Calvary Chapel Clayton
Calvary Chapel Clayton

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Understanding & Action: Responding to Racial Crisis with the Word of God—Part 1

Story by Carmel Flippen
Part One of a two-part series

In this two-part series, Calvary Chapel Magazine sits down with Pastor Kevin Edwards of Calvary Chapel, Clayton, NC, to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into an African American faith leader's response to the death of George Floyd. Pastor Kevin, who leads a multicultural congregation, details his immediate thoughts, feelings and plan of action—focused directly on teaching through the Gospel—in this powerful series.

Pastor Kevin EdwardsPastor Kevin Edwards of Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC, had not yet seen the video of George Floyd’s murder when a white pastor called to ask him about it. Rushing home to view it, he was horrified by what he saw. He immediately called together his leadership team, a diverse group. “Our leadership reflects our congregation,” he commented. “We believe diversity must come from the top down instead of being manufactured from the bottom up. The sixteen of us are white, African American, and Central American. We are also very close-knit brothers in arms. I took the opportunity to be honest with them, and have them be honest back.” All of the men shared their disgust over the killing, grieved together, and prayed for God to lead them—and their nation—forward.

“Pastors have been asking my opinion because I’m African American, but when I watch the video, you don’t have to be African American to be disgusted, horrified, and broken by seeing a man lord his power over another man that way,” Kevin said. “I think the reason why a lot of African Americans are so hurt is that, the way we see it, any of us could’ve been George Floyd. I think a lot of whites are shocked because issues they thought were behind us are being thrown in their face today, and it hurts—especially for our brothers and sisters in the church. Where can a man find refuge from it all? In the Christian church—or at least that’s how it should be.”

Christians greet one another before service

Katrina Schweisthal (right) greets a newcomer before service at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC.

“Only the Spirit of God can create real change. We are ambassadors, but at the end of the day, it’s the Gospel that will change the hearts and minds of those we witness to.”—Pastor Kevin Edwards

That Sunday, Kevin preached from Ephesians 4:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

“The Holy Spirit is the one creating unity; we’re working to maintain it,” he exhorted. “If the church allows any incident to change that, we have to question our faith in the very Gospel we say we believe. If it’s the power of the Gospel which brings about change in our lives, then that’s the same Gospel we need now—it hasn’t changed.”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16

Pastor Kevin prays with visitor

Pastor Kevin Edwards—who enjoys leading a multicultural congregation at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC—prays with a visitor after church service.

A Joppa Moment for the American Church

“The early church dealt with racial conflict all the time,” Kevin declared. “Think about Judaizers not wanting Gentiles to be part of the Christian movement and trying to force circumcision on them (see Acts 15). Think of the issues between Peter and Paul; most of them were caused because Jews viewed Gentiles as being unclean. Peter himself had to have his mentality changed in Joppa:

[Peter] saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. Acts 10:11-12

(All of these were declared unclean by Old Testament Law.)

And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again … While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” Acts 10:13-16, 19-20

“Peter was spending time alone with the Lord when this happened,” Kevin pointed out. “That’s something every individual in our churches needs to do. We need to ask the Spirit to show us, Do I really love my brothers no matter what?

“I can see Peter’s heart changing as they came to get him, and traveling to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. But even as Peter approaches, he’s saying,

“You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.” Acts 10:28a

“As he delivers his message, however, the power of God falls on everyone:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. Acts 10:44-45

“There’s something we can learn from this. When we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), we have a new culture we’re part of. Within the church we’re not black or white but a completely new culture. We become citizens of heaven, waiting for our lowly bodies to be transformed into heavenly bodies. We reflect Christ out to the world as ambassadors of this new Kingdom:

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

“Only the Spirit of God can create real change. We are ambassadors, but at the end of the day, it’s the Gospel that will change the hearts and minds of those we witness to. The New Testament church experienced that kind of heart change, and we can experience it in our churches, too.”

Pastor Kevin speaks to congregation

Pastor Kevin introduces a guest speaker on Missions Sunday, the weekend of their January missions conference for North Carolina churches.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Kevin sees the church poised at a critical moment—how will we handle it? “If we quickly sweep this behind us without letting it change us, we won’t experience the internal change we need, so that we can go out to the world with the ministry of reconciliation through Christ. However, if everyone would let this be a moment in Joppa where God changes our hearts, we will come out of this a stronger and more powerful church.”

Make sure to check the Calvary Chapel Magazine website tomorrow for Part 2 of Understanding & Action: Responding To The Racial Crisis With God's Word. Pastor Kevin will continue to focus on applying the Gospel directly into our every day lives, specifically in times where we are all seeking answers in responding to such broad, yet important issues facing our nation.

© 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.