In the past week, three cities have been rocked by gun violence. Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Philando Castile was killed by police Wednesday during a traffic stop outside St. Paul, Minnesota. The next night, a dozen police officers and two civilians were shot during a protest in Dallas.
Evangelicals are among the groups least likely to support Black Lives Matter, according to a 2015 Barna Group survey. Yet plenty of pastors joined the chorus of fear, frustration, and grief on social media and also plan to address the recent events in church on Sunday.
CT asked pastors near Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas how they plan to minister to their congregations after this week’s incidents.
Donald Hunter, New Beginning Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Donald Hunter, an African American pastor in the city where Alton Sterling was killed, said he’ll be preaching this Sunday on Psalm 11:5: “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.”
“Most of us have a misconception about Christianity, and that is if you’re a Christian, you’re not supposed to have trouble in your life or community,” he told CT. “But look at Christ—he had trouble from the day he was born.” Hunter said he’ll also draw from Psalm 34:19: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
“When we endure such things as murder—whether it's police officers or we kill one another—the challenge we have is whether we will submit ourselves to God and allow that incident to cause something good to be born out of it.”
Some in Hunter’s congregation are angry, he said, and some are patient “because we’ve tried very hard to put all of this under the light of God.”
“We live in a low-income neighborhood, the same type as Brother Alton was killed in,” he said. “We can’t sit idly by and see things happen. We have to try to address them. We’re working.”
Obie Bussey, Golden Gate Missionary Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
Just a couple of weeks ago, Golden Gate Missionary Baptist Church—an African American congregation in Dallas—invited a white, Presbyterian pastor to preach. He was part of a coordinated “pulpit swap” among 100 pastors in the area the church orchestrated last year as a way to build interracial relationships.
Obie Bussey, who directs the church’s rehab ministry, said the church will keep praying for healing, racial reconciliation, safety for law enforcement, and unity as they gather this weekend.
“It seems like no one is standing in the middle to say, ‘I understand the fear and distrust in the African American community, and at the same time, I see that police have a hard job, stepping into these communities,’” he said. “I believe that’s the role of the church.”
In light of the shootings in Dallas, Bussey recalls the teachings of Ephesians 6:10-11 (“Be strong in the Lord… put on the full armor of God”) and Romans 8:28 (“In all things God works for the good of those who love him”). “We have to let people know that we feel them without belittling,” he said. “They have a right to be hurt. They have a right to be afraid.”