Recently, we had the chance to chat with Dr. Tony Evans about his new book, Oneness Embraced. In this interview we talk about why God is holding back his blessing on the church, getting rid of our inner racist, and moving toward a deeper unity in the church today.
ChurchLeaders: In your book Oneness Embraced, you say that the church has missed the kingdom. Can you describe what you mean by that statement?
Tony Evans: Because the church exists for the church, and the church is not supposed to exist for the church. The church is supposed to exist for the kingdom. The kingdom is the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life, but what we have done is we have politics to the world, entertainment to the world, and so we’re watching the world take over things that God’s kingdom should be over, and the church should be managing and manifesting His kingdom.
CL: You’ve been in ministry for many years—what made right now the best time to write this book on unity?
TE: Well, when I saw all the chaos in the culture and began to study the importance of unity in the Scripture, it became clear to me that this racial division, cultural division, political division that we’re experiencing within the church is blocking God from doing what He wants to do because He’s predicated the manifestation of His glory on whether His church is functioning as one or not.
CL: Do you really believe that God’s going to postpone His blessing and work in the church because of our lack of unity?
TE: Absolutely. That’s a fundamental principle. He does this in a number of places in Scripture: Ephesians 2, Ephesians 3:10. So the oneness issue is not a sideline issue. It’s not even a sideline issue in the family. God says that when the husband and wife are divided, tell the husband, “Don’t bother to pray.” God’s not listening (1 Peter 3:7).
So the issue of unity has everything to do with God’s absence or presence. God first checks with the church house before He does anything with the White House. We want things to be better in the country, and God can’t even get them better on Sunday morning. And one of the major divisions is racial, so in light of all this, I think that this was the time to make a big call for unity.
CL: In Oneness Embraced, you discuss the different agenda between the white church and the African-American church. What do those agendas look like?
TE: The white church has different priorities, and that’s why the white church votes Republican and the black church votes Democrat, because the priorities are different, and pastors don’t understand Biblical unity. We’re asking God to choose sides when every Christian ought to be Republican lite, Democrat lite, or Independent lite. You ought to be “lite” because the alternate allegiance is to another kingdom. The illustration I use in the book is a football game—there are three teams that are on the field on Sunday: home team, visiting team, and team of officials. The team of officials don’t belong to either team on the field. They’re on the field, but they’re not of the field. They belong to the league office. Their job is to represent the interests of the league on the field of play. Sometimes they’re going to be for the home team. Sometimes they’re going to be for the visiting team, but they never take sides, because if they do, they lose credibility with the league office, and the commissioner is no longer on their side.
We’ve lost the commissioner, the Lord Jesus Christ, because we’ve taken black sides, white sides, Democratic sides, Republican sides, and He’s saying, “You’ve left the league office,” which is the kingdom of God. So what we’re saying is that those priorities should be brought under the umbrella of the kingdom. So if the white church is concerned about abortion, they ought to be, because life in the womb is critical, but if the black church is concerned about justice, they ought to be. We ought to be concerned about whole life, not term. We ought to be concerned about life from womb to term, cradle to grave. That’s all one item, one issue, but each segment of the church may prioritize a certain element of that issue, thus reducing unity.
CL: Is the popular saying true—that Sunday morning is the most segregated day of the week? What’s your reaction to that statement?
TE: Well, there has been progress, but it’s still a true statement. You know, people play sports together, they do drugs together, they party together, but when it comes to church, they go different directions. But there’s a historical reasons for that. The black church was not allowed to participate in mainline Christianity, so it developed its own style and own approach, and that has led in two different directions in terms of the issue of unity.