Archives for posts with tag: Atlanta

Thank you, Patrick Simmons, for Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile” on YouTube.  Listened to it three times.  Reminds me …  earlier this year I was in Atlanta at the Kroc Center.  Guess who showed up for a recording session there?  

We heard that Kirk Franklin and his crew were coming to record a new song.   We were supposed to stay out of the way where the session was taking place.  Jason Pope grabbed a life-sized cardboard cutout of a Salvation Army bellringer and I, ah, assisted him in carrying it through the building.  We were going to see Kirk.

Got it through then realized that neither of us knew what he looks like.  We wouldn’t have recognized Kirk Franklin if we saw him.  Doesn’t change the fact that his music is good listening.


Bob Lupton’s latest blog slams institutional Christianity.  Ouch. 

Professional pastors.  Church planters.  Institutional self-interest.  Seminaries.  Church growth.  Oww, oww.  He gets us all, writing of “Unity – The Forgotten Commandment” appropriate in the context of this Holy Week and Jesus’ words from John 15.

Lupton challenges us to a witness which demonstrates to the world that we love each other.  He claims that it is in the hard, dark places that this kind of witness brings light.  Hard to argue with Bob, and John 15 and 17.

To learn more about Bob Lupton and FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta visit the FCS website.

Last Wednesday morning it rained in Atlanta, heavy at times.  Not an icy cold rain like we would have this time of year in Chicago.  The rain seemed to feel and smell like spring is on the way.  It felt good.

The painting crew of Indiana Wesleyan students was dodging drops as they assessed what to do next.  They had been painting staircases all week in an apartment building near the Atlanta Kroc Center.  For several years the apartments have become a focus for Experience Mission teams working with the Salvation Army in the neighborhood. 

Residents have been asked what could be done to help them.  One of the ideas is fresh paint.  Paint goes on.  Relationships are deepened with residents.  The owner treats students to lunch.  Does this help the community?  Yes.  Will it benefit the Army?  Hard to say.

Is the Army’s mission to benefit the Army?  Or to meet human needs? 

Do we have difficulty distinguishing mission?  At times.  We struggle to be free with releasing resources of manpower, time and money.  We worry too much and come close to being ungenerous.  Prudence and wisdom, who can argue.  But parsimony and fear are just so close that at times we err, not going and giving as we ought.

Here’s the thing.  College students during their spring break.  Pay with their own money.  To sleep on the floor of a corps building.  So they can paint someone else’s building, play with and teach other people’s children, visit the elderly parents in nursing homes of men and women they will never meet, stock shelves in the food bank for families they will never see. 

What’s wrong with these college kids?

This thing is mission.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son … God sent his son into the world (John 3:16-17).  Mission is simply going and giving in the name of Jesus.  When we give and go we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It may also make words credible. 

     I by my works will show you my faith …  James 2:18

                     It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching …  St Francis of Assisi

This week Bob Lupton of FCS Urban Ministries shares three different views from Gary the Generosity Monk, Andy Bales, and Ron Sider on what we ought to do when approached for money on the street.  Worth reading if you live or work in a city.  This subject would make a good discussion session.

Urban Perspectives
February 2011

 To Give or Not to Give?

Should Christians always give money to street people who ask for it?  That’s what Christianity Today recently asked three veteran ministry leaders known for their commitment to the poor.
“Yes, freely!” answers Gary Hoag, known as the Generosity Monk whose passionate mission is to encourage Christian generosity.  To him it is very clear in scripture:  “Freely you have received; freely give.”  It is not our place to judge others, to evaluate them as worthy or unworthy of our assistance.  God is the judge, not us.  What they do with our aid is between them and God.  We are to love and give unconditionally.  Gary’s theology of generosity is summed up in his quote from contemplative priest Brennan Manning:  “God’s call for each of us to live a life of unlimited generosity is rooted in his limitless love and care for us.”  Through our free and generous giving “the postmodern world will see Jesus in our generosity.” 
Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, sees it quite differently.  “Giving cash to someone in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort,” he says.  His years of experience with street people has taught him that most panhandlers are not really homeless at all.  Most are scammers who may collect $300 a day from kind-hearted passers-by and at the end of the day walk a block or two to their cars and drive home.  When someone approaches Andy for money for food or a place to stay, he gives them his card and invites them to his mission where they can get not only food and shelter but other support as well.  Very seldom does he give money, and then only when there are no other alternatives.  Like Hoag, he too has scripture to back his position.  His biblical example is the lame man who asked Peter and John for some money.  They offered no money but rather something better – healing!  “People experiencing homelessness and poverty need a community,” Andy says.  “People need permanent help in becoming strong.  They need a connection with Jesus Christ and a faith community.”     
Absolutely not!  So says Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of best selling Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  A quick donation is cheap love.  There is simply no way to tell whether a story is legitimate, or if a person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol.  Supporting immorality, laziness or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.  Rather than give money, Sider suggests taking the homeless person to lunch and listening to his story.  “People almost always need love even more than money,” he says.  Generous giving should be directed toward effective, holistic programs equipped to deal with the deeper socio-economic issues, ministries that share the love of Christ and “truly empower, liberate and transform.”
Three respected Christian leaders, all committed to helping the poor, all relying on the scriptures to guide them, each with distinctly different convictions on how to rightly serve – opposing convictions.  They take their stand at opposite ends of the charity continuum, from “always give money” to “never give money.”  Who’s right?   Whose counsel do we listen to?
Andy Bales certainly has the most direct experience with the homeless, living and serving among them for decades.  His “last resort” giving position is shaped by years of personal involvement, watching con games on the street, seeing first-hand the long, up-and-down battles of those trying to break free from addictions.  Pragmatic experience has taught him that healing is far more likely in a supportive community environment than struggling alone on the street.  Of course he believes it is better to steer street people toward a program like he runs.  He has committed his life to it.
Gary the Generosity Monk, on the other hand, views scripture (and the world) from the ivory tower of religious academia.  Not that he’s removed from humanity – he’s certainly not.  He’s very engaged with the Christian community, particularly as it relates to generosity.  But he doesn’t live among the broken.  In one sense, his reading of scripture is purer, uncontaminated by the troubling realities of life on the street.  His “yes, freely” theology of giving is fashioned around a compelling body of scriptures such as “Give to anyone who asks” and “Freely you have received; freely give” and “If you have two coats, give one.”  And his examples of the extravagant giving of historic heroes of the faith are inspiring.  His message is clearly directed toward an affluent church that needs for its own salvation to be freed from its bondage to material things.  Giving freely is a prime way to break the strangle-hold of materialism.  But is his “unconditional giving” doctrine informed by the real-life down-stream impacts of unexamined charity?
Ron Sider understands poverty from a systems perspective.  He pores over statistics, scrutinizes legislative motivation and decision-making, holds up a biblical standard of justice by which to evaluate public policy and practice.  He is a prophet to a nation that has subsidized poverty, eroded a work ethic through dependency-producing entitlements and decimated the family structure of the poor – all in the name of doing good.  He knows better than most theologians the vast number of scriptures that deal with God’s concern for the poor.  And the responsibility of God’s people to care for the widows and orphans and strangers.  His plea, like the prophet Amos, is to “let justice roll down like a river.”  The quick donation, whether for expediency, sentimentality or guilt-relieving, is cheap love that is neither merciful nor just.  Prophets are not pragmatists.  They speak in absolutes.  Understandably, to Sider, irresponsible giving is just plain wrong!
Always.  Sometimes.  Never.  Who’s got it right?  I guess it all depends on the level of the platform you are viewing the poor from – ground-level practicality or elevated theological theory.  Your altitude will determine your attitude.
-Bob Lupton, February 2011

