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Three weekends ago, hundreds of people descended upon Philadelphia for the fourth annual Thriving Frequency Conference. As a speaker and attendee, here are of few my observations and some of the highlights of the Frequency Conference.

Frequency is produced by Thriving, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide resources and support for those who minister in the urban context. Thriving established Frequency to tangibly equip, engage, and encourage those who are ministering or seeking to plant churches in an urban context and enable their ministry to thrive.

More than twenty speakers (including the likes of H.B. Charles Jr., Dr. John M. Perkins, and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah) stretched across twenty-seven breakout sessions and three panel discussions in order to unfold the theme of the conference, “Urban Apologetics: Contend for the Faith,” an echo of Jude 3 which reads, “Beloved…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Some speakers articulated practical ways to contend for the faith against false ideologies purported by Umar Johnson, Hebrew Israelites, Islam, and Five-Percenters. Others engaged a host of social issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, dismantling white supremacy, and debunking the myth that Christianity is the white man’s religion.

But what sets The Frequency Conference head and shoulders above other Reformed Christian conferences is the racial and gender composition of the conference. The speakers were predominantly Black. One-third of the speakers were women. Thirty-three percent may not seem like a lot to those unfamiliar with the Christian conference culture, but this is not inconsequential. It is also remarkable all the women speakers were Black.

Sadly, women are often silenced, marginalized, or consigned to the shadows at major conferences within Reformed evangelicalism, if they are even invited to participate at all. This is doubly true when women are Black or are a non-Black person of color. Is there room for more female representation at Frequency? Sure. There is always room for growth. But I know there is a concerted effort on the part of Dr. Eric Mason, the President of Thriving, to ensure that Frequency is not complicit in the silencing of women, and Black women in particular.

Refreshingly, women were not relegated to speaking about topics concerning the home and child rearing. In fact, the sphere of the home was not spoken about at all! Instead, the topics covered by some of the women speakers ranged from engaging feminism to Black Lives Matter to K-12 education inequality to the LGBTQ community.

Friday evening, I had the pleasure of taking part in the #WokeChurch panel. We discussed an array of topics, touching on white silence and complicity in the face of anti-black violence and oppression, Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest, and the ways that the 2016 Presidential election has revealed evangelicalism’s unholy matrimony to white supremacy, widening the chasm within the church. Much of what was discussed could lead one to despair, yet the truth was spoken in love with Christ at the center. We were beckoned to look up and participate in a glorious exchange, taking His light yoke in place of the heavy yoke of oppression and injustice.

Later that evening, we were blessed by Pastor H.B. Charles Jr.’s sermon on Psalm 2 entitled, “God’s Answer to the Nation’s Unrest.” His thorough exposition of the text assured us that God’s transcendence and His divine authority are unaffected by human rebellion. At the same time, God is not aloof. In fact, though He is enthroned in the heavens, God is very near, controlling all things in the midst of this volatile year and election season according to His sovereign will. During these dark and uncertain times, Charles’ sermon was a timely word that communicated, “peace, be still” to the anxious hearts of the attendees.

On Saturday morning, we had the honor of hearing from Civil Rights Activist, Dr. John M. Perkins, who has a fierce commitment to racial reconciliation through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Perkins is bringing his speaking tours to an end, which made his presence at the Frequency Conference especially significant. Before he gave us a biblical theology of gospel-centered racial reconciliation, Dr. Perkins opened with remarks that are implanted deeply within my heart and consciousness that I won’t soon forget.

“It seems like being here, I’ve been on a journey for sixty-nine years to be here. My hope, my dream, my longing. Joy is the fulfillment of longing. Joy is the fulfillment of expectation. I’ve been longing for this meeting. For this place. I know how the shepherds must have felt that night on the Bethlehem hill. That had been the greatest longing in the history of the world.”

It is not often that the younger generation hears from the older generation, saying we are the answer to their prayers. We are the very ones they have been longing to see God raise up to carry the mantle. On that day and in that glorious moment, Dr. Perkins passed the torch to us, charging us to endure until the end.

At the close of the conference, Dr. Soong-Chan Rah took the torch and lit the path toward our liberation by way of lament. Dr. Rah told the history of African-Americans starting with the capture of Africans who were then held in the dungeons of the slave castle, hauled into ships like chattel never to return.

Rah walked us through the Middle Passage, the brutal reality of life in America as an enslaved person and paraphrasing Frederick Douglas, “The church bells and the auction bells would ring in tandem with one another…as soon as they said their amens, they would walk down the hill to the auction port and buy human bodies.”

Dr. Rah traversed through every period of African-American history, taking us along for the treacherous ride, arriving in the present to the sound of the unending list of names of Black women and men lynched by the police. Strange fruit plucked from the tree of life, severed from its life source, strewn on the ground. Its place knows them no more.

Suddenly, Dr. Rah uttered a cry of lament, which coalesced with our own cries producing a redemptive amalgamation of prophetic lament. Do not miss the significance of Dr. Rah, our Korean brother, embodying prophetic lament by mourning with us, entering our suffering, and weeping over the unbroken chain of oppression.

There is a history of strife between Koreans and African Americans in this country, but in that moment, the unity spoken of in the high priestly prayer in John 17 became a tangible reality in a way I had never experienced before. His prophetic lament provided timely encouragement and healing in the face of the quotidian sufferings we endure.

The state of American Christianity, especially considering this Presidential cycle, can conjure up a sense of hopelessness. Many White evangelicals have sullied the gospel by sacrificing it on the altar of political expediency. However, the impression left on me by the Frequency Conference is this:

God is not mocked. His Word will not fail and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the power of God for salvation. The future of Christianity in America may seem tenuous or shaky at this present time, but God is on the throne and He will not fail His Bride, the church. The gates of hell will not prevail against her, even if His saints erect the gates.

Eventually, Christianity will thrive in America. This revival will be led by the oppressed, including the speakers and attendees at the Frequency Conference, exiles in this fallen world, brothers and sisters from various ethnic backgrounds yet united by our common and eternal bond in Christ. Being a part of this gathering in the City of Brotherly Love was a sweet foretaste of glory.

To purchase the conference audio in full, or purchase individual sessions, visit thrivingfrequency.com.

*Picture by Jasel Belizaire

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