Relationships between churches hold the key to healing the racial divisions and violence that plague the nation, two Dallas ministers say.
Bryan Carter, pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, and Jeff Warren, pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, told a recent youth ministry gathering that tensions resulting from police-involved racial shootings must be addressed by Christians — and for them the change must come from within their congregations.
Warren, who is white, and Carter, who is black, encouraged youth ministers to promote change within their own congregations. The two ministers were interviewed by Texas Baptist youth discipleship specialist Jane Wilson during a youth ministry conclave Oct. 11.
“I would encourage you, as student pastors, to lead the way. Lead from the bottom up,” Warren said. “You are such an important voice.”
Chronicling their two-year friendship, Warren and Carter told how an initial lunch conversation between the two pastors transformed into a partnership between the churches they lead. In addition to swapping pulpits several times, the pastors have also joined their congregations for several conversations and services.
More than 400 men from both Concord and Park Cities met together for four consecutive Saturdays to discuss the gospel and racial reconciliation. Friendships were formed which continued long past the initial meetings. Women from both churches have read books together and had similar conversations and friendships birthed out of the partnership.
“We see people having conversations,” Carter said. “We see people working for works of justice. We are sensing this on every level from leaders.”
Youth ministers can have such a strong impact because they are influencing the next generation, Warren said.
“If you are not speaking into this issue, making it the core issue you are talking about, you are missing the opportunity the Lord is giving you.”
This year, Warren and Carter encouraged other pastors around the city to swap pulpits with others from congregations of a different race. Eighteen churches joined in the pulpit swap and results have been significant.
Separately, other churches in Texas and nationally, also have been crossing racial boundaries. Wilshire Baptist and Friendship-West Baptist in Dallas entered into a covenant of action through the New Baptist Covenant. The white and black congregations, respectively, have joined many others around the nation in those agreements that use shared ministry to build racial cohesion.
Warren urged youth ministers to speak to their pastors about finding common ground between racially diverse congregations.
“The first time we did the pulpit swap, it blew up in regard to conversations.” he said. “People began asking, ‘When are we doing it again? What can we do next?’ It fanned the flame.”
Warren’s and Carter’s friendship was forged in the midst of several tense shootings in America which sparked serious debate in the nation about race relations. They decided to try to find ways to encourage each other and promote racial reconciliation within their congregations.
Having already established trust and communication, when the fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers occurred during the summer, Warren and Carter partnered for a prayer service and modeled an example for other churches during an extremely difficult situation.
In a world looking for answers, Warren and Carter both pointed to Jesus as the ultimate answer.
“We are so divided as a country and the gospel is what unites us,” Warren said.
— This story was originally published at texasbaptists.org.