7 highlights from MLK50

April 9, 2018

Last week, nearly 4,000 attendees joined us in Memphis for MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop, as we remembered the the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and considered the future of gospel-shaped racial unity. Of all the events the ERLC has put on, this one was one of the most unique and significant. Here are some of the highlights of our time together:

6:01 p.m. | Tens of thousands gathered around the Lorraine Motel, waiting for the clock to strike 6:01 p.m.—the exact moment Dr. King was killed 50 years ago. In order to commemorate his death, a bell was rung 39 times to represent the age he was when he died. I won’t forget that solemn moment as the echo of the bell pierced the silence to memorialize one of the most significant figures in American history.

Dr. Moore's opening message | The first keynote by Dr. Russell Moore set the entire trajectory for the conference. He called the American church to deal honestly with our past failures and grapple with our future opportunities. I've had a front row seat to his preparation for this message for the past several months, and it will go down as one of the most significant addresses of his first five years at the ERLC. You can watch the message here.

MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative | We were excited to unveil a new scholarship initiative involving more than 20 Christian colleges and seminaries. These institutions have committed more than $1.5 million in scholarship money to train the next generation of Memphis-area leaders. One of the most common points of feedback we received from local Memphis leaders and our national advisory council as we prepared for MLK50 was the need to address the educational disparity that minority students face. This initiative was an important step in that direction for the city of Memphis. You can learn more about the scholarship initiative here.

Evangelicals and Racial Unity panel | I had the joy of leading the final panel of the conference which included Don Carson, Afshin Ziafat, Crawford Loritts, H.B. Charles and Beth Moore. They discussed the challenges and opportunities evangelicals face as we seek to be champions for racial unity. Their wisdom on how to navigate the tensions that have emerged since 2016 was as insightful as it was practical. You can watch the panel here.

Private gatherings | Throughout the conference, we gathered more than 100 key Christian pastors and leaders to strengthen relationships and foster candid conversations on pressing issues related to racial unity. Our hope is that the breakthroughs that occurred behind the scenes will bear fruit in the years to come as they strengthen courage, conviction, and collaboration.

Memphis Christian Pastors Network offering | We didn't want to simply use Memphis as a backdrop for our event. We wanted to find a way to invest in the city long-term. Rather than manufacture our own efforts, we chose to partner with the excellent work of the Memphis Christian Pastors Network, which is under the leadership of Rufus Smith. Entering the event, we hoped our offering would raise $10–12,000. So, we were delighted when the offering exceeded $16,000. You can learn more about the offering here.

John Perkins interview | We were blessed to hear from the living Civil Rights legend, Dr. John Perkins. His prescient insights were invaluable. "We are in trouble, people,” Perkins exclaimed form the stage, “And the only hope is the church!" As Dr. Perkins nears the sunset of his life, those that were gathered with us in Memphis will always remember the special time we had together. You can watch the interview here.  

If you weren’t able to join us in Memphis or through the simulcast, you can still benefit from the timely and challenging messages. Click here to listen and be challenged to pray for and engage in the gospel cause of racial unity.

Phillip Bethancourt

Phillip Bethancourt is Senior Pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas. Before he was called to pastor Central, he served as the Executive Vice President of the ERLC team. He completed an MDiv and PhD in Systematic Theology at Southern after attending Texas A&M University. Phillip and his wife, Cami, have been married since 2005, … Read More