An evangelical Christian conference honoring Martin Luther King Jr. found an audience that far surpassed even the 4,000 people gathered April 3-4 at the Memphis Convention Center.
The number of views of the conference’s proceedings by live video streaming exceeded one million, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) announced April 9. By comparison, TGC’s 2017 national conference recorded 57,000 livestream views, according to the organization.
The massive online audience viewed the event – “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” – on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King, the leading light of the civil rights movement who was shot down April 4, 1968, in Memphis. TGC and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) co-hosted the conference, which was held in conjunction with many remembrances in Memphis of King.
The conference not only honored King’s life and ministry but assessed the state of racial justice in America and what is required to achieve unity. Rooting their appeals in the gospel of Christ, speakers and panelists told the Memphis and online audiences that Christians must pay a price to gain racial unity and white evangelicals need to repent of their failures on the issue.
Conference organizers pointed to the work of God and a new desire to overcome racism in explaining the livestream popularity of the conference.
“We earnestly planned for this event for almost two years, but we attribute the high attendance and incredibly big livestream audience to a movement of the Spirit of God,” said Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications. “This moment – 50 years since the death of Dr. King – and the rising racial tension in America have brought us to a unique place.
“There is a fresh hunger among believers to see the church of Jesus Christ live out the [g]ospel and display what the multi-ethnic kingdom of God looks like,” Darling told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “We are overjoyed that God has given us an opportunity to obey the [g]ospel demands and work for racial justice in our communities. We hope that this event is just the beginning of a movement of repentance and action in churches and communities across the country.”
Collin Hansen, TGC’s editorial director, told BP in a written statement, “The rising generation of Christian leaders wants guidance in how the Bible and [g]ospel of Jesus Christ guide the public practice of their faith. Never before have we seen these churches and denominations come together with unshakable confidence in the power of God and His Word for an honest, sometimes painful and ultimately necessary conversation over our national struggles with racism.”
The conference included the announcement of an initiative and the collection of an offering to benefit Memphis:
- Conference hosts unveiled the MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative, which will enable minority students in Memphis to receive financial aid to participating Christian colleges, universities and seminaries. As of April 12, $1.516 million has been raised, and more than 20 schools are participating. Several are Southern Baptist seminaries and Baptist colleges or universities. More schools are expected to join in the effort.
- Attendees gave to an offering for the Memphis Christian Pastors Network during the conference. The offering to the network, a multi-ethnic coalition seeking to foster racial unity and meet needs in the city, totaled $17,082 as of April 12.
Video of the conference’s keynote sessions – as well as audio or video of the breakout sessions – is available at thegospelcoalition.org/conference/mlk50.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)