NASHVILLE (NRB) – Renowned pastor and author Rick Warren brought a message on the need for racial unity in the church during the Opening Session of Proclaim 18, the 75th Annual Convention of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, February 27.
Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California and author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, began by sharing about the suffering that has come with his success. His wife was found to have breast cancer as The Purpose Driven Life was taking off, his son committed suicide after a long battle with mental illness, and his worship pastor of 25 years recently was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer.
“The ultimate test of your faith is not how high you jump when things are going good. It’s will you praise God when things are not going good,” Warren said. “The ultimate test of your faith is even if you slay me Lord I will still trust you. Behind every public success in life you will find private pain.”
Warren then turned to the state of disunity in the church today.
“There’s another theme in the Scripture that we often ignore: He wants His children to get along. We’re not real good at that one,” he said. “I don’t have to tell you that today we’re not friends; we’re failing at unity. The church is more divided, more polarized, there’s more tribes, there’s more splinters, more fractures than ever before.”
Warren talked about how his mentor of 40 years, Billy Graham, insisted on unity – evidenced by the fact that Graham’s crusades were integrated ethnically and denominationally.
“God has never made a person He does not love. God has never made a person He doesn’t have a purpose for,” Warren said. “We all know that America is in desperate need of revival … and we all know where it comes from. We know that revival comes from repentance; but revival also comes from unity, and we don’t talk about that one much.”
Warren pointed out that the word “one” appears 10 times in the first five chapters of the book of Acts.
“It says that they were in one place, they were of one accord, they had one heart, they had one purpose, they had one vision. Ten times they were one,” he said.
“When we have the unity of Acts we’ll have the power of Acts. We’re just not willing to pay the cost for Pentecost. We’re not willing to put aside our petty differences and unify around one thing – the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Warren talked about a one-day retreat on racism he held with 100 of America’s most influential pastors at his church last summer after the Charlottesville white supremacist protests.
During the gathering the pastors discussed how to have unity in the body of Christ. “Because we’re not going to have revival if 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America,” Warren said.
Warren said that God’s saving grace extends to every race, citing Titus 2:1.
“And reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel,” he said. “It’s called the Great Commandment. You’ve got to be right with God, you’ve got to be right with your brother, and the Bible says if I’m not right with my brother I’m a liar. I’m not really right with God.”
How Christians treat other people matters to God, Warren said. “And the Bible’s very clear that racial prejudice is a sin. Racism is not a skin problem; it’s a sin problem,” he added.
He shared three reasons why God hates racial prejudice: it questions God’s wisdom in creation; it’s a sign of ignorance; and it disobeys the Great Commandment.
Warren ended his time by having a discussion with Dr. John M. Perkins, one of the leading evangelical voices to come out of the American civil rights movement.
By Michael Smith
Published: March 2, 2018