Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, The Kingdom, & How We Are Stronger Together 

By Tony Evans 

I first encountered Dr. Tony Evans while participating in a small group study of his Raising Kingdom Kids curriculum years ago. His energy was contagious while his passion for equipping families for lifelong discipleship and spiritual accountability was inspiring. But what captivated me the most was his greater kingdom vision. It gave me hope for the future of our country, world, and universal Church.  

After reading Divine Disruption towards the end of 2021 (and spoiler alert: loved it!), I considered reading more of Dr. Evans’ work and began a Google search to see what else he had published in recent years. Even though I had done several of his daughter Priscilla Shirer’s bible studies and had attended conferences where his eldest, Crystal Evans Hurst, was both a speaker I listened to and a workshop leader I was influenced from, Raising Kingdom Kids and Divine Disruption were the only experiences I had had with the patriarch of the Evans’ family. 

I was intrigued to learn Dr. Tony Evans had written a book on race back in 2015 [which was updated and republished in 2022 to include content that addresses critical race theory, systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the concept of white privilege; Note: I have not read the revised 2022 publication so this review is specifically on the 2015 publication]. Thinking back to American culture and society in 2015, which was during Barack Obama’s second presidential term, I was very curious on the angle Evans would write from as a Black evangelical along with the content he would present. 

In Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, The Kingdom, & How We Are Stronger Together, Tony Evans uses the Bible as the guide and heaven as the goal to lead God’s people to kingdom-focused unity. Evans reflects on his own experiences as a Black man growing up in the America’s Civil Rights era as well as his position as a respected, seasoned, and influential pastor to offer wisdom and fresh insight on history (Church, world, and American), culture, evangelicalism, and social justice. 

I had high hopes for Oneness Embraced, not just because I was interested in learning Evans’ personal story and perspective on racial relations but also because the Evans family ministry has positively impacted my faith (over the last six or so years). 

In the introduction of Oneness Embraced, Dr. Evans paints a picture of racial divide in the United States by challenging the reader to recognize past and present racism in our nation, Church, and culture. Reared in the “Black Church” but connected to the “White Church,” Dr. Evans is uniquely positioned to speak about the problems that have risen from years of separation and disunity within the greater American Church. Oneness Embraced isn’t afraid to expose the raw realities of slavery, racial injustice, segregation, inequality, and varying cultural traditions, customs, and identities that have created implicit and explicit tension and divide and does so in the very introduction by calling out the victim mentality and lack of accountability often experienced within Black culture while also addressing problematic “White Christian Nationalism.”

I was hooked in the beginning of this book because I wasn’t clear which direction Dr. Evans was going to take.

In one breath it appeared he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. He condemned the White church for ignorance and privilege while crediting the Black church for its perseverance amidst adversity yet was also holding the Black church accountable in seeking individual responsibility rather than victimology.

It was confusing at times though understandable given Dr. Evan’s experience straddling the two worlds of Black, urban culture and White, mainstream evangelicalism. He admitted this throughout the front half of the book and vulnerably confessed his own uncertainty, perplexity, and unclarity with studying and appreciating biblical Truth but failing to experience Truth lived out within the universal body of Christ. 

Beyond the introduction, Oneness Embraced is organized into three parts: a biblical look at oneness, a historical view of the Black Church, and a kingdom vision for societal impact. 

Part One lays the foundation for the subsequent sections by outlining some of the main issues that have arisen in American Evangelicalism such as a limited understanding of American history, choosing to receive influence and identity from culture rather than from the Bible, acknowledging that racism is more than a skin issue but rather is a sin issue, understanding that “lived experience” is valid yet isn’t innately inspired, and many other areas of cultural concern that have deterred the Church from coming together as one body in Christ. I found Part One to be beneficial in opening my eyes to some concepts I may have overlooked or previously not considered. This includes how one’s upbringing, environment, and experience work together to shape racial and cultural identity as well as the varying agendas and differing priorities of the Black and White church. 

Then there was Part Two. 

I’ll be honest, I had a difficult time reading through these chapters – I prayed for the Lord to open my eyes to see and my heart to receive the Truth of His Word while convicting my spirit to reveal any hidden sin or bias I may have.

There were parts in this section that made me uncomfortable and other parts that made me upset. 

Part Two, which covers the history of the Black church, is the longest portion of Oneness Embraced and, in my opinion, could have been better served as its own topical book. There was a lot of meat to chew on and a lot of content to digest. Chapters in Part Two tackled the myth of Black inferiority, the Black presence in the Bible, the Black church’s link to Africa, the uniqueness of the Black church, the role of the Black preacher, Black power and Black Theology, and the rise of Black evangelicalism.

