Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was that no one, I mean no one, that I heard or watched ever mentioned he was a pastor of a local church long before he led a national movement for civil rights.
Why is that important? He was a preacher, not a public speaker. He was a pastor, not a community organizer. He preached Sunday after Sunday from the Bible that dealt with real issues in his congregation's life, and from addressing those needs in a biblical-theological way, the message from the local church touched the community, state, nation and then the world.
Mervyn A. Warren in his book King Came Preaching wrote that King believed God and his people, not governments and community organizations would change the world.
"In the sermons of King, then, God is the sustaining power in the universe whose presence assures the ultimate triumph of good over evil. As the One who provides human beings with inner resources to meet life's problems effectively, God works not separately but in cooperation with human faith to cast out all forms of evil from human being's environment." (Warren, 126)
My point is not to take away from King's leadership of the SCLC or his Nobel Peace Prize, but to remind us all that a pastor and a local congregation can change the world.
I know in our PC world that mentioning even a pastor's faith is out of place, but to call people to fulfill King's Dream without calling them to King's core faith in God is asking them to do something he never intended nor believed they could do without God.
Yes, in his later years the movement seemed to be more about issues than faith, but even his last message to the sanitation workers in Memphis, "I've been to the mountain top," on the eve of his assassination was a sermon packed with biblical illusions, a parable of Jesus, and his own faith in God. He even identifies himself as a pastor, not a movement leader.
Media, Society, please do not overlook the real power of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Church, do not forget the power of the Gospel and the power of the followers of Jesus to overcome the evil in our world.
"Hate evil," Paul wrote. (Romans 12:14) Let me add, "Be the people of God." Change the world for good, but do it in the power of the Gospel and as the church.
Some links you may like:
Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. worked together in a crusade in New York.
Digital archive of 20,000 MLK letters, speeches, sermons, and gifts.