Racial reconciliation should start in churches, pastors insist

Bryan Carter (left), pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, and Jeff Warren, pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, participate in a panel discussion moderated by Jane Wilson, youth discipleship specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, during the Youth Ministry Conclave in Arlington. (Photo/ Kalie Lowrie)

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ARLINGTON—Racial reconciliation should begin through believers in the church, Bryan Carter, pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, told Youth Minstry Conclave participants.

Rather than relying on law enforcement or looking to the government or society in general to ease racial tensions, Carter and Jeff Warren, pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church, urged youth ministers to promote change within their own congregations.

“I would encourage you, as student pastors, to lead the way. Lead from the bottom up,” Warren said. “You are such an important voice.”

Building relationships and fostering dialogue

In describing their two-year friendship, Warren and Carter talked about an initial lunch conversation that led to a partnership between their churches. In addition to swapping pulpits several times, the pastors have led their congregations to serve together and engage in dialogue.

More than 400 men from both Concord and Park Cities met together for four consecutive Saturdays to discuss the gospel and racial reconciliation. In the process, participants formed friendships that continued long past the initial discussions.

Likewise, women from both churches read books together, took part in similar dialogue and developed friendships.

“We see people having conversations,” Carter said. “We see people working for works of justice. We are sensing this on every level from leaders. What I’ve enjoyed is seeing a lot of white pastors enter this space.”

Seize the opportunity

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Warren called on youth ministers to seize the initiative.

“You all are leaders of the next generation,” he said. “We are looking for ways to reach out to students to reach the lost. If you are not speaking into this issue, making it the core issue you are talking about, you are missing the opportunity the Lord is giving you.”

This year, Warren and Carter encouraged other pastors around Dallas to swap pulpits with others from congregations of a different race. Eighteen churches joined in the pulpit exchange and reported significant results.

“I would challenge all of the youth pastors here to head to your church and talk to your pastors,” Warren said. “The first time we did the pulpit swap, it blew up in regard to conversations. People began asking: ‘When are we doing it again? What can we do next?’ It fanned the flame.”

Establishing trust

Warren and Carter forged their friendship in the midst of shootings involving African-Americans and police officers that sparked serious debate in the nation about race relations. The two Dallas pastors decided to try to find ways to encourage each other and promote racial reconciliation within their congregations.

Sinc they already established trust and communication, Warren and Carter were in contact with each other within hours after a gunman fatally shot five police officers in downtown Dallas. They partnered for a prayer service and modeled an example for other churches during a tense situation. In a nation looking for answers, they pointed to Jesus.

“We are so divided as a country, and the gospel is what unites us,” Warren said.

Be bold and courageous

Bold leadership demands courage, Carter noted.

“Christians often talk about courageous leadership. It’s never for the weak, never for convenience,” he said. “Look at your church and ask, ‘What can we do?’ Talk to your pastor, consider the framework and decide what are the small steps I can take to bridge (racial) gaps.”

Warren echoed the same theme.

“Bold leadership is what is going to be necessary. It starts with you reaching out,” he said. “If you are from a white church, go to an African-American church. Make a phone call, go knock on a door. … It can start with you going to another youth pastor in your area who does not look like you and saying, ‘Let’s go to lunch.”

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