Urban Perspectives is a publication of FCS Urban Ministries.
FCS Urban Ministries is a collective of visionaries and social entrereneurs, transforming distressed urban neighborhoods through Christian community development.
Our mission is to create healthy places in the city where families flourish and the Shalom of God is present.
Please visit our website at
Donate to FCSUM at
FCS Urban Ministries, 750 Glenwood Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30316

I arrived Thursday night. Majors Art and Ann Penhale, Territorial Youth Secretaries, for the Salvation Army’s USA Southern Territory welcomed me at the airport to cold Atlanta. Yes, ice-covered streets and walks have made for treacherous driving and walking. THQ was closed Monday through Thursday making for a challenge as the Southern Territory prepared for Friday’s start of the Redemption Conference about to conclude tomorrow.
I presented two workshops on the subject of living on the tension between mission and institution. I also participated this afternoon in the Corps Strategy Track where five corps brought teams to spend several additional sessions to focus on their specific mission.
This evening Hugh Halter, national director of Missio, spoke on the kingdom. And the territorial music group Transmission superb in leading worship. Consummate musicians, yes, gifted in leading us in worship throughout the weekend.

Last night Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil. Bob Lupton has been presenting in workshops. Dave Gibbons spoke about the changing world and the importance of creativity in contrast to the plug and play approach in responding to the new opportunities. Lindsay Bailey from SAWSO (Salvation Army World Service Office) has talked to delegates at her table in the Exhibitors Hall, along with Word Made Flesh, Bethany Christian Services, FCS Ministries, the Marin Foundation, and next month’s Mission and Environment Conference being held in Orlando by the Florida Division.

There’s much going on in the Salvation Army down South.

I ordered decaf and a slice of coconut cream pie at the Golden Nugget on Irving Park Road just west of the Kennedy Expressway.

A sip and then a bite of indulgence as I visited with Jason and Kelly Pope and Andrew and Brenda Marin.

Jason and Kelly were in town from Atlanta leading a group of leaders and young people presenting their hip hop Christmas show at various venues in Chicago.  Earlier in the day they had been at LaSalle Street Church, a Catholic residential program, and briefing time with kettle workers at Chicago Temple (thank you Envoy Tyrone Staggers for assisting them this week).  Their few days here were busy and a success, and Jason was happy to be in a northern winter; Jason likes snow.  The Popes serve with the Salvation Army in Atlanta, Kelly in the Southern Territory’s Youth Department and Jason at DHQ in Atlanta as well as the Corps Sergeant Major at Atlanta’s Kroc Center.  I don’t think they would mind mentioning that they expect their first baby in late March.

Andrew and Brenda Marin are good friends with the Popes.  Jason has worked in the Southern Territory with Andrew who is founder of the Marin Foundation based in Chicago.  Andrew’s work is in that challenging place between the Church and the GLBT community; check out the Marin Foundation website.

Jason and I talked about current work in our respective territories, especially the work of identifying, recruiting, developing, and deploying people in urban mission.  Jason is involved with creation of an urban mission internship program backed by territorial resources.  He was glad to hear of the Central Territory’s commitment in a similar initiative as we are about to inaugurate the Urban Ministry Internship Program in Flint, St Louis, and Kansas City.

We also talked about the challenge and heartbreak of working with young people living in the city.  The Popes have recently been helping teens faced with very difficult situations.  Issues tend to be well defined and simple, if we are living in places of comfort and wholeness.  Inner cities and many urban settings abound with moral and ethical ambiguity.  Urban mission involves complexities of diversity, density, and stark despair with which some places in America have but a passing acquaintance.

Jason enjoyed the Chicago snow.  May you enjoy a Merry Christmas!

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