Calvary Chapel Clayton
Calvary Chapel Clayton

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

Story by Carmel Flippen
Part Two of a two-part series
In Part 2 of Understanding & Action: Responding To The Racial Crisis With God's Word, Calvary Chapel Magazine continues our conversation with Pastor Kevin Edwards. Pastor Kevin leads a multicultural congregation at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC and shares keen insight into how we can apply God's Word directly into our plan to battle racial issues in America. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here

Understanding the Problem

Pastor Kevin Edwards“The main issue is that Americans still haven’t really dealt with our history of racism in a healthy way. We want to sweep it under the rug. But because its effects were never truly dealt with, they keep resurfacing," said Kevin Edwards, pastor of Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC. He has seen that happening in nearby Raleigh, NC, which, like many cities around the country, has seen peaceful protests turn into angry riots, catching local citizens and businesses in the crossfire. In addition to true desire for justice and reform, Kevin said, “There’s also a lot of pent-up frustration from the COVID-19 lockdown and the economic downturn. Whenever we feel ourselves getting emotionally charged, we need to take a step back and remember God’s Word is truth, and it will not change no matter what we see in the world. Plus, we need to recognize there’s a lot of deception going on with what we see.”

Kevin’s friend Pastor Ricky Rueda, Jr. of Calvary Chapel Oak City—a church plant in inner-city Raleigh—called Kevin before the protests. “He asked, ‘Should I go down there and leave if it gets violent?’” Kevin reported. “I said, ‘Absolutely; if you want to do inner-city ministry, they need to see that you show up.’” At the protests, Ricky saw many local people of different races communicating peacefully and lovingly. As the planned protest was ending, however, he was approached by out-of-town members of Antifa. Not realizing Ricky was a pastor, they tried to recruit him to start a violent riot. Kevin believes much of the rioting is part of an outside agenda, leaving locals to pick up the pieces. “According to CNN, this pattern of out-of-state rioters goes back at least as far as the Ferguson, MO, riots,” he explained.

worship team sings during Sunday service

Lisa Arvin, Lisa Edwards, Karen Vaughn, Ed Vaughn, Derek McKnight, and Gina Batton lead worship Sunday morning at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC.

While in favor of police reform, Kevin is dismayed by the enmity being shown toward the police, and grateful for officers within his fellowship who have been willing to share their perspective with the church. “The reality is that there are many more black-on-black crimes than there are police officers killing black men,” he said. “The enemy here is bigger than the police force, or anything we experience at that level. Ultimately, the source of this violence is Satan himself. Can our country get beyond this? Yes. But the Gospel message is the only thing that can accomplish it.

“The church needs to come out of the caves we’ve been hiding in because of COVID-19 and lead the charge in bringing change”—Kevin Edwards

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. Ephesians 2:14

“The difficulty for the church is that it hasn’t done much more than the world in that it remains divided by race or denomination.” In Kevin’s hometown, there were two churches. They were nearly identical in name, appearance, and theology. Their only difference was that one was “white” and one was “black.” “There’s more to that divide than different styles of music,” he declared. “It’s a deep-rooted problem within the church. People outside the church see this. They look at us and say, ‘You guys can’t even figure this out. Why should we listen to you?’ In pictures of the protests when you see whites and blacks holding hands, it looks like the world has it together better than us. But then you also hear this cry to defund the police, or to tear down all the monuments—even of those who helped to end slavery. There has to be balance, and the world can’t find that balance because it’s devoid of Christ. Unless we lead with the Gospel message, we aren’t going to make the difference we need to. We need a revival within the church that tears down our dividing walls, so that when we go out to preach the Gospel, we are a picture of unity.”

Sunday school teacher tells Bible story to kids

Sunday school teacher Stu Miller brings the Word of God to life for children at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:4-6

In order to ‘bear with one another in love’ as Ephesians 4:2 commands, Christians who are not African American need to look honestly at the struggles faced by those that are—statistical realities which transcend political bickering. While the roots of these issues may be buried deep in the past, their consequences are very present today. Kevin listed a few:

“The constant breakdown of the African-American family has been going on for many years,” he said. “For example, out of the six men in my college-friend group, only two of us knew our fathers.

