LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 1
LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 1

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LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 1—A Christian’s Response to Racism & Prejudice

Compiled by Sherri Spencer

Mark AbramsThis is Part 1 of a live interview with Senior Pastor Mark Abrams at Calvary Chapel Word of Life in Philadelphia, PA. He is connected very closely with Calvary Chapel Philadelphia and Pastors Joe Focht and Jerry Paradise. In this interview on June 11, Mark and Calvary Chapel Magazine Editor Tom Price discuss a Christian’s response to racism and prejudice—issues that have been heightened recently by the killing of George Floyd at police hands. As believers, we want to lift up the name of Jesus and find solutions to racism and prejudice. Please look for Part 2 tomorrow.

Tom: In consideration of some of the trouble that has been going on, how are things in Philadelphia now?

Mark: It was rough with the rioting and the looting that followed [the death of George Floyd]. This week there were more peaceful demonstrations, and more of the city has calmed down some [regarding] what happened to George Floyd.

Tom: How has the death of George Floyd impacted your diverse congregation, specifically the African Americans?

Mark: [Being unable to] gather in one building, [we don’t have] a full picture of how people responded in the congregation, because you don't really get a chance to see or hear them. And on social media, you don't really know a lot about how they are really thinking and feeling.

I think any tragedy such as what happened to George Floyd affects every human being, and mainly Christians. I think we feel something a little deeper. So, in my particular fellowship, because we are mainly a diversified church, there is a spectrum of emotions. I think if you grew up in the African American community, this [incident] wasn't something totally uncommon. It's just been more public and caught on camera. So, for me growing up in the inner city where there was violence and a lot of gun fire daily, [these] things were common—but not public. To me, because it's public now, I think people see it so much differently. I think the heart is expressed differently because you could see it. It affects people in all different ways, but for the African American, it may affect us in an even deeper way, knowing that could have easily been one of us.

Tom: What can Calvary Chapel pastors learn from this, and how can they respond better to glorify the Lord?

Mark: I think that whenever you have people from different walks, nationalities, and ethnic groups, … everybody has a viewpoint. The only difference within the African American community is that you’re almost like the lowest on the totem pole [regarding] social economics and are misunderstood, a lot of times, in your response to different things. There’s not going to be just one pill to fix this. I think it’s more of us learning that everybody is made in the image of God. For example, my niece is three years old now, and a little white girl was crying at the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA. My niece goes over and hugs the little girl. The little girl stopped crying, hugged her back, and kissed my niece on the cheek. That could never happen to a 50-year-old. [Between] a black guy and a white guy, there would have been so many barriers by that time to try to even trust anybody coming near you in the time of crisis. So, look at those little girls—they weren’t taught this.

I think we can learn, especially as pastors, that God didn’t call us to segregate the church or call us to minister to one group versus another group. He just called us to feed the flock of God which is among you. So, I think that's loving them and nourishing them. Proverbs 27:23 says, Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds. Learn that people are different, that blacks and whites are not the same. They don't like the same food. They don't necessarily have the same skill set in some areas. They are just different, but the difference is how Christ takes diversity and makes unity out of it.

Tom: What was your takeaway from the interview concerning racial reconciliation that you had last week with Pastors Joe Focht, Jerry Paradise, and Gil Trusty at Calvary Chapel Philadelphia?

Mark: Well, first of all, those three men, I love dearly. We've been serving together … maybe 17-18 years. From the interview, I took away the verse in Deuteronomy 32:4: He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.

I took away from that [discussion two things]: that the root of all injustice is from the father of all lies, which is the devil, [as well as] the beauty of God’s justice; we’ll know perfect justice when we get to heaven. I think as believers we can do better in the “prayer closet.” The church can do better at being more of a praying church [regarding] these things, really being broken over the condition of our nation. We need to get on our knees before the Lord and get tapped into God’s throne room. Some things can happen through prayer that could never happen in legislation. We have access to the Lord, and He delights in the prayer of the upright—and we can come to Him. Because most of us think we are responders and doers, prayer may seem like the long way. I think prayer is the right way, and change could come together if we really seek God’s face for the injustice in this country. I think we’ll hear from heaven.

Tom: Share your thoughts on Christians “picking up their crosses” and leading the world, because the world needs to see them standing up and not hiding at this time.

Mark: You think of the urban area where I and a friend of mine, Buddy Osborn (pastor of The Rock Calvary Chapel in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia), serve. There are so many opportunities. I love foreign missions, and I believe in foreign missions, but in the inner cities of America, there’s a bigger need. I think the churches as a whole—suburban, urban, rural, wherever they are—need to come together. The Apostle Paul went into metropolitan areas: Ephesus, Thessalonica, the region of Galatia, urban places. He went in, and they were changed by the Gospel. It takes the body [of Christ] coming together; these areas could use a lot of help in a lot of ways.

