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‘Common Ground’ service helps churches break racial barriers

Members of a number of Hughes-area churches – both black and white congregations – greet one another during the Third Annual Common Ground Service held at CROSSroads Baptist Church in Hughes March 23. Photo by Tim Yarbrough

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

HUGHES – The Arkansas Delta, much like its more famous sister to the east, the Mississippi Delta, is one of the most impoverished and culturally traditional areas in the South. 

In an area known for a history of racism and segregation, Christians – both white and black – came together united under Jesus Christ to worship as one during the Third Annual Common Ground Service at CROSSroads Baptist Church, Hughes, March 23.

Don Abbott, pastor of CROSSroads Baptist, and Chester Witherspoon, pastor of New Home Baptist Church, Crawfordsville, hosted the event, which brought together pastors, pastors’ wives, members and visitors from churches throughout the area. In addition to Abbott and Witherspoon, pastors in attendance included: Edward Hampton of New Lehi Baptist Church, West Memphis; Johnny Boykins of Christ Tabernacle Church, Crawfordsville; G.B. Steele of Beautiful Zion MD Church, West Memphis, and others.

Abbott said the goal of the evening was to bring all people from the surrounding community, of every race, together to worship God as one body.

“Unfortunately, some of the most segregated times are between 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock on Sunday morning,” said Abbott. 

Witherspoon“But I can tell you this: When you start seeing Christians getting together with Christians regardless, and you do that right here in the South, you are going to start seeing
changes being made,” he said.

“We make a statement when we say to somebody that, ‘He has a black church or a white church.’ I can’t accept that. I believe that if people want to worship God together, then this is the place to be,” the pastor said to applause.

The service opened with a time of fellowship followed by a prayer that the church would be a place of common ground for all races and denominations. Witherspoon and Abbott introduced the various ministers and pastors in attendance and gave each a time to introduce themselves and speak to the group during the service.

Pastor Boykins of Christ Tabernacle Church was one of the men that spoke during this time.

“I thank God for what they are doing with this Common Ground service because if we can’t get it together here,  then how are we going to live in heaven together,” said Boykins. “I can’t see what the problem is because we are all descendants of those three sons of Noah. In actuality, we are all family folk.

“The Bible says in Genesis 2:7, ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ Now we are all made of the dust of the ground, brothers, but there is all colors of dust,” said Boykins. “What is the problem? We are just made from different dust. … We all have the love of God; God created all of us!”

Choirs and children’s choirs from churches in attendance led the audience in worship, and church members sang requested solos before Witherspoon brought the evening’s message, asking those in attendance to turn their Bibles to John 13 as his wife sang a song to open his message.

After reading John 13:34-35, the pastor asked the audience, “How is your love life?”

He said that the love that Christ is referring to in John 13 is not the love had between husband and wife, but “agape love.”

Abbott“We are here today for common ground, to come together. And the only way we can come together is to start with what? Love,” said Witherspoon. “There is something wrong with the way we are loving today. We don’t really love one another because love hides a multitude of faults. … We have got to have the Christ-like love in our heart for one another!”

“He (Jesus) said, ‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another,’” said Witherspoon, quoting John 13:35. “If you accepted Christ, you are His disciple, amen? So the only way folks are going to know who we are is by the love that we show for one another. If we don’t show love, we don’t show Christ!”

In closing, a representative from The Gideons International took an offering in order to facilitate the distribution of Bibles around the world and Abbott sang a verse of “Where He Leads Me” and gave an invitation, giving everyone in attendance the opportunity to accept Christ if they did not already know Him.

“My dream at CROSSroads is to truly see a church of people that are all mixed – blacks and Mexicans and whites and all of the other kinds,” said Abbott. “I pray that one day I will live to see that. I know that it is possible. You keep us in your prayers here at CROSSroads.”

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org. Watch a video from the Common Ground service at www.arkansasbaptist.org/commonground.

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