far more diverse than many of us realize," he said. "The unity that we have centered in Christ moves beyond the differences that we have culturally or racially. We can show that in a tangible way in a gathering like this."
Associational missionary Randy White led messengers in intercessory prayer. Huddled in small clusters, attendees prayed through a portion of Isaiah 6, asking for a renewed vision of God and pleading for peace and unity in the midst of racial unrest.
Fort Bragg, hosting more than 50,000 active duty military personnel, sits near the northern border of the association. Sperring Memorial's congregation is 80 percent active and retired military, Fields said.
"I give them the word of God and I love them," he said. "That's all I got, and that's enough."
Kinlaw told the Recorder the importance of local associational ministry.
"Our cooperative work together is more crucial than ever," he said. "As the challenges are growing, as the needs are increasing, we can do more together than we can alone."