MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP) — MLK50 conference conveners lamented and asked God for brokenness in the evangelical church during a time of prayer at the close Tuesday (April 3) of the first day of a gathering to honor the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The prayer session occurred at “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop,” a two-day conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) are co-hosting the event at the Memphis Convention Center to consider the state of racial unity and what is required to achieve solidarity, especially in the church.
Southern Baptists and other members of the advisory council who helped convene the conference read New Testament passages and prayed while other event advisors stood behind them on the platform.
Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, asked for the Holy Spirit to “break our hearts for our blindness and our hard-heartedness and our foolishness.”
“Will You allow Your church to see the pitiful state of things so that we might repent … [with] the kind of gut-level heart-brokenness that understands that we have made a mess and only You will be able to clean up that mess?” he said.
ERLC President Russell Moore acknowledged in his prayer that many at the conference are members of Christian denominations that were formed in defense of slavery.
“Father, Lord, would you have mercy on us, sinners?” Moore prayed. “Lord, would you give us a sense of broken-heartedness, a sense of lament, a sense of repentance, but not the sort of repentance that leads only to despair, [but] the sort of lament and the sort of repentance that causes us to cry out, Abba Father?”
Collin Hansen, TGC’s editorial director, prayed, “Oh Lord, in this country, we have gone astray. Fellow white Americans and I have turned to our own, to our own self-interests.
“Plead for us, Lord Jesus, transgressors against Your will, transgressors so often against brothers and sisters of color,” he requested. “Lord Jesus, heal our strife-stricken land, these United States of America. Let justice begin with the household of God, and let a revival of justice and mercy begin with the household of God.”
Bible teacher Beth Moore petitioned God to provide “what we desperately need — to be like Jesus.”
“We ask for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” she prayed. “We are not what we should be in 2018, but we thank You, God, we are not what we were this morning.
“And You tell us Lord if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain, ‘Move,’ and it moves,” Moore said, adding, “[W]ith every grain of faith we have, we say to the mountain of racism, ‘You must move in Jesus’ name.'”
Trillia Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach, prayed for a ministry of reconciliation that “moves us and drives us to one another that we would be reconciled.”
Rufus Smith, senior pastor of Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Memphis, prayed, “Lord, we are not; please change us. Lord, we have not, please give us. And what we are not, please make us for the sake of the kingdom and the glory of our King.”
The Bible passages read in order before the prayers were II Corinthians 5:14-21 and 7:9-10, Hebrews 11:8-16, Philippians 1:27-2:11, Ephesians 2:11-12 and Hebrews. 6:10-12.
Chandler, Newbell and both Moores are Southern Baptists.
A simulcast and archived videos of the event may be viewed at http://mlk50conference.com/live/.