Luis Palau Association
The Gospel of Reconciliation

20 May 2014

The Gospel of Reconciliation

Posted in Articles, Spiritual Growth

Ernie Horn is an unlikely hero, perhaps the last person you'd expect to see leading the way in healing racial divisions in Fort Worth, Texas. And not just because his grandfather owned slaves in Kentucky. Ernie, owner of E. Horn Construction Inc., lives a very comfortable life. Why get involved in the messy ugliness of racism?

In his heart, Ernie understood reconciliation with God through the death of His Son. It took years, however, to come face to face with reconciliation as a practical concept that deals with humans in downtown Fort Worth.

The story begins June 26, 1993. Police Detective Donald Manning and his date were enjoying a late-night walk around a lake in an east Fort Worth park. As they headed back to their car, four men confronted them, one holding a gun.

Manning had removed his nine millimeter service weapon and was holding it in his right hand, hidden behind his back. He told his date to move to the side. When she did, the man with the gun fired and hit Manning in the left side.

"Donnie was shot with a Tech 9," Ernie says. "That's a machine gun that will blow a hole in you the size of a football."

Detective Manning, 28, died. Three days later police arrested several young men after one of them bragged to friends, "A dude we were trying to jack [rob] pulled a gun and we shot him."

Ernie says Manning was "a cops' cop, the Roger Staubach of police officers in Fort Worth— dedicated, talented, happy-go-lucky." As the contractor for a couple of neighborhood police stations, Ernie got to know him fairly well and had opportunities to talk to him about the Lord.

In any city, a policeman's murder is headline news. In Fort Worth, a city besieged by gangs and divided by race, Manning's murder made everything worse. White cop killed by a black gang banger.

"Look at Their Eyes"

The day of Manning's funeral, Ernie was having lunch with Gary Turner, coordinator of our team's upcoming evangelistic crusade in Fort Worth. Running out of time, Gary went with Ernie to the funeral chapel. They managed to squeeze inside.

Ernie describes these next experiences as "supernatural." During the funeral service, he says he felt an "expectation" that he tried to rationalize and dismiss in the emotion of those moments. "But the Lord really spoke to me and said, 'I'm going to reveal to you the beginning of a new thing.'"

Afterward Ernie and Gary rushed to Ernie's truck and drove to beat the crowd to the cemetery for the interment service. Ernie watched as the funeral procession of more than 2,000 people, including about 500 police officers, approached the grave site. Again the Lord spoke to him: "Look at their eyes."

"That frightened me, because I didn't have any understanding of what I was supposed to be doing," he says.

As the flag covering Manning's casket was folded and presented to Manning's mother, Ernie again heard, "Look at their eyes."

"I looked, and there were like 500 John Waynes, 357 Magnums strapped to their sides. Every one of them had on sunglasses. I couldn't see their eyes. But as they started pulling their sunglasses off and wiping the tears, I saw the same hopelessness that you see on television in the eyes of starving people."

Days later, at the weekly prayer meeting for the crusade, Ernie says the Lord spoke again: "If I can't send My people to be part of the solution, who am I going to send?"

Ernie prayed, "Lord, show us how we can be part of the solution, and how we can come together."

That summer, he helped mobilize community and denominational leaders to get involved in the crusade that October. People of all races began to come together.

"In doing this, I was aware that a lot of people thought I was a missile out of control. By what authority did I keep showing up at different things, like the crime commission, and trying to get all these churches to come together? God had given me a vision and was opening all these doors."

Darkness in His Heart

Ernie obeyed the Lord's leading, but inside he felt unworthy. Increasing interaction with minorities through his crusade and community involvement was exposing a dark side of his heart: racial prejudice.

It showed up most overtly at work. Ernie had just hired additional iron workers—all white—for a construction project. Every interview with a black man concluded the same way: "We'll get back with you later."

"If God was fixin' to do a new thing, I had to get out of His way and let Him do it," he says. "I needed to repent of the racism and prejudice and selfishness in my heart."

Ernie and crusade leaders in Fort Worth called a meeting of some 30 black pastors from the area where the young man who shot Manning had grown up. Ernie's idea was to enlist their support for a youth rally in an inner-city park—to get people to work together toward solutions and overcome the hopelessness that most were feeling in isolation.

Sitting in a circle face to face with mostly black people, Ernie fought back tears. "I was feeling real insecure and frightened about addressing these people and telling them the vision about what Palau's team was doing, what was fixin' to happen, about God doing a new thing.

"And then I realized it wasn't stage fright. I was under conviction. As I looked in the eyes of these black pastors, I confessed to them my prejudice and sin, and how in my business I had acted with partiality. I wasn't born a racist; I was taught to be a racist by the significant people in my life. So I repented. I asked them to forgive me.

"I was feeling pretty good then, but all of a sudden I had that same insecure feeling again, and I had to repent for the sins of my father's generation. That sure was God, because I don't think about things like that. And then my grandfather's generation. I didn't even know a lot of all that. My grandfather died when I was real young, and I knew only what my relatives told me. And then I looked, and every one of the pastors was weeping. I had asked them to forgive me, and they in turn asked me to forgive them."

With only a few days' notice, about 4,000 young people—including rival gang members of the Bloods and Crips—showed up at a "reconciliation rally" at a southeast Fort Worth park. A few weeks later, the Greater Fort Worth Crusade brought black and white, rich and poor together to work at solving the city's problems from the inside out.

