In a rousing sermon in which he acknowledged ongoing racial tensions in the Church Sunday, prominent Dallas Pastor Tony Evans called on Christians “not to be part-time saints but fulltime Christians” and implored them to unite for the advancement of the Gospel as the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting kicks off in Nashville on Tuesday.
“Our true calling is not to be part-time saints but full-time Christians pulling Heaven down to earth as true reflections of the imago Dei," Evans said to an estimated crowd of 10,000 gathered for the Send Conference co-hosted by SBC missions agencies International Mission Board and North American Mission Board.
"We have watched our nation decline because there aren’t enough accurate reflections of Christ invading the culture."
The Send Conference is a two-day gathering of pastors, families and churches across North America learning and celebrating what it means to be on mission together for the sake of the Gospel.
Evans, the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and the first African American to earn a doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, used football as an analogy to highlight the ongoing political and cultural divide across the nation. The pastor argued that Christians should serve as referees to ensure fair play.
“The real problem arises when the officiating authorities start wearing opposing team jerseys because it is then that they lose their third-party authority in the game,” Evans argued, according to Baptist Press, SBC's official news service.
“We carry Kingdom authority as His officials, but many people are so heavenly-minded that they’re not helpful on earth while others are so earthly-minded that they’re no help to Heaven.”
The 71-year-old further urged Christians not to allow the Church to be divided by politics and race.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get this chance again, so I’ve got to throw it all in,” Evans said, according to an Illinois Baptist report.
At one point, a member of the audience yelled out, “Tony Evans for SBC President!” In response, the pastor quipped, “I thought lynching was over,” sparking laughter.
This year’s annual SBC meeting follows a turbulent season when the coronavirus pandemic prevented the gathering of messengers in 2020. Meanwhile, nationwide protests and riots erupted over racial inequality and police brutality and triggered fault lines in the denomination over controversial efforts to discuss critical race theory and intersectionality.
Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, and one of three candidates seeking to become the next president of the convention, recently proposed that the denomination completely condemn critical race theory just two years after messengers acknowledged it in Resolution 9. Some high-profile black pastors have since left the denomination over the debate.
Evans believes that despite the challenges, Christians can still overcome racial and political divides.
“God is not colorblind, but neither is He blinded by color," he said. "We are of every tribe and nation, and God sees us. But the only subject of the Bible is the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. We are never to allow the politics of men to break up our togetherness. So stand together as the Lord sends you."