This week’s tragic events in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, and Dallas have undoubtedly left many people shaken, angry, afraid, and/or confused. It’s critical, then, that pastors and churches be prepared to minister to those who are struggling. So what does that mean for this coming Sunday? Here’s Pastor Brian Davis with some wise counsel for pastors:
The pain is real. The exhaustion is real. The murders and the families ripped apart by these murders are real. The pain and anger many in the black community feel is real. And brother-pastors, those individuals are going to be in our churches; they’re in our churches as members already, and Lord willing, they’ll come this Sunday to hear of hope. . . .
Friends, what your church needs most this Sunday is to hear the gospel proclaimed in power.
Of course, the gospel applies to absolutely every situation. But your people need to know how it applies to both the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile situations and the long dark tradition of racial injustice, as well as how it applies to retaliatory violence (see Luke 9:55). Depending on where you pastor, some congregations will have never heard the names of these two men, and if that’s your context, you’ll need wisdom as to whether or not they should learn those names this Sunday. In other congregations, everyone will have heard their names and seen their faces. They’ll be acutely aware of the tension surrounding those situations.
Some folks might feel indifferent, some might feel outraged, and most will want to know what God thinks. Some churches will choose to change the sermon because of this situation in an effort to bring a Word from the Lord in season, while other churches may choose to stay the course with their current sermon series and trust the providence of God in the planning of it (our church is in this latter group).
Either way, however you engage this situation, the most important name this Sunday is Jesus. Jesus knows about suffering (1 Pet 3:18, Heb 2:9). Jesus knows about justice (John 5:30, Matt 12:18–21). Jesus knows about racial tension (John 4, Luke 10:30–37, cf. Gal 2:11–14). Jesus knows about being wrongfully treated (1 Pet 2:21–24). Jesus knows about surprise tragedy and perishing souls (Luke 13:1–5). Jesus knows our weaknesses, and he knows how to sympathize with us (Heb 4:15). Jesus knows how to show mercy to criminals, and he knows the penalty for sin, for he has suffered it for us (Rom 5:6–8). Jesus knows about living in a wicked world (John 1:9–11, John 3:19), and he knows about dying at the hands of wicked men (Acts 2:23).
And he knows about the glories of heaven, where God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes, where there will be no more death, no mourning, no crying, no pain (Rev 21:3–4)—where everyone is invited to take refuge with God. Our Savior knows.
So the gospel speaks to suffering saints and also to a weary world—and the message is one of hope. The hope of forgiveness for our sins. The hope of eternal life with God. The hope of escaping our just punishment and being given what we didn’t earn in Christ. The hope that in a wicked world, we can actually be the righteousness of God in Christ!
Brothers, whatever we choose to share about Alton or Philando this Sunday better adorn the gospel, not eclipse it. As valuable and important as their names are, there is one name that stands infinitely high above them, the name above every name. This Sunday, brothers, give your people what they need; give them Jesus. (To read the full article from 9Marks, go here)
For more help on responding to the events of this past week as well as ministering to others, see the following articles:
- “Processing Pain” (Reformed African American Network): Earon James helps us process the flood of emotion by encouraging us not to be strong, but rather to embrace our weakness and run to God for grace and strength.
- “How to Pray in Our Time of National Crisis” (TGC): Joe Carter points to lament in the Scriptures as a way for Christians to process the recent shootings in our nation.
- “How to Pray for the Police” (ERLC): Joe Carter offers a number of ways to pray for our police officers in light of Scripture.
In addition, here are two sermons from David Platt on the hope Christians have, even in the midst of pain and suffering: