Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 29, 2019
Historic Day for small Montgomery church, great day for America
Sunday, September 22, 2019 was an historic day for a small church on Council Street in west Montgomery. Unnoticed by the media, what happened in the New Walk of Life Church could have far-reaching consequences across Alabama and eventually the entire United States.
Encouraged by his congregation to do so, Pastor Ken Austin signed an unusual “Church Community Proclamation” which was titled “Operation BeKIND.” The proclamation had been developed with Pastor Austin’s assistance over a period of several months. It was presented to the congregation by Toby Warren, founder and chief executive officer of National Leadership Centers for Excellence with headquarters in Auburn, Alabama. I had the honor of affirming Warren as he presented this first of a kind proclamation to the church.
The objective of the proclamation is to inspire the members of Austin’s church to love their neighbors by engaging in specific “acts of kindness.” The underlying assumption is that churches can lead the way in motivating their communities to use kindness, and love of neighbor, as a means of restoring civility and respect in our society at a time when racism, hatred and divisiveness are threatening to destroy our nation. Declaring that “all people are created in the image of God and deserve to be given dignity, respect, worth and value,” the proclamation includes this affirmation: “We believe the secret to building a safe and loving community is to become engaged in actions of kindness for one another.”
Ten acts of kindness are specified in the covenant of Operation BeKIND. They include these: 1) Greet one another with warmth, a smile and a sense of authentic kindness; 2) Tell our stories to one another to foster better relationships; 3) Serve the real needs of those who are lonely, hurting and in need of loving kindness; 4) Break bread together, sharing joy and kindness at our tables; 5) Focus on the well-being of our community so it can become a place for loving and serving our neighbors; 6) Appreciate the role of the church in community as a channel of God’s impact for “a more perfect union.”
To spend five minutes with Toby Warren is to realize that God has given this man a most unusual vision for his country. The impressive proclamation is printed on parchment paper similar to the paper on which the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 brave men 243 years ago. Using phrases like “We the People” and “In God We Trust,” he calls “Operation BeKIND” a “United States of America Proclamation for a More Perfect Union.” His heart’s desire is that God will use this kindness operation “to achieve greater domestic tranquility for our nation’s neighborhoods.” The more I learn about it, the more convinced I am that this proclamation can initiate a movement that, by the grace of God, could flood America with unprecedented kindness and change the climate of incivility that exists today.
When I asked Warren to explain his passion for inviting all churches everywhere to embrace this operation, this was his response:
“America is a traumatized nation. Our lack of civility is eating away at our very core. One of the ways we can show greater kindness is by loving our neighbor. We strongly believe the OPERATION BeKIND CAN BE A POWERFUL INFLUENCE as we work toward May 1, 2020 becoming 27:17 L0VE YOUR NEIGHBOR DAY. In communities, schools and churches it has tremendous potential as a national movement. WE HOPE THAT THE I-85 corridor between Opelika/Auburn to Montgomery can become AMERICA’S BeKIND HIGHWAY!”
The “27:17” refers to a verse in Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.“ Warren is captivated by the way this verse explains how God enlightens us as we converse with one another, sharing and listening and seeking the will of God. When you talk with Warren you can almost feel the iron of his personality sharpening your own!
Those committed to the operation are asked to begin practicing kindness immediately and daily but also to plan for a great, nationwide, celebration on May 1, 2020, to be called “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR DAY.” The hope is that this will become an annual event observed each year on May 1st, the day to be known as National Loyalty Day in America.
Ken Austin, founder and executive director of the Mercy House and pastor of the New Walk of Life Church, said Sunday when he signed the proclamation, with his congregation applauding, “My hands were trembling because of the honor of being the first of possibly thousands of pastors to sign this historic document. I knew in my heart that once again God was at work in my community, using our little church to begin hopefully a national movement of kindness. Operation BeKIND is now in practice at New Walk of Life Church. I invite others, especially pastors, to join us in spreading kindness throughout the world.”
By Tuesday of this past week, two other pastors had affixed their signatures to the proclamation. They were Dr. Tom Tippett, pastor of the Church of Opelika in Opelika, Alabama, and Dr. Clifford Jones, pastor Greater Peace Baptist Church of Opelika. The hope is that hundreds of other pastors will bring their churches into the operation soon. “Now,” Warren says, “we have three charter churches inked in for an operation in kindness could change the culture of our nation.” A great day for America? The I-85 corridor between Opelika/Auburn to Montgomery America’s BeKIND Highway? Stay tuned!
Pastors interested in learning more about Operation BeKIND may contact Toby Warren by phone at 334 444-1010 or by email at TWAR@NLCX.ORG. + + +