As Racial Tensions Rage, These Two Christian Ministers Have a Dream

Bible teacher Will Ford had long ministered alongside prayer leader Matt Lockett. When Ford discovers Lockett’s ancestors once owned his forefathers, they both grasp for what it means.

By Josh Shepherd Published on August 13, 2018

One year after white nationalists clashed with opponents in Charlottesville, Va., societal tensions around race issues continue to flare up across America.

A follow-up rally of white nationalists was held Sunday outside the White House, though it drew far more press than participants. Some have lately criticized black pastors who met to discuss criminal justice reform with President Trump. A new hit film dramatizes the story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the KKK. And questions persist about the removal of memorials to Confederate figures.

As differing narratives spark impassioned conflict, two Christian ministers have sought to find what they view as the “narrow path” Christ walked. Their family paths had crossed before.

When a Hidden Past Threatens Friendship

Will Ford

Will Ford

Will Ford, a professor at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, learned he was linked in intriguing, disturbing ways to his longtime friend Matt Lockett. His black forefathers were owned by Lockett’s ancestors. This discovery led them both into chapters of American history often forgotten.

“The story Matt and I carry is a sign of what God is doing in terms of turning this nation around,” says Ford. “We’re not going to fix issues like racism without each other. We have to move together.”

He and Lockett have coauthored The Dream King, a book equal parts memoir, historical records and biblical teaching. They’ve begun to share their testimony. After hearing them at an Urban League event near Cleveland, Ohio, one reporter called it “a story too strange to be fiction.”

In a joint interview, Ford and Lockett unveil what their research uncovered, address criticisms they’ve heard and preview two large-scale prayer gatherings they are slated to co-lead in Dallas and Atlanta.

Beyond Their Wildest Dreams

The Stream: Your book uses Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as a starting point for a journey across centuries of history. How are you two personally connected to that moment?

Matt Lockett: In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered arguably the most well-known speech in human history. Everyone is very familiar with it and knows it. Yet what happened to us is, we found ourselves standing in the same spot 41 years after the fact. We met each other and initially didn’t connect it to the speech. Yet now what we’ve found out is that maybe Dr. King’s speech wasn’t just poetry — maybe it was prophecy.

In that speech, he stated, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” That statement has become very significant to us.

After Will and me praying together for a decade, we found a connection in our family histories. Historical records revealed that my family, who were slaveowners, actually owned Will’s family who were slaves. We are literally a fulfillment of those words in Dr. King’s speech.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Will Ford: To think that two men with that connection were led to the place where Dr. King said those words in his “I Have A Dream” speech, it blows my mind. One, we were both led by dreams to that spot, to a public prayer meeting led by his niece Dr. Alveda King. Two, it was MLK Celebration Day. Three, it was the spot on the Lincoln Memorial where he gave the speech. That’s where we were when we first met.

With all the narratives people have shaping America right now, there’s a meta-narrative going on where the God of Providence is actively involved. In ways bigger than any of us can realize, God is working right now to heal the racial divide, to release a culture of life and to bring us into the fullness of awakening in this nation.

Taking Steps to Racial Healing

The Stream: What does your story reveal are keys to healing the racial divide?

Ford: One is walking in forgiveness. But two, we cannot duck our heads in the sand and gloss over different periods of history, treating it like it’s some little event. These are real events that happened to real people, with real lineages behind them. Some of the things put in place in our country still have ramifications.

This is an amazing country, with a long history of godly leaders affirming the God of Providence as our source. But think of our history as a tapestry. There also were scarlet threads sown by the enemy that took our nation in the wrong direction. Acknowledging those things, addressing them and getting real about the issues surrounding them are going to be really key.

Itinerant minister Will Ford often travels with an historic family artifact: a 200 year-old cast iron kettle. His enslaved ancestors used it to cook, wash clothes and, secretly at night, to whisper into it prayers for deliverance.

Will Ford often travels with an historic family artifact: a 200 year-old cast iron kettle. His enslaved ancestors used it to cook, wash clothes and, secretly at night, to whisper into it prayers for deliverance.

Lockett: This story lifts the curtain and reveals the hidden hand of God. The problems we’re facing right now find their solutions in God, who sits upon a throne of righteousness and justice. He always moves on behalf of the oppressed.