“After the Civil War, African American people were 14% of the population; more than 150 years later, that number is down to 12% because of targeted programs towards African Americans.

“Compare that to the percentage of men in prison who are African American—more than 30%. Those are abnormal numbers.

“70% of abortions in Raleigh, NC, alone are young black women who believe they don’t have any other option.

“What the African American community needs more than government programs is for churches to go in, in ways that are truly helpful.”

Becoming Part of the Solution

“Church should always be the place where unity is best represented. The New Testament teaches us to avoid partiality, but also that faith without works is dead. Each congregation should ask, ‘What can we do to really let the light of God shine in this situation?’ It’s going to take some time to figure out what that will look like in every church.

“Years ago, I had a white pastor ask me to lunch. He wanted advice on how to create diversity in his church. I said, ‘That’s great that you’re open to diversity, but if you really want to see that happen, you have to be open to more than other ethnicities coming into your congregation. You need to be a brother with them. You need to eat the same food, sit at the same table.’ That’s why our potlucks have the best food anywhere around,” Kevin laughed.

Kevin and Lisa greet a visitor

Lisa Edwards (left) and husband Kevin (middle) greet a visitor at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC. Newcomers often return because of the warm welcome.

It’s not enough to work within the church, though—the body of Christ needs to consider how they can reach out. “The African American community is changing,” Kevin stated. “I consider those in my church to be pioneers because they’ve left tradition to look for something new. Though not in great numbers yet, they’re leaving for a reason. Calvary Chapel is very different than the typical church experience in the African American community. When I talk to them about it, often it is because they want more of the Word of God. That tells me there’s an opportunity.

“We need to evaluate what we can do as a church, and as a fellowship of churches, to reach the African American community. We need to see it as a mission field. I go to a lot of huddles and hear pastors talking about spending a lot of time overseas. We’ve done a lot in places like India and Russia—that’s great. We don’t need to abandon that. But how do we reach areas within our nation with real need in the way that Jesus would?

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

“When we go into foreign missions, we look to raise up a national pastor to take over. We should be asking how we can raise men up in our churches to minister within the African American community. We need to disciple them up and send them back to the inner cities where there’s opportunity for a church plant. It doesn’t need to look like the typical Calvary Chapel, but it needs to be grounded in the Word. The Lord will do it—but we need to raise people up.”

Signs of Hope

“Here’s what I see happening that’s good,” Kevin reflected. “These protests are different than the last generation’s in that I’m seeing whites and blacks protesting together. This is making people look at things they haven’t looked at before, the true state of mankind, and they are heartbroken about it. Many are asking, ‘How can we help?’ We’ve had white mothers call my wife and say, ‘We’re so sorry about what’s happened. Are you ever worried about your husband or son being out?’ This is a time when everyone’s willing to have a discussion. There is an opportunity for change, and the church has to be at the forefront of that.

chidren worship the Lord

Children from every walk of life praise God during their own worship time at Calvary Chapel Clayton, NC. Photo by Micah Martin

“God … has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18b

“We need to take advantage of the tender hearts created by this. We see in the Bible that the Jew and the Gentile became one body in Christ as the Gospel message and the Holy Spirit changed their hearts. We’ve seen that beginning to happen in places like Calvary Chapel that are very multicultural, but the discussions we’re having now enable it to happen more. We need to make sure that continues to happen.

“If we’re willing to have this discussion, what do we need to do next? We need to put down all our denominational and racial divides, and say, ‘We’re united in Jesus Christ; let us gather together and pray.’” On June 27th, CC Clayton is planning to hold a prayer rally in Clayton’s town square. They are inviting churches of many different denominations and races to join them. Kevin is aware that social distancing needs are likely to prevent many people from coming, but when he asked his congregation on Sunday how many of them would feel comfortable attending, he was excited to see nearly 100% raise their hands. “The church needs to come out of the caves we’ve been hiding in because of COVID-19 and lead the charge in bringing change,” he declared. “We need various congregations coming together, saying, ‘This is not about political allegiances—this is about Jesus Christ. We believe He is the solution to all our problems. We want to pray to Him to cover our police and our city with His peace.’ I’m praying that is what people will see when we come together in Clayton: one unified message of reconciliation.”

© 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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