After celebrating 50 years in public ministry, Dallas-based pastor Tony Evans became the first African American to publish a study bible and commentary.
“What I want to say to African Americans is if you see what’s really in the Bible, you can find yourself there,” he said in an interview with Religion News Service. “You don’t have to lose yourself to believe in Jesus. In fact, much of who we are is in Jesus.”
Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Fellowship and founder of The Urban Alternative, released the study Bible and commentary in partnership with LifeWay.
“Paying attention to context is extremely important if you want to accurately understand what the Bible is saying,” he wrote in the Bible’s opening instruction letter. “If you don’t pay attention to the context, you are in danger of trying to make the Bible say something that it doesn’t actually say.”
His church celebrated with a three-hour “Kingdom Legacy Live” event that included musicians Kirk Franklin and LeCrae, who praised Evans as the father figure they never had. Video tributes also were aired from former President George W. Bush and former football player Herschel Walker.
It was important to Evans to highlight the black presence in Scripture. In his interview, he specifically mentioned Ham’s lineage dating back to African people; Moses’ wife, Zipporah, being the daughter of an African priest; and, an African presence in the church of Antioch.
“In fact, in Numbers 12, God judged Aaron and Miriam for their reaction of Moses’ African wife. So early on, God was dealing with racism and interracial marriage,” he said.
Evans is no stranger to blazing new trails. He was also the first African American to earn a doctorate in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary.
In the midst of the celebrations, the Evans family is also clinging to hope as Evans’ wife, Lois, fights an incurable cancer. Chemo and radiation are “no longer options” for her and the couple has asked for prayer for healing.
“Over the last week and a half, there has been a slight improvement that was unexpected even by the doctors. So we’re trusting God in the middle of that and taking it day by day,” he said. “We’re believing for a miracle, but we trust him regardless.”
Evans has also spoken up about musician Kirk Franklin in his boycott against the Dove Awards after his comments on race were deleted from the live show.
“When they cut out the part of his speech that was critical to his and our experience, that demonstrated cultural, racial insensitivity, especially since it was nothing offensive,” he said. “So I felt that would have been appropriate since that’s what his conscience told him to do. But I also told him, you must honor your conscience in a righteous way. And so that’s why he put in there he’s willing to help rectify it, not just complain about it because a lot of times you have complaints without solutions. Let’s help heal. Let’s not just keep divided, but also let’s be clear on what’s right and what’s wrong.”
TBN has since apologized privately and publicly to Franklin and the African American community.
The Study Bible and Commentary are available for purchase on Amazon.
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.