Crises, Repentance, and the People of God

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Like all of you, we are grieved at the enormous pain and suffering in our nation surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and before that Ahmaud Arbery and countless many more. They are horrific and senseless, and while we grieve both the historic and present day sufferings of African Americans in this country, our grief is not enough.

In recent weeks, we have gathered in small circles of prayer and holy conversation inquiring of the Lord as to how he would guide us to respond. We consistently hear a call to repentance. At the same time, we sense the Lord revealing to us that our understanding of repentance is thin and even anemic. As a result, we have pressed in deeper to inquire, what does repentance require and how might repentance be enacted in both personal and corporate ways. What might sustained repentance look like? What would “fruits worthy of repentance” resemble, to borrow a term from John the Baptist. We believe part of the problem are our preconceived assumptions about what repentance even means. Our greatest blindness typically comes from our most unexamined assumptions.

The prophet Joel rings like a fire alarm in our hearts.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Joel 2:12-13a)

With all the justified demonstrations and protests (not to mention the wanton and reckless violence, and endless politicizing) we all feel pulled into this debate or that argument and tempted to add our voice to the raucous cacophony of discourse all about us.

We want to resist that temptation, and instead, we want to rend our hearts. We want to examine our hearts and discern the unexamined hardness, darkness and brokenness that keeps us from falling on our faces before God in agony over our complicitness in our nation’s tortured racial history. As a leader in the work of sowing for a great awakening, I am frankly, deeply convicted about my own hard-heartedness and insensitivity in the face of all that continues to unfold around us.

Today, we share a recorded conversation between David Thomas, our Senior Advisor, Steve Seamands, professor emeritus of Theology and Doctrine from Asbury Theological Seminary, and Allen Hood, longtime senior leader at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. It was recorded via Zoom conference call earlier this week. I urge you to listen carefully as it is a sobering and direct conversation, offering guidance for our response in these troubled days.

One thing is more clear to us than ever before. We need a great awakening. It must begin with us; with me.

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