Archives for posts with tag: Christian community development

Not able to get to this year’s CCDA conference.  Hope you can.  Here’s the CCDA Flourish 14 link.

Noel video


Bob Lupton is one of my favorites.  I agree with him.  I disagree with him.  Regardless, he inspires and challenges. bob_lupton

Here’s his most recent Urban Perspectives blog, about Capitalism and the Kingdom.  You might also want to check out his Atlanta based Focused Community Strategies.

W Mich Reg Conf 2013Next week, February 28 – March 2, CCDA West Michigan Regional Conference meets in Grand Rapids.  The cost is amazingly low ($50 for the entire event).  If you can’t attend all three days you can register for Friday or Saturday ($30).  Special student rate also offered.  This is a great deal to learn from and network with community development practitioners.


What would William Booth say to Christians today? He’d tell them that we’re all sinners in need of God’s grace, and to get working.

Governor Rich Snyder hasn’t yet officially received the report but it’s looking more likely that the City of Detroit will be taken over by the State of Michigan.  Experts believe it’s “inevitable” that an emergency financial manager will need to take over for the city to help it avoid a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.

If the state takes over, what might happen to Detroit?

  • Travel down the road to financial credibility.  The city’s current credit rating is abysmal (two months ago Moody’s again downgraded Detroit’s credit rating) and needs to improve drastically if it is going to be able to conduct business.  Detroit over the past ten years has spent one billion dollars more than it has taken in.
  • Cut even deeper into its services.  This painful topic is certain to become part of the state’s financial management.  Unions and city employees will resist, residents will suffer.  But there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.deserted Detroit
  • Deal with the reality of a smaller city.  Detroit now is a third of the size of 1950 Detroit.   A quarter of a million people have left since 2000 and by some estimates a thousand continue to leave each month.
  • Unexpected help appears …

Pastor Harvey Carey believes that Detroit churches now have an opportunity to be of real help to their city.

This weekend I heard Pastor Carey of Detroit’s Citadel of Faith Covenant Church say this several times.  His read of Detroit’s situation is that things are not going to get better if the city is depending on the resources of its government.  This is now a time for God’s people to step up to the need of Detroit.

There was a time like this when another great city declined and fell.  And when those days came it was God’s people which stepped up.  A reluctant church leader named Gregory stepped up to the needs of a city unable to deal with violence, an epidemic, care of its poor.

Gregory by default became acting leader of the city.  He restored its public safety, established food distribution, rebuilt the city’s aqueducts and defenses.

AD 590.  Rome.  Pope Gregory I.  Gregory the GreatGregory the Great

Gregory was reluctant  to accept.  Lead a crumbling city?  After his unwilling election Gregory (if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve) wrote the emperor in Constantinople requesting that his appointment not be confirmed.  His letter was intercepted.  So he became bishop of Rome and served his city well.

Detroit and many other American cities need servant-leaders willing to serve their city well. Even men William Boothand women who are reluctant, uncertain.  Pastor Carey told us to stop whining.  Just go.  And, recalling the words of William Booth, do something.

The Salvation Army prides itself on doing the most good.  Here is a dissenting view reported by the Kansas City Star.

It is a type of view we are hearing more and more of these days.  I believe that from a community development perspective it has merit.  Bob Lupton’s Toxic Charity is rightfully challenging a number of Salvation Army leaders to a new macro-perspective of charity.  This is a good healthy challenge.

However, several years ago at a CCDA conference I listened to Dr. John Perkins temper any criticism of offering a cold drink in the name of Jesus by publicly affirming what the Army does.  He said unambiguously that there also is merit in the Army’s direct service.  charity condemned

There is one aspect critics are missing.  When all is said and done, when we have practiced theoretical correctness with this latest new discovery on how to do urban ministry. there yet remain individuals who do not respond at the time or in the situation to the effort and resources we invest in a community development approach.  We have failed.  But they are still hungry, cold, without a friend.  And often threatened by worse, in danger.

Does a person need to develop a friend-capacity before we befriend them?  Ridiculous.  The grace of God extended through the action of his people, just as God extended himself through his Son sent into and given to the world, gives opportunity for response, to receive.  So it is with home, food, warmth.  Personal safety.  There are times and they are more frequent than we like to think so when we simply have to offer a cold drink, clothing, a jail visit.  Community development is effective but it has its limits as to what can be done just as there are limits to offering direct service to meet human needs. 