God has a solution and cares very much about justice issues. When we see that God’s the one who wants to fix it, we can actually move in agreement with him. We can learn from history what he wants to do today.

Connecting the Dots

The Stream: You frame these issues in a surprising way, particularly how pro-life themes are introduced. Why attempt to grapple with both racism and abortion at the same time?

Matt Lockett

Matt Lockett

Lockett: We never tried to create a connection between these two very controversial issues. We were led by the Lord to how he connects racism and abortion. The more we looked at it, the more we couldn’t deny it any more.

It was a very stressful thing for us to see these two injustices in connection with each other, the way God sees it. For us, it’s been an obedience issue of trying to deliver a message we felt like God was saying. The onus is not on us to make the connection; rather, it is on everyone else to continue in their denial.

Ford: The injustice of abortion was part of my message the night Matt first heard me speak. It was the first time I was transparent about my own connection to the issue, having lost a child to abortion years ago.

The race issue and abortion are connected together by eugenics. It’s like the elephant in the room when it comes to racism. Eugenics touches everything — not only abortion and population control, but also mass incarceration and class division. It touches what’s happening with our school system becoming a pipeline to prison.

Eugenics needs to be looked at rather than glossed over in our history. It’s not some kind of crazy conspiracy theory. Leading scholars have done extensive research on eugenics. This is one of those scarlet threads God is tugging on. If we don’t examine eugenics in our history, we’re going to keep doing another lap trying to address the race issue.

Addressing Their Critics

The Stream: Some in the church believe it’s divisive and political to talk about race issues, or about abortion. How do you respond?

Ford: Jesus said in John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” We’re not going to be made free until we start telling the truth regarding these things. Otherwise, we’re going to be a slave to the death culture. We will be slaves to the race issue, dragging us along for another generation, if we don’t face hard truths.

“Revivals are hindered when ministers and churches take wrong ground in regard to any question involving human rights.”
— Charles Finney (1792-1875)

We need to have honest confrontations about it in a healthy, loving way — speaking the truth in love. From what we’ve seen on either side of the aisle, when we talk about this the way we do, we’ve seen more healing and unity come because people realize what’s actually happening.

Lockett: Historically, during the Second Great Awakening, revivalist Charles Finney addressed this issue. At the time, many in the church didn’t want to take a stand against slavery. Finney actually connected the dots for them.

He said, Revivals are hindered when ministers and churches take wrong ground in regard to any question involving human rights — specifically, at that time, slavery. The call to the church remains the same as it always has: she is called to testify to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Prayer Gatherings in Weeks Ahead

The Stream: Could you share about these upcoming prayer events in Dallas and Atlanta?

Ford: In Dallas, my wife Dehavilland and I will be hosting 818 The Sign Gathering. It is based on Isaiah 8:18 which says, “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders…” As I studied it out, I realized Isaiah wasn’t just talking about how his family walked with signs and wonders. He was literally saying: my family is the sign and wonder. God is raising up this remnant who will radically turn their hearts to him.

In three specific areas right now, God is raising up a sign. One, transformation is coming to the inner cities. Two, he is healing the racial divide. Three, an awakening and revival is beginning to stir in the church. This gathering is about the turnaround God is bringing to families, communities and our nation. Leaders such as Dutch Sheets, Bishop Joseph Garlington, Lou Engle, Sean Smith and others will be bringing the word. We are really looking forward to it.

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Lockett: One week later, there will be an even greater fulfillment of Dr. King’s speech. We’re going to a red hill in Georgia — to Stone Mountain in Atlanta — to let freedom ring. Hundreds of pastors have already been doing groundwork in advance, linking arms with each other and praying to heal the racial divide in America. We will unite as multi-ethnic people, multi-denominational, and do the hard work that’s needed to bring restoration.

We believe about 3,000 millennials are going to walk to the top of Stone Mountain. There’s going to be repentance and reconciliation. They will renounce racism in their generation and be commissioned to walk that out in works of justice, compassion and reconciliation.

I believe God is going to do something in the church in Atlanta that will be a prototype for the nation.


Watch the video below (delivered on Aug. 13, 2017) and explore the new book, The Dream King. Learn about 818 The Sign Gathering coming this weekend in Dallas. Ford and Lockett will also speak at OneRace Stone Mountain in Atlanta on August 25.

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