A Year in Review: A Force for Healing

A Year in Review: A Force for Healing
A Year in Review: A Force for Healing

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Becoming a Force for Healing—As the Nation was Being Torn Apart by Riots, Christians Came Together to Pray for Racial Healing and Reconciliation

Story by Carmel Flippen
Photos by Miah Boffill @MB images

This story first ran in Issue 84, Summer 2020, of Calvary Chapel Magazine.

As rain drifted down through the towering trees in Acacia Park in Colorado Springs, CO, one Saturday in June, hundreds gathered to pray for racial healing in America. Although their reason for coming was somber—a nation being ripped apart by riots; a man’s life stolen by the very people sworn to protect it—the atmosphere was one of “hope, faith, and love,” reported Pastor Al Pittman, senior pastor of Calvary Worship Center.

“There was not a sour face in the place. People were excited to see that other believers had a burden for their nation and were calling on the name of the Lord as their only hope.” Those gathered came from many different races, churches, and backgrounds. Some raised their hands and faces to the sky in hopeful expectation; others kneeled on the wet ground as worship music played and various pastors, including Al, stepped onstage to pray. A banner stretched behind them paraphrased Jeremiah 29:7.

As the last pastor, a white man, finished his prayer, Al joined him on stage. Kneeling together, the two men led the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer.

Al kneeling with man on stage

Pastor Al Pittman (left) from Calvary Worship Center in Colorado Springs, CO, a Calvary Chapel affiliate, and Bob Bender from Black Forest Cross Fellowship Church close an event by leading the people in reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.” The time was dedicated to racial healing after the tragic death of George Floyd.

“People began using the word ‘Christian’ to describe Jesus’ followers because they considered believers to be slaves and soldiers of Jesus Christ,” Al explained. “On Saturday, I saw Christians being Christians—I saw a rally of spiritual soldiers who wanted to love their brothers and sisters, who were saying, ‘We’re going to stand at this dark hour, and be a light to our community and our nation.’ They came to seek the face of God, and He showed up in a powerful way.”

Al shared his insights into the spiritual roots of America’s current struggles, as well as the Christian response: “The murder of George Floyd was an act which defied the sanctity of life and basic human dignity. The sight of a black man being killed by a white man has brought 400 years of anger and venom to the surface. There’s such a thing as righteous anger, and there is reason for that here, but the kind of violence we’re seeing across the nation comes from the devil. The devil, like he always does, has hijacked a righteous cause and turned it into riots and chaos. He comes ‘to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.’ But Jesus has come ‘that they [we] may have life, and … have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10).

Al worshiping with crowd

Faith leaders and attendees extend their hands in prayer.

“God is a God of human dignity. He sent Jesus to give dignity to everybody. Jesus touched the lepers, the people society would not touch. He came to give life to those who had no life. He hung on a cross, [and said of the people who had mistreated and assaulted Him], ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’ (Luke 23:34b). No matter your past, present, future, or your ethnicity, He came to die for you. The Kingdom He came to build is colorblind.

“Racism is an issue of the heart, not the skin. Until the hearts of men change, it will remain, because people are sinners. The problem is that people don’t want to take the time to understand someone else. As Christians, we belong to a different kingdom. We should follow Jesus’ example:

Let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3b-4

Al smiling at man with mask

Al shares a smile with a man in attendance, exuding the joy that came from people from all walks of life praying for a common cause.

“I love the disciples’ response when Jesus told them at the Last Supper that one of them would betray Him: ‘Lord, is it I?’ (Matthew 26:22b). In a similar way, we need to examine our own hearts, and ask, ‘Lord, is it I? Have I treated someone differently because of the color of their skin?’ If so, we need to repent and ask God to lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).

“As a Christian who happens to be black, the same principles apply. We don’t get a pass because we’re black. We hated the Klan, the white supremacists, and everyone who judged us by our ethnicity; if we’re not careful, we’ll become what we hate. I don’t care who you are or what past you have; responding with hatred or with an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality is not biblical.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20

"I hear you" sign

A woman holds a sign that reads “I hear you,” as she closes her eyes and extends her hand in prayer.

“There is a tendency for people of all colors to live out the stereotype that Hollywood has set for them instead of living for Christ, and His Kingdom. As Christians, we need to radically rebel against those stereotypes.