Equal at the Altar

"Unless we change the heart, we haven't changed anything," I said at the crusade's final rally. That evening, a drug dealer responded to the gospel invitation, giving his life to Jesus Christ. That same moment, a few feet away, a prominent Fort Worth physician was making that commitment.

The day before, the crusade's youth night crowd of 9,000 erupted in applause as three inner-city gang members were the first to make their way to the area in front of the platform to profess their newfound faith in Christ. Spearheaded by my friend Ernie Horn, volunteers had canvassed inner-city neighborhoods, inviting young people to the crusade. Arrangements were made for buses to bring more than 500 young people to the Convention Center.

Months after the crusade, Fort Worth's churches and community leaders continued to work together to change their city. Pastors, businessmen, and the city's superintendent of schools cooperated to bring motivational speaker Joseph Jennings to Fort Worth. He spoke to more than 30,000 kids in 17 schools. At three evening rallies at Baptist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches, Jennings told 6,700 young people and parents how the Lord had rescued him from drug use and gang activity, and then he invited the kids to give their lives to Jesus Christ. More than 400 made first-time decisions for the Lord.

"Differences Don't Matter"

The crusade's erasure of racial lines between churches released resources that have benefitted the entire Body of Christ in Fort Worth. "Without the crusade, Ernie and I would have been running in different circles, but now we're running in the same circle," says Howard Caver, pastor of World Missionary Baptist Church in the inner city. Howard is one of the black pastors who heard Ernie's confession. He says the "crusade whirlwind" in the city "stirred up a lot of activity that got Christians looking beyond their four walls." For example, an ongoing pastors prayer group has helped remove racial, denominational, and size barriers.

"When we come together, our differences don't matter," Howard says. "I forget I'm a pastor of a small church. No one's thinking, Who are you? You pastor only fifty people. We've created such strong bonds, that's not a consideration."

About a year after the crusade, World Missionary Baptist Church was trying to start a Christian school for neighborhood children to make sure they get a good education with biblical values and prevent kids from getting in gangs. "God always calls us to something we're too small to do," Howard says.

By the middle of August, the church was short $2,100 to pay for renovations to the building for the school. Howard told the congregation Sunday morning they needed to pray. "God's going to perform a miracle we know—He's always faithful—but we only have until tomorrow to get it done."

As he started his sermon, several men entered the church. They were Christian brothers Howard had met through prayer efforts for the crusade. About a hundred others from their congregation, James Avenue Baptist Church, followed them in. "We'd like to interrupt your service," one of the men said.

The surprise guests from James Avenue announced that their congregation's entire offering that morning was being given to their sister church for their school. They presented a check for $9,000, enough not only for building renovations, but now the teacher could be paid.

When Howard read the amount of the check, the roof was lifted with hallelujahs and amens, by both congregations.

"This would not have occurred without ministers coming together to pray and work," Howard says. "Whatever Christ asks you to do, it may be impossible for you alone, but remember, you've got the Body. If we keep off to our little selves because we are Baptist or black or white or whatever, we're going to miss the other part of the Body ministering to us because we've amputated our hand. That's what I'm telling people wherever I go. Open yourself up to the walls coming down. They shouldn't have been there in the first place."

Good News for All

As demonstrated in Fort Worth, Christ can bring reconciliation—a deep, sincere love for people regardless of culture, race, or educational privilege. The gospel is good news for all men and women. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28).

Jesus was the master of surprise, continually astonishing people, especially by his choices of association. It's clear that He orchestrated the encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) not only to reveal Himself as the Messiah to an entire village, but also to give His disciples a preview of their worldwide mission following His resurrection. What did the disciples see when Jesus told them to "open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest"? (John 4:35). Despised Samaria. It was Samaritans who proclaimed Jesus "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).

Peter was with the Lord in Samaria for this object lesson, and also present when the Lord commanded to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) and "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). But he was a slow learner, perhaps from cultural and ethnic prejudice. It took a peculiar vision and the Holy Spirit's specific directions to convince Peter to associate with a Gentile, the Roman centurion Cornelius, and preach the gospel to him and his household (Acts 10).

Peter knew the gospel was for all people. He acknowledged its inclusiveness in his sermon: "All the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). But prejudice is a toxin difficult to clean up, as Christians in America know all too well.

I've felt the hurt of prejudice. Fifteen months after I came to America, my Anglo-Saxon bride, Patricia, and I were sent to a missionary training program at a church in Detroit. One day the pastor, an elderly man, approached my wife and in a confidential, I'm-on-your-side-dear tone said to her, "You're probably going to suffer great misunderstandings with your husband. If he ever mistreats you or beats you, let me know."

In his ignorance, this minister thought all Latins beat their wives, and he needed to protect her from me!

I'm used to prejudice. As Bible-believing Christians in Argentina, my parents endured hostilities. Our family, though successful in business above most in town, was looked down upon. In school a teacher made me kneel on corn husks because of my evangelical beliefs. My mother and father counseled, encouraged, and motivated by teaching us, "In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

A number of years ago, a European minister—prominent around the world—said to me, "We hear good things about your ministry in South America, and we thank God for all that's happening there." Then he pointedly added, "I think you'd be better off just preaching to your people."

Later, when I preached the gospel at a united city-wide crusade in his country, this same minister sat on the platform. Today I seek his counsel. In many ways, both of us have grown in the grace of God's message of reconciliation.

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