Much of this section was new information for me and I believe educating yourself on topics you’re unfamiliar with is always valuable for developing perspective, reflection, and contemplation.

However, because so much of the content was new to me, I felt I needed to dive a little deeper and consult the resources cited. For example, I had no clue what liberation theology was prior to reading this book and still don’t have a good grasp on it, but felt it isn’t in line with biblical Truth and my theological understanding of traditional, orthodox Christianity. Further research, consultation, and discussion would probably do me (and other unknowledgeable readers) well in these areas of question. Even so, I think this section of the book was important to discuss but was also overwhelming and perhaps has the potential to be received as even more divisive. 

Throughout the book, there was a focus on two different types of American Churches, the Black Church and the White Church, while emphasizing the need to pursue oneness in the universal Church and body of Christ.

In my opinion, this was contradictory to the overall message and theme that I believe Oneness Embraced was to trying to convey. I think ethnic background and cultural tradition should be honored and respected but not elevated above the heritage and shared humanity of God’s people. Sure, I believe there are many ways to worship, celebrate God’s goodness, and live out one’s faith, but continuing to support, prioritize, and separate the body of Christ into “Black” and “White” will only establish a further divide and disconnect.

Additionally, I felt condemned and convicted while reading about the sins of White evangelicalism’s past. It convicted me with sorrow for how African Americans were treated by White individuals who called themselves Christians. Yet, how the racism of both the past and modern day were presented made me feel like I was guilty by “White affiliation” of the same racism. Of course, this made me think of the anti-biblical viewpoint found in secular books like White Fragility and the work of Ibram X. Kendi. I acknowledge I may possess bias based on my experience and understanding, or lack thereof, but that should never imply that I am a racist or am guilty of the sin of racism. I continued to pray for conviction in all areas where I may be leading a less than perfect life as well as repentance for when I am culpable. Overall, I felt frustrated, angry, and sad in this section and I’m not sure if that was the intent. I am choosing to believe this section of the book was meant to educate those who were unfamiliar with African American church history while challenging those in their reaction, response, and appreciation for a culture that has experienced both pain and purpose. 

To be honest, I almost didn’t make it to Part Three and was tempted to stop reading sometime in the previous section yet I am glad I pushed through. In my opinion, the closing segment of Oneness Embraced should have been the main focus of the entire book though I understand the reasoning and significance of detouring down the lane of Black History (as detailed in Part Two). 

Part Three is where Dr. Evans’ kingdom mindset reflects the Light of hope, love, unity, and restoration. The entire message of Oneness Embraced is brought together and beautifully packaged as practical application that inspires action and results.

The biggest takeaway I received was found and reiterated within Part Three – the world would be a different place if the Church would unite and work together as one body to influence culture and impact society. Simply put, the Church needs to be the Church, laying aside cultural differences to focus on the commonality of shared knowledge of Truth and love of Christ. Dr. Evans shares his own stories of leading various ministries and organizing numerous programs that have positively changed his community in Dallas. He also imagines the possibilities of what could occur if the Church started to play offense and shaping culture rather than playing defense and too often reacting too late to the many cultural issues that negatively affect society.

Dr. Evans concludes Oneness Embraced with a vision of the Church engaging culture and prioritizing social issues for spiritual impact. His case for the social and spiritual working together to save lives and restore communities resonated with me deeply and refreshed me with hope of the ripple effect created by little acts of service.  

Oneness Embraced was a mixed bag for me. Half of the time I felt frustrated, judged, stereotyped, sad, and other emotions of disappointment while the other half of the time I felt spiritually encouraged, motivated into action, and supported in my biblical understanding of God’s Word. I think there’s a lot of wisdom, insight and Truth to be gained by reading this book and would recommend it to anyone seeking to learn about the Black church [from a pastor who has straddled both sides of American Evangelicalism] and the way forward to achieve unity within the body of Christ. (I’d also be very interested in learning your feedback if you choose to read the revised 2022 edition of Oneness Embraced.)

I am thankful Dr. Evans’ weighed in on this heavy topic and contributed his experience and theological expertise to an area many would rather overlook or pretend does not exist. I also acknowledge my “frustrations” (for lack of better word) while reading certain parts of this book were probably beneficial for me to experience while any negative thoughts and convictions conjured are my own to take up with God. 

All and all, I have continued support and respect for Dr. Tony Evans and his family.

This man has contributed so much to God’s Kingdom and I am blessed to have had my faith shaped through his various ministries. Dr. Evans truly is a man of God with a heart that beats for eternity. The fruit of his work will be seen for years to come and I pray his work and legacy will help to guide the United States into one nation that is ruled under God.

*I personally purchased this book. Any thoughts or opinions expressed are my very own. 

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