What it comes down to is this.  It isn’t a matter of either community development or direct service.  It is a matter of knowing when to engage in one or the other.  We need to ask after rendering direct service whether we can do something about the causes of that need we’ve just met.  And quite often before we begin to develop a community there are hungry, homeless, friendless people who need food, shelter and God’s people. condemned 3

Dr. Perkins uses the illustration of pulling people out of the river as they float downstream, saving them from drowning.  Then we ask ‘what’s going on upstream?’  Community development is going upstream to find out why they are ending up in the stream, and doing something about it. 

We help when people are in a situation of need.  And we need to help people find ways to avert those situations. 

So, is it direct service or community development? 


charity condemned 2

Dear Salvation Army,

As we do the most good are we making the least difference?

We give away more toys, food, nights of lodging than the guy next door in America’s vast neighborhood of charitable organizations.  Overhead?  Fortune magazine commends us on our slim margin of cost; business people understand us.  Doing the most good.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But what difference are we making?

What we do, and we are good at it, is to keep doing what we’ve done before.  And that’s okay, as long as the world doesn’t change.

We have been trained to think in terms of service.  We can give someone daily bread or a night’s lodging.  We don’t think in terms of service that makes a difference.

Now in our busiest season, it’s likely next month’s reports will show Salvation Army has done more good than previous years.  We are tuned, wired to give away more, not less.  We are wired to ask the American public for more and we believe that the best way to steward it, be accountable for it, is by doing more.  Giving more.

kettleDr. John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, likes to share this illustration.  He describes a river from which we are pulling drowning people as they float past us.  Then we have a flash of insight:  how are these people ending up in the river?  Go up stream to find out and do then something about that.drowning

Dr. Perkins says we can and we need to find out why people are drowning, hungry, without a home, without a safe neighborhood, credible schools, access to health care.

We need to find out why when you look at people and they look at you, you see eyes with dying hope, little faith, great pain.  We can see life fading.  Death near.  That is why we need to present the gospel, in word and in action.

So, a choice.  Do the most good?  Or do we make a difference?

Here’s my post on Bob Lupton’s presentation two years ago in Toronto on this subject.

Our Territorial Social Services Conference held just outside of Chicago ended yesterday afternoon.

I met Jan Nowak-Lumm from our Niles MI Corps.  Jan directs the corps’ caring ministries and social services.  The Niles Corps is where Soldiers and the community work together weekly to provide school children with food filled backpacks sent home so they don’t go hungry over the weekend.  It’s a great way to meet a need which brings people together.  And engages Salvation Army Soldiers in what we claim we do.  How many corps do Soldiers merely attend church?

In the Christian community development roundtable I heard ‘creative’ and ‘imagination’ used a lot.  Imagination in the sense of using it to find ways to meet those very human needs.  Creative in making do with what we have, a common experience we all have faced.  There never seems to be enough. Creativity and imagination bring us a surprising discovery as we see those we tend to discount step forward as agents of change.  Our under-resourced communities do have assets.  The question is whether we are helping them to emerge and engage.

The Conference ended with Wayne Gordon talking to us.  ‘Coach’ serves as the President of the Christian Community Development Association.  If you come to Indianapolis this October you will get to hear Coach along with John Perkins, Bob Lupton, Mary Nelson and many others involved in this association of organizations and churches committed to working to bring change to under-resourced neighborhoods.

Coach told us a story from his early years of ministry in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, a place he, his wife and children have called home for 35 years.

There was a problem in the neighborhood.  People were afraid to use the laundromat down the street; there was too much gang trouble out in front.  Several young men in Coach’s Bible study suggested they get a washing machine and dryer, put it in the storefront building they used for church, offer a safe alternative.

Coach confessed to us that this was not something he wanted to get involved with.  In fact it took the faith and persistence of those young guys to overcome Coach’s lack of faith.  You can read the story in Wayne Gordon’s new book Who Is My Neighbor?

Another insight Coach received from the Lawndale young adults was a new understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  His young people in Lawndale realized that if Jesus challenges us to care for our neighbor (“Who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29), then it also matters that we care for the place where that neighbor lives:  the neighborhood.  What about our neighborhood?  That, Coach explained, is Christian community development.

What about the neighborhoods our corps buildings are located?  How connected and engaged are we with the needs and problems on the block, at the school, in the community?  Or do we merely pass by, on the other side?  Do we notice that children also get hungry Friday night through Monday morning?  And that men and women living in the same community only need their hearts to be touched with this realization to step forward with volunteer hours and dollars?

When it’s good, the Salvation Army brings such diverse needs and people together.  At our most imaginative and creative, it is us.

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