Responding to the Cultural Crisis

Vincent Carpenter

My wife Tonja loves to sing and has been involved in choirs her entire life. When she enrolled at Baylor University in 1987 she wanted to continue worshiping God through music, so she auditioned for the Baylor Religious Hour Choir (BRH). The BRH ministers in a formal style of singing. Tonja, like most African-American singers, minister in song through a more informal, intuitive style. Due to these differences, Tonja was not invited to join BRH.

While some might feel rejected or offended, Tonja simply decided to re-audition for the choir the following year. In the meantime, she decided to start a Gospel choir which would give her the opportunity to sing until the following year. Tonja went to the director of the university’s student ministry department with the idea of starting the choir and found out that the director had been praying for an African-American student with a desire for ministry because the university had no outreach among black students at the time. The meeting between Tonja and the student ministry director birthed the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. The choir was embraced by African-American students, grew quickly and started ministering on the Baylor campus and throughout Waco. At one time, more than 100 students joined the choir. The group has recorded a couple of CDs over the years, and is now multi-racial and sings contemporary Christian as well as traditional Gospel music.

A situation that could have created racial strife actually became a God-honoring and beautiful musical expression.

Today there are many opportunities for strife between various group of people in our community and nation. The violence between minorities and police has heightened hostility between blacks and law enforcement. The presidential election has led to feelings of fear and anger in some people and insensitive behavior in others. While these crises are threatening new levels of division in our nation, there is also a great opportunity for God to move and create a beautiful expression of unity. Racial and political groups rejecting each other will lead to more violence, fear and division, while a right response can lead to unity.

The first and best response to any crisis is to draw near to God.

James 4 says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When people are in pain, feeling discouraged or facing other challenges; God talk might sound trite or even dismissive of the problem but our God is not a theoretical concept nor is He symbolically powerful.

Our God’s presence and power is reality.

Therefore, we must go to Him in any situation we are concerned about. During times of crisis, a powerful way of looking to God is to simply write on a piece of paper or say out loud the phrase, “God what are you saying or doing in my life through this?” After your statement, just wait in silence for a minute and allow God to bring His thoughts or a Scripture to mind.

The next response to crises is to draw near to community.

When we are hurt we often pull away from the people closest to us. God is often present in our lives through people, so if we pull away from people we pull away from His method of being present in our lives. Sometimes the person we are closest to is the one who hurts us most. These situations are difficult and there is no way around the fact that people we love or trust can and do deeply wound us sometimes. However, we don’t get healed by getting disillusioned with those who disappoint us but we get healing from hoping and trusting in a God who is bigger than any person, political party or race.  During a time of crises, simply go to those you are closet to and share your anger, hurt or fear and ask those people to dialogue and pray with you.

Another response to crisis that may not naturally come to mind is to draw near to those we have differences with.

Jesus said to love our enemies. He said anybody can love someone who is like them, but a Christian can love those who are not like them. When the world sees people who are different reaching out and loving one another I believe God will be exalted like never before and people will come to Christ like never before. Therefore, we have a great opportunity in these days of cultural controversy to expand the Kingdom of God in an incredible way. When you have crises that are related to a person who does something that is the opposite of what you are doing then go to that person with the heart to understand them and what they did.  A productive statement could be, “I’m not clear on what happened. Can you help me understand?”

For eight years, my family rented a house in the South Waco area near Robinson. Some years ago the person we rented the house from passed away. A family member of theirs told them that at one time they distrusted African -Americans, but since we lived in their rent home those eight years they had developed a different attitude toward blacks.

In a season where people in our culture are experiencing pain, anger and fear of people who are different from them, the people of God can transform that pain through a sincere effort to draw near those different from themselves.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor