For a decade of my life I was privileged to lead a church that was very effective at reaching the lost. Through prayer, hard work and a relentless Gospel focus we experienced strong growth primarily due to new believers being added to our church roles. During that time God taught me many hard and valuable lessons that have stuck with me to this day.
There is a lot of confusion in this culture today over gender and sexual identity issues. There is a lot of head scratching in the church, as well. But God’s Word brings clarity where the world and religion often brings a fog.
For the last few months the news has been full of horrific stories of sexual harrasment and even sex crimes against women, men and, in some cases, children. Prominent men, from Senators to actors to Hollywood producers, have been exposed as sexual predators.
Sadly, in the church world, it's not that much different. I’ve heard it far too many times over the last 30 years of ministry, "So and so was just accused of a sexual crime" ...or... "a moral failure" or something to that effect.
Mostly it’s been pastors or youth leaders I didn't know well, if at all. But there have been a handful of times it’s been men I did know. The closer the connection, the harder it is to believe and the more difficult it is to process.
I've been speaking to teenagers for almost three decades now, during a third of that time I was a preaching pastor as well. I'm terrible at sports (uncoordinated) and horrific at hobbies (easily distracted) so I've poured everything I have into becoming a better, more impacting communicator.
My daughter Kailey just turned 13 on Sunday…and I just agreed to let her engage in a limited form of social media for the first time. So the ground-breaking new book, The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices by my friend Jonathan McKee, became required reading for my sweet (not-so-little-anymore) daughter.
I'll never forget the week of September 11th, 2001. After being traumatized by terrorist attacks our entire nation was shaken to the core. People were afraid to fly. Many were afraid to be in public places. The potential of another terrorist attack seemed like it could be imminent.
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
I was raised in an all white family in the middle of a mostly Mexican neighborhood. At the time, North Denver was in the top high-crime rate areas of our city. And my family members were right in the thick of it.
Growing up I heard countless stories and witnessed tons of "situations" that ended in some kind of bloodshed. My family was notoriously violent, so much so, that the Denver mafia nicknamed my five uncles "the crazy brothers."
So racism was real growing up in North Denver. For my family it was "us" verses "them." And the result was extreme violence, shed blood and intense hatred.
But then Jesus came in and changed everything.
A southern-drawled preacher from the suburbs nicknamed "Yankee" came to the toughest and angriest one of my uncles (Uncle Jack) and led him to Christ. That was the beginning point of his transformation!
My Uncle Bob came fully to Christ in the back of a squad car after beating a guy to death (they eventually resuscitated him.) And on and on the story goes.
Over the period of a few years most of my very large, very loud family put their faith in Jesus. Although I was a child when most of this happened, I remember watching the transformation of my family members as a result of the Gospel message.
That's when the Holy Spirit began to go to work on my family members. As they grew closer to Jesus the slime of racism (and other sins for that matter) began to get scrubbed away.
Soon my family members were side by side in church with their Latino brothers and sisters in Christ. It took time. It was messy. There were slip ups. But the trajectory of their transformation from racism to love was shockingly obvious to me and to everyone who truly knew my family.
So what are the implications of all this? Simply that the cure to racism in our hearts is Jesus and the cure to racism on our streets is the church.
Only Jesus can replace the hatred of racism with true and deep love for those who are not like us and those we may not like. The Gospel changes everything.
What is the Gospel? It's simply the message that God created us to be with him and that our sins separate us from God. Those sins cannot be removed by good deeds. So paying the price for sin Jesus died and rose again. Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life and this life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever.
If you have never put your faith in Jesus do so right now. It will change your destiny and transform your heart. It will give you the divine power to eradicate racism and every other "ism" in your life (i.e. hedonism, selfism, etc.)
The second part of the cure is, not for our hearts, but for our streets. It's the church mobilized to gospelize.
The church is God's change agent for the neighborhood. It was a church that reached into my hood and rescued my family, discipled my family, equipped my family and then unleashed my family back to the streets...but this time on a redemptive mission.
And our churches must learn how to increasingly reflect the multi-ethnic world we are living in. This is what they did in the early church, especially in the church of Antioch (Acts 11:19-26.)
The church of Antioch had Jews and Gentiles side-by-side, working together to advance God's kingdom. As my buddy Derwin Gray said, "In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son Jesus to transcend this racial hostility, injustice, and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death."
The people in our churches must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to share this message across the street, across the tracks and across the world. And I'm convinced the teenagers in our churches can help lead the way!
That's why on September 23rd we are doing Dare 2 Share Live, a live simulcast event that will broadcast into 72 churches across the United States! Our prayer is that, on a single day, we will be able to mobilize a force of teenagers who will be inspired, equipped and then unleashed to go out into their cities to show and share the love of Jesus! We have venues from South Chicago to Puerto Rico to Los Angeles to Fairbanks, Alaska that will be launching points for city-wide Gospel transformation!
Dare 2 Share Live will be the church unleashed to transform cities across America one Gospel conversation at a time. Our goal is to replace hate with love, to exchange racism for redemption and to tear down walls and build bridges.
Join us in prayer at 9:23 everyday that Dare 2 Share Live is used by God to be a rally point for revival. Pray that tens of thousands are unleashed that day to bring transformational unity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
May the Gospel of Jesus Christ scrape every last shred of racism out of our hearts. Let's start sharing this message across the street, across the tracks and across the world! Only through the Gospel can racism be cured!