Marking the 60th Anniversary: 3 Pastors Reflect on MLK’s “Dream”

This month marks the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Reverend King delivered the transformative speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963 to an audience of more than 250,000 citizens and national leaders.

Among the many memorable moments of the speech was when Reverend King stated:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This speech and the March on Washington helped mobilize public and congressional support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, making it illegal to segregate public places and banning employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed shortly afterward.

On this important anniversary, Love INC of Lake County talked with three local pastors about the key messages of Reverend King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and how they are relevant to us today.

In this article, you’ll read about:

1. What are the key messages of “I Have a Dream” for Christians and the Christian church today?

Pastor Alex Soler of Vertical Encounter Church, Waukegan: Dr. King’s key message lies in the phrase, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Paying close attention to our communities’ response to racial injustice is vital to the life of the local church. We should celebrate progress and notice when positive change happens, as we continue to find ways for the church to influence and champion Dr. King’s dream.

Pastor Paul Fowler of Christ Church, Lake Forest: The line in Dr. King’s speech that always sticks with me is that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. James 2:4 says discrimination is judging with evil thoughts. Christians, more than any other group of people, must embrace God’s unmerited impartial love and grace and, in turn, give that to each other so that God’s love shines forth.

Pastor Robert Brown of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, Waukegan: A key message from Dr. King’s speech is to know that in the midst of outer dangers we can have an inner calm and resources of strength that only God can give. The “I Have a Dream” speech called for equality during the Civil Rights era. Dr. King envisioned an end to racism in the U.S. and for everyone to accept change in a non- violent way.

2. Do you believe that Reverend King’s dream will be realized? If so, what gives you hope?

Pastor Soler: The truth is that sin will continue to be a reality until Jesus returns. Racism, social injustice, and other issues Dr. King pointed out are embedded in the sinful nature of human beings. However, in my generation, there have been great strides including racial reconciliation and reforms that promote racial equality. These positive strides make me hopeful that the dream Dr. King spoke of will become the norm instead of the exception in our culture.

Pastor Fowler: What gives me hope is the description of heaven in Revelation 7:9 where a great multitude from every tribe, nation, people and language stands before the throne. When we live in love and unity as believers we usher in a piece of heaven on earth.

Pastor Brown: Dr. King’s dream has been realized for the most part, but it has not been accepted by everyone. It’s our duty to carry out his dream and bring everyone in the world to the realization of how important it is. It’s our duty to bring forth the day when “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will join hands and sing: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

3. The mission of Love INC is to mobilize local churches to transform lives and communities in the name of Christ. How does this mission align with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?

Pastor Soler: The vision Dr. King cast in his speech requires authentic relationships among people of different groups. Love INC does a beautiful job of creating opportunities for diverse people to come together and develop genuine relationships in practical ways. Examples include the Love INC pastoral workshops, life skills classes and the furniture ministry.

Pastor Fowler: As churches of every nation, tribe, people and language, work with Love INC we are living out the unity and brotherhood described in Reverend King’s speech, which draws on the Bible. For example, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is that we may all be one, all churches and peoples, and because of that unity the rest of the world will see that God is one and that Jesus brought God’s message to the world.

Pastor Brown: The Love INC mission statement aligns with the vision Dr. King cast in his “I Have a Dream” speech when he states: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal.” Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

4. What are some of the programs your church is involved in (with Love INC or separately) that reflect Dr. King’s dream?

Pastor Soler: One of the programs Vertical Encounter facilitates is the Church of Today Project. This umbrella title creates a space for students to get involved in a variety of activities that holistically impact them. For example, students may participate in educational programming, dance, art, theatre, technology projects, music, and more. These programs bring together students from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We’re also intentional about recruiting diverse leaders and volunteers to run each program. The Church of Today Project allows students to view themselves and others as equal in value but unique in design.

Pastor Fowler: Christ Church puts aside a portion of its annual budget for local missions that allow us to have strategic partnerships with various agencies within Lake County. For example, we work with multiple tutoring agencies across a diverse group of schools, food banks around Lake County, housing projects in North Chicago, and many more. Love INC is a great partner in our work around Lake County.

Pastor Brown: New Beginning M.B. Church participates in the community service program to help citizens complete hours. The church also offers Vacation Bible School for youth, leadership classes for members and local community churches, and helps families in need find economic resources.

5. What are some ways each of us can help realize Dr. King’s dream in our community?

Honor Reverend King by reading or listening to his “I Have a Dream” speech and reflecting on its meaning. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Volunteer your time and gifts to help our community live out the Dr. King’s dream of a community where God’s children work together for the rights endowed by our Creator.

Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash