A Wake-Up Call to Black America

By Rev. Bill Owens Published on February 26, 2020

When I was a student in seminary, I went through a period of deep despair over the state of my life. I was at a crossroads and had to determine, “What does God have for me to do?” So I needed to hear directly from God about the path He wanted me to take in order to live a fulfilled life.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time and knew I needed silence, solitude, and family.  In December of 1988, I decided to go to Memphis to stay with my mother until January.

I knew that God is a good God and wants only the best for His children. I needed and wanted God to speak to me about His plan for my life. John 14:26 says the Holy Spirit, “will teach us all things and will bring to our remembrance things God has taught us.”  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth; therefore, He will lead us into the truth, not error.

A Prayer for Direction

Once in Memphis I prayed with my mother, and together, we asked for direction for my life.

I did not hear God’s voice immediately, however. In fact, I was in such despair that I thought my life – seemingly without a purpose – was not worth living. That Christmas Day was very hard because I realized December was ending, and my prayer to hear from God before the year was over appeared to have gone unanswered. I cried out again to God in desperation, asking Him to do something to give me direction for my life.

Then, on my birthday, December 27, 1988 at 10:00 a.m., I heard God’s voice!

College for Disadvantaged Americans

I was suddenly filled with faith knowing that God had spoken to me! His message was that I should recruit students for Oral Roberts University (ORU). At once, I knew He was going to do something wonderful in my life! I jumped up off my knees, ran into my mother’s room, and told her that God had spoken to me. She was overjoyed!  I then called my lifelong friend – well-known civil rights photographer Ernest Withers – and told him what I had experienced. And I told him of my desire to go to a church that Sunday and announce that I would be recruiting students for ORU. I would assure those interested that I would get them admitted and seek the proper financing for them.

I called a pastor-friend and asked him if I could come to his church Sunday and make the announcement. He welcomed me and asked if I would also bring the morning sermon for him. Psalm 37:23 tells us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” and that we can trust Him not to let us lose our way.

Many black leaders have forgotten what inspired the Civil Rights struggle.

Asking God to speak to me and following His direction and the path He set out for me brought me from despair to a deep sense of spiritual fulfillment. I heard God’s voice and obeyed. I learned to walk by faith and wisdom.

The Despair in Black America

In the same way, black Americans are also in a state of despair. Despite the successes of the civil rights movement – during which African Americans peacefully protested to obtain basic human rights – many blacks have since forgotten the fact that it was their Church that was at the center of that movement, providing its moral conscience and foundation.

For as long as I can remember, the great struggle for civil rights has been empowered by the frequent use of the Bible. Its great themes of redemption, patient perseverance, and release from bondage have permeated the language we use when we discuss the civil rights movement.

Civil Rights Hijacked 

There was every reason to hope the struggle for civil rights would bring about greater freedom and independence for blacks in America. Yet today, we find that many black leaders have forgotten what inspired that struggle. Many of these leaders urge black Americans to look for inspiration from government and political agendas that undermine the moral fabric of the Church – the same Church that guided the civil rights movement! Abortion, same-sex marriage, and government encroachment – which subverts religious liberty. All these are now all proclaimed as “freedoms” by many black leaders. To be sure, the leaders of the civil rights movement saw these as evils and evidence of sin – certainly not of freedom.

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Black Americans are at a crossroads of their own today – in many ways even more so than prior to the civil rights movement. Will we turn away from a life of dependence on government and political agendas and turn back to God and His plan for us?

In this book, I hope to use my lifetime journey through segregation and Jim Crow laws along with my work as a student activist in the civil rights movement combined with what I learned from that life changing experience in 1988. I want my life to help black Americans and people everywhere to reclaim the freedom and independence that God intended for us.

Let us pray that we may ask to hear God’s voice and that we may direct ourselves to follow His path and guidance.


The above is excerpted from the new book, A Dream Derailed: How the Left Highjacked Civil Rights to Create a Permanent Underclass. The author, Rev. Bill Owens, is founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. 

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