COmmunity Development

 “…a grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the news triggered fresh confrontations between protesters and police in the tense Missouri city.” CNN

My reflections this morning begin with this excerpt from a CNN new article.  There are so many emotions right now that this is not a definitive response but an attempt to organize all of the thoughts.

  1. I pray for the Brown family because they are reliving the grief of losing their son. “Earth has no sorry that heaven cannot heal” is true but when you repeatedly tear the scab off the healing is delayed.  I pray that the family can experience peace.
  2. The brokenness of humanity is evident in every aspect of this situation. As a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ I am fully persuaded that as believers we have failed Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson, Jay Nixon, Benjamin Crump the violent rioters, the grand jury and the people live in the area. Too many churches are not teaching that we live by God’s grace, we are saved by God’s Grace and we move toward sanctification by Grace which begins with following Jesus.
  3. Everyone’s life matters. This situation highlights and promotes the systematic devaluation of the lives of young poor black men in the justice system in America. From Florida to Cleveland to Baltimore to Missouri there is no accountability for the killing of young poor black men. There are also is no major movements of men mentoring poor young boys, teaching entrepreneurship, championing academic achievement and involving ourselves in such a way that the masses of poor youth experience the world beyond their community in a significant way.
  4. I am in support of an economic boycott. It must be focused on companies with significant influence and power within the St. Louis area.
  • Emerson Electric
  • Express Scripts
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Walmart
  • Monsanto
  • Charter Communications
  • A..G. Edwards
  • Boeing
  • Build –a- Bear

Walmart, Monsanto, A.G. Edwards and Charter Communications can be targeted nationwide but will require unbelievable numbers of people to participate to make a difference.

I am angry at the failure of our justice system and the racism that is still evident in America. I am profoundly frustrated with the violence perpetrated by a few as a result of the decision. I am disappointed that the African American community is more reactive than proactive at addressing the conditions of the poor.  I read somewhere (and I don’t have the reference this morning) that for every middle class AA there are five still living below the poverty line.  With this being said our middle class, educated, socially upwardly mobile, DuBois framed talented tenth have fallen short and ignored their responsibility to empower the poor.

As I said this is not the definitive response but an opportunity for me to organize my thoughts for an appropriate response.

Psalm 136

God’s Work in Creation and in History

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Blame by Samuel Jackson

This is a powerful clip that addresses handgun crimes.  It challenges each person to take responsibility.  Stop the blame game.  If you want to change the conditions in your community you have to be a part of the solution.

I want to thank everyone for attending yesterday.  Here are a few of the resources that I shared with you yesterday. 

Email Marketing Power Point

Shalom Fund Raising Power Point

Grant and Scholarship Opportunities in the UMC


Non-profit Fundraising Blog

Top Five Reasons Dropouts Identify as Major Factors For Leaving School

  Classes were not interesting                                                47%

 Missed too many days and could not catch up                    43%

 Spent time with people who were not interested in school               42%

 Had too much freedom and not enough rules in my life                    38%

 Was failing in school                         35%

The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts


Urban Ministry comes with some unique challenges.  Many of the systemic urban challenges include multiple areas of disparities that cripple and debilitate the community.  Drug addiction, lack of access to healthcare, economic, job, income and education disparities all impact most urban areas.  I believe education disparities are the biggest challenge that urban ministries can tackle and win with collaboration between the school systems and other churches.

The number of suburban churches who have retired professionals, entrepreneurs with flexible schedules and families who can embrace and model the value of education is simply incredible.  If these churches with their vast resources actually saw the benefit of strengthening the educational infrastructure for society as a whole, we could see a reversal in the drop out trends within a decade.

Urban churches have the facilities and the networks inside the community to develop effective programs.  The question has been asked why should churches and ministries get involved?  Because we not only teach character and moral values but we also live the values that we want our young people to have.  This is the best opportunity to disciple youth where there are that I know of in an urban context.

To be a 21st Century missional, emergent, disciple focused ministry  challenges us to see opportunities to reach people for Christ outside of our own cultural context.  It also demands partnering with other ministries who have spiritual, cultural, financial and community engagement strengths that will compliment our ministry.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have recieved, and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” –

Mother Teresa

Last week I went to pick up some wings from a restaurant that was recommended to me.  The experience that I had has challenged, frustrated and angered me. The strip mall was not far from our church but I had only passed the many shops.  I had never engaged the people who worked and hung out in that row of nail salons, beauty shops, delicatessens and restaurants.

