Synergy

On day two, we were visited by Gabriel Salguero of New York and Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners.

Salguero was a very engaging communicator and his wife was on stage to do simultaneous translation in Spanish. They made a hilarious duo. He told the story of his adolescent bully who would steal his lunch money and exhorted us to work together to take on the "grande, fuerte, feo" bullies of our day.

Wallis also encouraged us to synergize our efforts as the Body of Christ as we battle the injustice in our land. If our faith doesn't spill over and bring about change in society, then it's not revival, he said.

Perhaps the most challenging things that Wallis shared were the prayers of his two young boys, ages 6 and 11.

"Dear God. I want to pray for all of the hungry and homeless and sick people. Um....God...do you know there's a lot? Any comments or questions?"

"Dear Jesus. I want to pray for the 25,000 kids today who will die today from hunger and other stuff....Could you make that stop?....no that's dumb...Could you send people to help them all?...no that's dumb...God, Could you make this the best day they've ever had."


John Perkins

Each morning at the CCDA conference, we had the incredible opportunity to sit in on a study of 1 John with John Perkins. If you aren't familiar with this man, you need to be.

Perkins was a contemporary of MLK Jr. and fellow civil rights leader. He has lived in Mississippi for the better part of his 80 years on this earth, and suffered greatly at the hands of his Southern oppressors in the civil rights era. Along with his wife, Vera Mae, and their eight children, they stood firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ and persevered through difficult times, refusing to let hatred toward their white oppressors overtake them.

Perkins is the father of the CCDA and has been a champion for the marginalized and poor in our nation. His own mother needlessly died of malnutrition/starvation after his birth while they lived on a plantation. John said he couldn't imagine responding in another manner to his mother's death than to give himself to loving and serving the poor in the name of Jesus.

In addition to his firm faith in Christ and his courageous leadership with Christian community development in our nation and abroad, he is an engaging communicator who uses humor, honesty and southern charm freely and appropriately. He certainly didn't hold anything back on us!

I recorded countless soundbytes, humorous statements and prophetic words from this man during the week. I look forward to sharing them with you here; however, black and white print cannot capture the joy of sitting in on his preaching.

"We want community action that comes straight from Jesus and his Word."
"We've got to eat the Word and stop livin this hearsay, folklore Christianity. Stop livin' by reality (TV)."
"We can live a courageous life because death has been taken care of."
"[Christians today] don't have build into us what it takes to get hit 'n keep on goin'!"
After a fight one morning, his wife prepared a fabulous meal for him. "What Mama tryin' to do is get right without confession. Confession is just sayin what the other person already knows. So just come out and say it."
"When you walk in the world, your feet gettin' dirty. We need Jesus to wash us."
"We are all racist. We've each turned our racist way."
"Paul was the original Bin Laden and Jesus saved him."


Subversion

The five main sessions of the CCDA annual conference took us on a journey into five community development themes of Subversion, Synergy, Solidarity, Simplicity and Symphony.

Day One: Subversion

Our main speakers were Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, husband of the late Rev. Tom Skinner, and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Seminary.

How do we subvert the status quo? Can we imagine an alternative way of living out Jesus' kingdom values in a world that elevates the haves over the havenots and fear over hope?

Dr. Skinner was a powerful communicator and challenged us to mentor young people into the freedom we have in Christ, not fear. Freedom over fear.

Dr. Rah has studied and written extensively on the topic of the Next Evangelicalism. That's a fancy term for describing the movement of the global church. One hundred years ago, Europe and North America were the center of the Church. Today, the global South leads the way. Put simply: the Church is no longer "white", as the West has too long believed.

Dr. Rah challenged us to open our eyes to the present reality of the global multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Church. So, if this is true, he posed, then why are we beholden to an ecclesiology of the western "white" church? This is not a racist statement against Caucasians, but rather a wake-up call to see that God is turning the systems of the world upside down, the weak are surpassing the strong. "The white man" has held the power for centuries, but now the Gospel is empowering believers around the globe from every tribe and tongue. We have much to learn from our African or Brazilian or Indian brothers and sisters!

Focusing in on our own nation, Dr. Chah, told us to look around. We will soon be a nation of minorities, where the minorities will be the majority. How will we respond as the Body of Christ? If we want to work in the inner-city, and we are white and we have never had a non-white mentor, then we had better be careful, he cautioned.

Through the lens of the prophet Haggai, Dr. Chah encouraged us that the best thing we can "redistribute" (one of the three pillars of CCDA) to the broken heaps of rubble in our devastated inner-cities is Jesus, himself. Not another program. Jesus. He will bring beauty out of the rubble.

Tipping Points

I am confident that in the coming weeks and months, I will look back on this past week's CCDA annual conference in Cincinnati as a tipping point in my and Amber's life. It was absolutely incredible. Jam-packed? Yes. But, instrumental in our formation as members of the Body of Christ? Undoubtedly. And...it was so much fun! We were challenged and encouraged in countless ways. I look forward to reviewing the conference on this blog in the coming days.




Word of the Day: Reconciliation

I've spent a good amount of time thinking about reconciliation lately. The book we just read raised some good questions, so we have been wrestling with it in our Academy group discussions. And of course, we're encountering the challenges of reconciliation on the streets of Memphis, which has a history that we all know about.

But at the end of the day, this video sums it all up. :-)

The Three Rs

Currently, we are reading Restoring At Risk Communities for the Academy. It's more or less the official handbook of the Christian Community Development Association, a compilation of essays from various seasoned community developers.

We are all being really challenged by the thoughts expressed in this book. We're talking about painfully difficult ways of living as disciples of Jesus Christ that I would rather not think or hear about. These aren't lofty treatises for utopian societies, but instead Biblical, Gospel-centered practices that are being tried and tested by men and women in communities around the globe.

The content of this book - and ultimately the call to live incarnationally on earth as disciples of Christ - centers on the three "Rs" of Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution. We are being confronted by the difficulty of living this out in a city that is rich with segregation and self-protection.

In the posts to follow, I will share some of the inner conversation we are having here on these topics.