Saturday, July 19, 2008

What creates "radicals"?

We had another break in this week about 5:30am.  
As the governor noted publicly yesterday, over the past 2 weeks we’ve had almost 1 child per day killed in the city.  On Tuesday our BB team was on a public bus and someone screamed “get out, he has a knife” and half the bus emptied. . . .  Then this morning our building was burglarized again — for about the 6th or 7th time
 this year.  

While there has been a lot of violence city wide, we are fortunate to have experienced relatively minor damage (a few broken windows, some missing TV’s and a computer, a few somewhat alarmed teens).  Each week when we have missions teams teams here we wrestle with what Luke 6:30 really means.

“give to whomever begs from you, and for the one who takes away your goods, do not demand them back. . .  . .love your enemy”.    

Over the past several months I have been wondering about how Christians that work in distressed urban contexts become “radicals”.  When the names and words of people like Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger break out into the open they appear to be nuts to the “average” American.  

Crazy. Radicals.  

Now I am not trying to equate what we do with them but just want to make these three observations:  
1. The people in their communities love them.  
2. These radicals are seriously moved by the word of God.  
3. They don’t look that crazy from here.  

Further, I think that if the “average” American Christian heard the conversations that go on at CCDA and other gatherings of Christians who work in urban contexts they would be perceived as “radical”.  My own pastor, who is regularly heard on mainstream Christian radio, uses different terminology and descriptions when preaching in our church than when he is invited to preach at places like Bible colleges.   Christians in the developing world are also notoriously perceived as radical in their faith by US evangelicals.  

So what is it that creates these radicals?  Is it the context of injustice, violence and marginalization?  Perhaps.  But more than that I think it is the word of God.  If you give the words of Christ to people in desperate settings. . . The word radicalizes.  Common sense would never suggest always giving to beggars, letting the thief get away, or staying even temporarily in harms way — let alone loving those who hate you.  

These are challenging lessons requiring patient reflection, prayer, faith in God, and even a sense of humor.  Please pray that we’d have all of these.  Thanks for standing with me as we seek the renewal of the city through the power of the gospel preached and lived out. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the value of outsiders

I have had a bunch of conversations lately about the role of outsiders in marginalized communities.  

The assumption is that outsiders -- white, suburban, christians (WSC)-- want to be involved in the urban context.  They want to give of their time and money effectively and, of course, not be disrespected in the process.  

But often, insiders -- urban Christians of all hues (UC)-- feel disrespected along the way.  They feel that the WSCs are not actually giving freely, that they are not giving without strings attached or hidden agendas.  Additionally, the UCs feel that the WSCs give out of such imperiled motives and limited (privileged) perspectives that they do more harm than good.  I just spoke with a pastor who all but told me he wants his supporters to give money but stay away -- they'll screw things up if they are around too long.  And he is just more honest than MANY I know who wish they had the freedom (luxury, privilege, power) to say the same thing.  

This is why we started Bridge Builders.  We expect that the giving in the body of Christ must be two-way to be genuine.  When we have missions teams here, we literally try to give them more than they give (they probably don't always perceive it this way).  We want them to be able to give financially and of their time directly and effectively.  

Here is the reality:  we need them (everyone see this) and they need us (really?  how? few see this). 

Given that it is our assumption that the need goes both ways, we want to figure out what it means to genuinely equip our donors in terms of personal connections.  We want them to visit, to learn, to see and of course to support the ministry financially.  We want them to enter into the joy of ministry of which they are really a part, in a way that affirms all involved.  We want them to receive, not just to give.  

I am entering into a new challenge at Sunshine -- over the next three years to raise 1000 monthly donors averaging $50/month.  As I do this I am seriously trying to figure out how we invite these donors into a sort of covenantal relationship with our community.  My hope is that we as a ministry, as an urban community, can give back to the donors, and give well.  

So my question is this:  What is the value of the outsider beyond money?  How does someone in an urban context honor and minister in return without exploiting those here in the community?  What are the unrealistic expectations of the outsider?  How can those expectations be responded to from a ministry standpoint?