As unrest and racial division across the nation were magnified earlier this summer, four pastors representing churches across the Greater Houston area led a gathering with a few hundred fellow church leaders June 15, together outlining practical steps faith leaders could take toward uniting Houston, said Jason Shepperd, the lead pastor of Church Project in The Woodlands.

The idea for the gathering stemmed from the initial four pastors' friendship and church planting efforts across the city, Shepperd said.

"We had a previous connection for our city, for the gospel in our city, and we care for one another. As this was going on, we were just naturally talking to each other about what we can do together," he said. "First we started caring for each other and then we said, 'How can we care for our city?' ... We wanted to unite as many pastors as possible around some basic common denominators that we felt like could make a real impact in our city and move some things forward in the area of racial injustice in our city."

The group of pastors includes Blake Wilson, lead pastor of Crossover Bible Fellowship in Houston; Steve Bezner, senior pastor of Houston Northwest Church in Houston; Lawrence Scott, lead pastor of Harvest Point Fellowship Church in Pearland; and Shepperd.

"We had a relationship that preceded what the current events of our culture were, and our relationship among one another was built through loving each other and each other's churches and what we were doing in the community," Wilson said.

A Facebook page titled "Houston Area Pastors United We Stand" summarizes the group's commitments. Shepperd said the group is focused on five initiatives for churches across the Greater Houston area together: stewarding the sermon, meaning preaching sermons together; leveraging legislation, meaning advocating with local legislators for changes in laws; committing to community, meaning having a meal monthly with a person of another race; being a people of peace, meaning building a relationship between church communities and police officers; and having common confessions and commitments, meaning encouraging church members to use the same language across the city in a way that reflects the gospel.

"In October, we're calling pastors in our city to spend the entire month preaching sermons together," Shepperd said. "We're going to spend the entire month of October stewarding the sermon together on the topic of how the gospel affects racial reconciliation in our city and how we love our brother and our sister."

Shepperd said he believes uniting churches will then help change attitudes and behaviors across the city.

"What we communicate verbally from the pulpit from the scriptures will really impact the thinking and the acting of our congregations," Wilson said.

Wilson said he and Bezner have partnered in many aspects of ministry for the last five years, joining their church congregations across racial lines for back-to-school events, Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, Good Friday services and choir performances.

"Our churches were already gathered together, so when we experienced this moment, it was like, 'Hey this was what we were already being prepared to do,'" Wilson said.

Additionally, he said being a house of peace is important to facilitating change and unity across the city. Wilson said he envisions peace officers holding town hall meetings at churches to get to know the children and families in the community, brief congregations on offenses and other things happening, and receive prayer.

"We want to support [peace officers]; at the same time, we want them to know we're praying for them," Wilson said. "They need to know, 'Hey, you serve the community. We also serve the community, and you want to come home at night, and we want our children to come home at night. We believe this gathering of the church at the house of peace ... with these peace officers would promote peace in our community in such a way that it removes the stereotype because you now have an actual face, actual people that you know."

Houston Area Pastors United We Stand will hold another gathering Aug. 10 from 9 a.m.-noon at Church Project for pastors across the city to attend with their top leaders and commit to seeking unity, Shepperd said. Guests can register via the Facebook page.

"From Galveston to Conroe, from Kingwood to Katy, [100s of pastors] were on their face asking God to move across our city, and people of all different backgrounds," Shepperd said, referring to the June gathering. "What we hope to accomplish is uniting the church across the city of Houston so that Houston becomes a light for our nation of what happens when people reconcile race with the gospel of Jesus Christ."