 I experienced men who were unemployed whose conversations were filled with hopelessness and despair.  I found shops owned by foreigners who were not involved in the community but sucked the economic viability out of the community.  The convenience store had every brand of cigarette, bags of loose tobacco, bakery goods, candy and chips.  The coolers in the front of the store had soda and ice cream.  I had to go to the back of the store to find water, milk and I saw no fruit, eggs or other staples.

 I walked the entire length of the mall to experience one African American owned business, one organization that was empowering the community or one business that was supporting community initiatives to change the sense of hopelessness and despair.  Besides the beauty and barber shops I found nothing.

 I am overwhelmed right now with the apathy of the people in the community who are enlightened and many times empowered to make a difference and usher in change.

There are more churches involved in building campaigns to build bigger buildings than there are churches engaged in addressing domestic violence, drugs, poverty and homelessness.

 Where is the outrage?  Where is the talented tenth?  Where are the churches who care about the lost, the left out, the marginalized and the oppressed? Where are the pastors who can collectively call the members of city council, county government, state legislators and others who are accountable to the public into a room and challenge the status quo and lack of services to the people on the edge?

 I hear the voices of those who do not live confined by these circumstances.  They speak of being busy with commuting, busy with family and not willing to risk their safety for people who are not aware that they need help.  I hear the voices of the suburb dwellers not wanting to expose their families to danger, wanting a better education for their children and explaining on the pain they experience when they remember their family members still in these communities.

 There is nothing new in this reflection except for the salt thrown into a reopened wound.  The distress of feeling powerless to change the conditions and the apathy of the community to accept the conditions that oppresses them.  It still hurts. AM I arrogant to presume that I am a part of the talented tenth? Are the writings of Dubois relevant in the 21st Century? Will there always be an oppressed class of people in the US? It is too early in the morning to answer these deep questions so I will move quickly to get my first cup of coffee for the morning.


Nehemiah 1

1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

5 Then I said: 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Nehemiah is my favorite church revitalization pastor in the Bible. There are so many lessons that we learn which are vital to our ministry of restoration, renewal, revival and revitalization. Many times in our rush to explain the exciting parts of the text we overlook some subtle lessons. I have been reading this text a lot in my devotions and wanted to share a few of the observations.

Nehemiah was well connected in his relationship to people – He knew people who would share vital information. People who had a common passion Revitalization pastors who do not have connections in the community will need to develop them. Knowing the community communications networks are just as important as knowing the church communications networks. Knowing the right people in the community is important. I have the theory that when you are called or appointed to a church you are also called and appointed to the community. As a revitalization pastor this is important to keep in mind.

Nehemiah was a man who was not afraid to show his emotions – Nehemiah’s grief was expressed in weeping. The pain that he felt because of the burned walls and those who were exiled caused him to weep. He was in touch with his emotions. It is hard to achieve spiritual intimacy with God or emotional intimacy with your spouse if your emotions are locked up in a jar. I am not asking you to carry your emotions on your shoulders but to be real and honest with yourself and those around you about your emotions.

Nehemiah knew to turn to God when he was hurting – Revitalization pastors should have regular times of fasting and prayer above and beyond your expectations for your congregation. Especially in crisis. Disruption, confusion, conflict and tension are normal within the life a revitalizing church but it is also a sign that you need more time to pray. You can not have a dialogue with God and hear an answer if the conversation never begins.

Nehemiah took the initiative to pray for the answer rather than developing a solution and asking God to bless the solution – Revitalization pastors will spend many days putting out fires. Plans will not work out, funding may not be available, people may not join in sharing the ministry because it is so difficult. Pray about the situation and wait for God’s answer. The answer may not come at the speed of email but if you are long suffering patience will not be a problem.

Nehemiah’s prayer expressed the concern for the people and not about his agenda for the people – Nehemiah actually prayed with no self serving agenda. Instead of asking God to bless him with a solution Nehemiah prayed for a solution and God uniquely gifted him to be able to fulfill his destiny and purpose. The role of a revitalization pastor is to pray for the deepest needs of the people to be met, not your own. New Believer’s 101 is really a foundational message. God loves you and will take care of you. Since God is taking care of me most of my time should be praying for the needs of the people in the congregation and the community.

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