To say that I don’t generally preach sermon series is an understatement. I can only think of two sermon series that I’ve done in more than 14 years of preaching.
That’s going to change later this month. On Sunday, September 9, I will—together with the pastors of 72 other churches in Charlotte— begin a four-week series of sermons exploring different aspects of one, simple, profound question: How could a unified body of Christ transform our city?
This series is an initiative of ForCharlotte, a diverse network of local churches that share a common denominator—Jesus Christ—and a common desire to make our city a better, more livable, and just community for all its residents. I’ll confess: The conversations that I’ve been a part of with this group have been both compelling and inspirational. At every gathering I’ve attended, there have been black pastors, white pastors, English-speaking pastors, Spanishspeaking pastors, pastors from churches that lean left, pastors from churches that lean right, pastors from churches located in wealthy neighborhoods, pastors from churches located in poor neighborhoods—all of them moved by a vision of what might happen in Charlotte if our city’s churches, and the Christians in those churches, could finally be known for what we are for, rather than what we are against.
There’s never a bad time for this sort of effort, but now is a particularly good time for Christians in Charlotte to consider how our city could indeed be different—socially, economically, spiritually—if we actually took Jesus and his vision of God’s kingdom seriously for a change. We are, for example, dead last among America’s largest cities in terms of economic mobility, which means that it’s harder to climb out of poverty in Charlotte than in any of the other fifty cities we like to compare ourselves with.
The large-scale demonstrations in Uptown two years ago, meanwhile, exposed deep divisions in our city that have existed for years, mostly just below what many of us assumed was a fairly tranquil surface. From civic leaders on down, we’re still sorting through the implications of those disorienting days. One local pastor put it this way at a gathering I recently attended: Two Septembers ago, he realized that “the brokenness of our city was going to require the unity of God’s church if true healing was ever going to occur here.”
In other words, there’s a reason this sermon series is happening in September. For four Sundays this month, over 41,000 diverse Christians in 72 diverse churches in Charlotte will hear very similar messages from the same biblical texts. I will preach my own sermon each Sunday, but I will use the same Scripture and move in the same direction as my colleagues in pulpits across the city. Here is the schedule:
September 9: For the Gospel (Galatians 2:11-21)
September 16: For the Church ( John 17:13-23)
September 23: For Our Neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)
September 30: For Our City ( Jeremiah 29:1-14)
I love the idea of so many fellow believers in our city focusing their attention on the same basic message, at the same time, for the same purpose—and, it’s fun to imagine what God might do with all that spiritual energy. Please use this sermon series, then, as a prompt to pray both for our city, and for the Lord’s guidance as Providence seeks to Bless Charlotte in Jesus’ name.
What, where, when, and how this will happen remains to be seen. That it needs to happen, though, cannot be doubted. Indeed, knowing we’re not alone in sensing this call—knowing that there are many other brothers and sisters in Charlotte who feel the same way—is encouraging. Knowing that Jesus is at the center of this call—well, that’s what gives me hope going forward. May the peace of Christ be with you!