“I Can’t Do This Alone.”
With these words, the Rev. Billy Russell began the Community Prayer Service on Monday night July 11th at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in south Minneapolis. It was just what we needed to hear – a call to community, a call to lament, to pray for peace, and to name the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.
These are hard days in Minnesota and in our nation. Anger, mistrust, violence, death, grief, and bewilderment seem to be everywhere. Perhaps you have been feeling as I have: increasingly alone. Just as the devil would want. One way to translate the root of diabolos (the Greek New Testament word for devil) is “to split, to separate.” In Matthew 4, the devil’s strategy is to split Jesus from the union he enjoys with his Heavenly Father. Today we see a similar diabolical strategy of splitting individuals and communities apart, of setting them in enmity against each other.
The Rev. Russell rose to speak, extending an exceptionally warm and gracious welcome to his church and to his neighborhood for the hundreds of guests in attendance. Then he spoke deep truth, “I can’t do this alone.” The words resonated deeply for me, and I believe for many others.
Community is what we needed. What a joy to be with fellow believers who unashamedly declared their faith in Jesus Christ. What a joy to sing robust songs of praise and hope in the midst of deep hurt. What a joy to hear stirring exhortations from African American pastoral leaders. What a joy to pray in small clusters with those sitting near me in the church pews.
The speakers at the Community Prayer Service reminded us that the church has the uniquely compelling message of love, forgiveness, and unity in Jesus Christ. Yes, we are different in significant and delightful ways. Yes, we see the beautiful colors with which God has adorned humanity. But we see as well the image of God in every human being. So we delight in the Apostle Paul’s declaration in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The mission of Jesus Christ is to bring us together as his forgiven, redeemed people – a “beloved community” (to use Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s expression) entrusted with the gospel of reconciliation.
Wherever you have a chance, come together in community. That might mean participating in events like the Community Prayer Service that bring hundreds together. That might mean (perhaps more meaningfully) reaching out to a neighbor, or to a colleague in the next cubicle, especially if that person comes from a different racial/ethnic background.
We are living in an extraordinary time. A time to show the world that as followers of Jesus we won’t accept being separated into silos of isolation or fragmented communities of ever-diminishing size. A time to show the world the Jesus way that brings people together in joy and peace and even dares to love the enemy and pray for the persecutor.
David Lenz, Lead Pastor
P. S. I am grateful to Transform Minnesota (the evangelical network) and the fine leadership of Carl Nelson in bringing Christians of all colors together for the Community Prayer Service (as well as in other ways).