“As a black man, I find it highly offensive when people say, ‘Because you’re this color, you have to vote this certain way and think this certain way.’ My ancestors worked long hours in cotton fields, and were lynched, and called ‘Boy’, and marched for civil rights so that people like me could have the freedom to think for themselves. A Civil War was fought to create that right; two World Wars were fought to preserve it. More importantly, Jesus says in the Bible, ‘If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36b). Christ’s death sets us free to follow the Spirit of God, not society.

“This connects to our current situation because people have been preconditioned by the media to be triggered by seeing certain things. We should be outraged by George Floyd’s murder—it is a horrific thing. But so are the murders of many other black men in America, often the result of black-on-black crime. We have been programmed to react in a certain way without thinking. When something like this happens, don’t follow the crowd. Think for yourself, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. If more people did that, we’d have more peaceful protests and less looting and destruction.”

Al on stage praying

Rain blankets the stage as Al shares the Word of the Lord, promoting unity. On Saturday, June 6, Senior Pastor Al Pittman joined with his congregation from Calvary Worship Center in Colorado Springs, CO, to pray for racial healing in America.

Al remembers looking for a church to attend while traveling in another state. As he pulled into one church’s parking lot, he noticed all the people entering it were white, but thought nothing of it. At the door, though, a white man said to him dismissively, “Oh, you’re looking for the church down the street,” which was African American.

“I’ve seen racism in the church on all sides, whether white, black, or Latino,” Al reported. “It’s been a problem since the church began. Think about Peter at the tanner’s house in Acts 10. Before he was ready to go to the Gentile Cornelius’ house, God had to show him the same vision three times, saying, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’ (Acts 10:15b, NIV). Was Peter a racist? I think he struggled with that, but it was more of a cultural mentality because Jewish law said Gentiles were unclean. That’s how he was raised. God had to break that mentality. Most of us don’t hate white people or black people, but we like to put people in categories. That kind of thinking produces darkness, not light. If more Christians will stop doing that, the world will stand up and take notice. God always starts in the church first before He changes the nation—see 2 Chronicles 7:14. The church needs to lead the way in racial unity. It needs to show the world in a practical way what it looks like to be united. It needs to be a visible, tangible community of different races and ethnicities working together.”

"Black lives matter to Jesus" sign

A woman carries a sign echoing her thoughts on how she thinks the Lord views the racial problems experienced in America recently.

“But there’s a power outage in our churches. We’re not living like we’re expecting Jesus to come back; we’ve let our lamps go out, and we’re wondering why there’s no light,” Al warned, referencing Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:1-13. “The church needs to stand up. Why? Because our nation needs us. Especially with all that has been going on with government restrictions on churches during COVID-19, we need to ask, as Peter did to the religious leaders of his time, ‘Is it better to obey God or to obey man?’ I’m not talking about resisting authority, but when that authority doesn’t know which direction to take, we need to stand up and be salt and light.” At the June 6th prayer rally’s close, participants took a prayer walk from Acacia Park to city hall to pray for their leaders. “We need to figure out how we can be part of the healing,” Al exhorted. “There needs to be a lot of dialoguing; be willing to do that. Go help businesses destroyed by looting. Help them board up shops and clean up their inventory.”

Men hugging

Pastor Chauncey (right) of Colorado Springs shares a special moment with a friend as a symbol of breaking down walls amid racial tension in the nation.

In 1997, Al and his family moved to Colorado to pastor a predominantly white church in a predominantly white area. He’s well aware his situation breaks stereotypes. “When I invite black people to our church,” he joked, “they drive around the parking lot a few times before they come in because they’re not sure it’s the right place. When white visitors come, they see a black man step on stage and think it must be Missionary Sunday.” However, Al is used to seeing God defy expectations through his church. Originally, other pastors had warned Al not to join Calvary Worship Center; they said it was a dead church. Al trusted God for its resurrection, and in the last two decades has seen it grow not only in numbers but in diversity. Now, it is a multi-ethnic island in an area that is still 70% white. Every week it resembles a little more the type of community he desires to see across our nation. Having seen God raise the dead before, he has faith He can do it on a larger scale. “We can’t change minds, but Jesus changes hearts,” Al testified. “He is the only answer to the sickness in our nation.”

Calvary Worship Center:
cwccs.org

People kneel in prayer

Hundreds of people kneel simultaneously in Acacia Park and pray together, regardless of their religious affiliation or skin color.

 

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

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