The purpose of Open Bible Churches’ Unity Commission is to lovingly encourage and assist Open Bible ministers and, by extension, churches to be sensitized to the continued reality of racial bias and discrimination. The Unity Commission desires to encourage us to look within our own hearts for what we may not have seen and to seek opportunities to build unity in the body of Christ that both honor and transcend racial and cultural differences. We are not suggesting that Open Bible ministers are racist or even sympathetic toward racism. Rather, we believe all ministerial leaders must be invited and challenged to recognize the continued legacy of racism that scars relationships and communities today and to stand and speak against blatant racism as well as subtle racial and cultural bias and discrimination. Leaders must lead.
One of the suggestions from the Commission to accomplish this purpose is to host a praise night by inviting congregational worship teams from several churches to come together at a church to offer their expressions of worship.
SureHouse Open Bible Church in Tacoma, Washington, pastored by Gary Wyatt, has made this type of event a tradition (except this year because of COVID). Spearheaded by Gary’s son Solomon, the event, called Friday Song Nights, is held the week before Thanksgiving. The goal of the service is two-fold: to worship God and to invite people to come to faith in Christ. Usually after three groups have ministered, one of the pastors will pray. One pastor may pray for the community, another one for deliverance, and another for lost souls.
The event was not originally planned with the goal of being multicultural. However, because Gary and Solomon have invested in building relationships with people of all cultural backgrounds, black people, white people, Hispanics, and Filipinos all found themselves worshiping God together, sharing different expressions of their worship that included poetry, Scripture, music, and dance.
“Relationship is very important,” Solomon said. “You have to pray for open doors to build relationships. They must literally be God-breathed; you can’t force them. Because we have taken the time and effort to build relationships, we feel free to ask our brothers and sisters how we can grow in this area. Likewise, people from cultures different from ours can call us for advice because we are in the inner city and can help provide clarity into our way of life. It is not a one-way street. Both sides benefit.”
He added, “I work at Western State Hospital, a large psychiatric hospital in Lakewood, Washington. One of my co-workers is ex-military and part of a bike club. He didn’t grasp the reasoning for the racial tension in our country. I told him one of my stories regarding racism, and he apologized. He willingly admitted he had never seen or experienced discrimination and doesn’t grasp the concept. But our connection goes both ways. He’s my number one person to go to for state systems.”
People from diverse backgrounds have been thrilled with the praise services. After experiencing the praise service and learning more about the planning behind it, one of Solomon’s pastor friends started inviting people from other ethnicities to preach at his church.
Solomon said, “It’s very scary for a pastor to give someone else their mic. But these events are not ‘you come watch me,’ but ‘we’re doing this together.’ We must believe in the power of the gospel. These events help us see redemption through different eyes. We don’t consider certain issues until someone enlightens us, just like the Word of God enlightens us. Music is a good way to unite people. I hope we can get back to this soon! We value getting together with ALL the saints!”