Tom: There probably wasn't a more racist person than Saul of Tarsus (who became the Apostle Paul). In the Christian world, we don’t want to condemn people. We want to welcome all groups, all races, because that’s what it’s going to be like in heaven.

Mark: You think about Revelation 7:9, which talks about how it was every tribe, every tongue, every kindred, and so forth, around God’s throne. It doesn't seem like God is going to change our color when we get to heaven. Whatever you are here on earth, you’re probably the same complexion in heaven.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

Tom: As believers we need to be careful about what we say on social media, because it can certainly be taken out of context and hurtful to others. Have you noticed things being said that could be taken the wrong way and hurt others?

Mark: Oh, yeah, you hear a lot of it—it comes from people’s hurt. So, a lot of it is deep stuff that people never had a chance to say, and this is the time to let it all out. It's not always wrong, not always bad stuff. But I think the Christian response can never be more of our emotions than us being led by the Spirit. We can't let our emotions be our voice. It has to be the Holy Spirit. I’m sure there are some things I would like to say out of emotions, but I don't know how fruitful that would be. I don't know how that would edify the body, and I don’t know if it would represent Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, there are times when you’ll want to say things because of how you feel and what you have experienced. I'm sure some minority Christians have experienced racism, but [there’s] a way you have to present it so that it glorifies Jesus Christ. So, you see people that say, “Well, you don’t understand what I have been through.” It's like somebody saying, “Whites don’t understand how it is to walk in our shoes.” I don't know if you can understand it, you just have to [experience] it ... in a way where [you] can feel every bruise and bump. You can't pick the family you were born in or choose how to live for Jesus Christ from the family you were born in.

Tom: How can Christians pour oil onto the scars of the hurting to ease their pain or hurts?

Mark: Psalm 147:3 [declares that God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. So, God is the one who will use us [the body of Christ, His feet and hands], and I think He’ll use us through grace. We could be those who look at hurt in the way that Christ would—in full grace and truth at the suffering of some hurtful person or somebody that’s filled with anger. I think it has to be both [grace and truth], and it has to be through love. It has to be through a very strong listening ear. People do want to be heard, so, I really believe that listening is the key to hear people’s hearts. Whether you agree with it or not, listen. We tend to listen more to the things we agree with than those we disagree with. It’s healthy to listen—not to agree or disagree—but to hear.

One guy said it this way: “If somebody’s angry, agree with them. Then they’ll tell you what they’re angry about.” We can be angry, of course, but not sin. Anger is not wrong (Ephesians 4:26 and Psalm 4:4); it’s just how you exercise it.

Tom: Is there a way we can do a better job of reaching into our communities and explaining to those who are hurting that Jesus Christ is the only hope?

Mark: In the inner city you need resources. I've learned that God is the greatest resource. You need people to come and realize that America has become a mission field. People have to be mission-minded in a sense—the Word of God changes people. [Rather than] a program or humanitarian outreach, it’s the Word of God. I think that the challenge is teaching the Word of God, of course, but then [your] being able to be accessible for people, to disciple [them]. Jesus [was] with His disciples. I'm sure they knew how He liked His fish or lamb cooked, or what color sandals He liked wearing, or whatever. And so, I think that a lot of times we in the church are taught the Word of God, but then we just go our separate ways.

Early on in my [urban] church …, I took close to 30 [younger] guys into my house every Monday night, and I got to know all of them one by one—I mean, literally, one by one. The kids were from broken families, maybe one had a father. And today [these young men are] all married, own houses, and are responsible husbands. Discipleship and being more intentional about being in people’s lives is so important in the church today; God is a Father to the fatherless, but I really believe that He will use us to be that person that they can see. [What could happen] if we poured that into the inner cities—leadership, discipleship, and investing in young men? You can start with that first, followed by young women; but if you start with young teenage boys, and really try to invest in them in ways that isn’t just a program, they’re learning the Word of God and you’re walking with them. I lived it. I see these guys around me, and I’m like, “Praise the Lord!”

Tom: Out of the 30 young guys, were there any that fell away?

Mark: Out of that group, I’m thinking one. I heard last week that he’s starting back up in the church. We went through the Bible, and everybody got a Bible. But I think the other part was just as important—they saw the Word lived out, and they had access [to my mentoring]. I get calls asking, “I’m thinking of this business venture, what do you think?” They all still have access [to me]. If you're looking at all the criminals and people in prison, the common trend is that they don't have fathers. I think the church could do better in that, but it can't be [just] the urban guys, it can't just be me and Buddy Osborn. We need the suburban church, the rural church, all those churches behind us in some way.

ccwordoflife.org

Part 2 of this interview, discussing how suburban churches can work with urban churches, will run tomorrow.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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