By Michael Ashcraft —
Upholding the heritage left by Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce, a group of Christians is preaching and baptizing on the street corner of Minneapolis where George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by a rogue cop. They’re seeking to effect real social change from the ground up.
“This is what God is trying to do. He’s trying to bring everybody together, all races, all ethnicities,” said Pastor Curtis Farrar, of the Worldwide Outreach for Christ Ministries in Minneapolis in his Sunday June 7th outdoor service. “His people are out here as one as the family of God. Only God can change.”
Pastor Curtis has labored for 38 years in a neighborhood that used to be overrun with gangs, on the same corner of E. 38th St and Chicago Avenue where Floyd was murdered. His patient service has helped multitudes escape sinful lifestyles and come to Christ.
“The mayor came out here and said our church has had a profound effect on the neighborhood,” Pastor Curtis related. “Man cannot do that. It takes the power of God.”
Pastor Curtis and his church have been joined by teams from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Circuit Riders, a California-based mission movement named after John Wesley’s Methodist preachers who rode “circuits” on horseback to preach throughout rural America.
“I came here and I was broken,” said YWAM’s Christophe Ulysse in Fox News. “It affects team members differently, but those of us of color, as we’re here, we’re watching the change happen through the gospel. My heart is so filled with hope. Those in the neighborhood are saying this is unprecedented unity. They’re feeling an outpouring of love and hope from this nation.”
The groups led praise and worship, held prayer, evangelized and even baptized in the street. While fear and anguish have convulsed people of color facing police abuses, the gospel is bringing hope and love, Christian leaders said.
“For us, there is this deep conviction that we have tried everything to deal with this issue. We’ve tried politics, we’ve tried economics, and we’ve tried social reform,” says Ulysse, a black Canadian stationed in Hawaii. “It’s the same thing over and over. We have to go back to what actually works. We’re going from pain and hatred to healing and hope. There’s this new narrative of the gospel.”
On the street, Yasmin Pierce of Circuit Riders delivered an emotional altar call before hundreds of listeners: “On the cross he was beaten to death. He could not breathe. He gave his last breath for every person here. He gave his last breath for me, for you, and he says, ‘Father, forgive them. Father, heal them. Father, save them from this dark world that they would know your love.”
One man in the crowd who overdosed came back the next day healed and saved, Fox News reported. A 19-year-old responded to the call of God to ministry and committed to going to Bible School. Others were baptized.
Jonathan Tremaine “JT” Thomas, a pastor from Ferguson, Mo., and founder of Civil Righteousness, brought a model of sharing personal stories of hope and healing, a message, and a time for worship and prayer for healing in the city that has seen protests turn to looting and rioting, Fox News reported.
Protests against racism erupted in at least 75 U.S. cities and abroad after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed a prostate, handcuffed Floyd by kneeling on the arrested man’s neck for almost nine minutes, ignoring pleas of by-standers as the dying man whimpered, “I can’t breathe.”
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and the other three officers were fired for failing to intervene on behalf of Floyd.
Demonstrators decry ongoing racism and brutality among law officers. Many of the protests have degenerated into rioting, vandalism, looting and violence. Police officers have been ambushed and shot. As can been seen on cellphone videos posted to social media, much of the violence was started by antifa, radical socialists who supposedly oppose fascism.
In response, liberal politicians have proposed legislation on the spectrum from reforming to defunding and even abolishing police departments across America. City council members in Minneapolis say they will completely dismantle their police department and replace community safety and 911 calls with social workers and other human resources.
Christian leaders in Minneapolis say that only God — and not politicians — can truly change society. They point to Martin Luther King, who embarrassed Southern leaders with his peaceful marches, and to William Wiliberforce, who toiled tirelessly for 20 years to get the British Parliament to ban slavery and the slave trade.
Ulysse called the present crisis met by the movement of God a “historic moment.”
“The pain went to the nation and now the globe,” he said. “But we believe that healing is now going out from the intersection to the nations and the globe. We need to show that we can affect positive change. You have a voice and you can go to the nations. You can carry this on. We’re empowering them to be carriers of hope.”
Michael Ashcraft teaches journalism at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.