Friday, May 8, 2009

Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life

Our youth group is heading to New Orleans for a week long missions project for the second year in a row. One of the books they suggested is Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life by Robert Lupton. I’m also trying to start a small group to minister to the area of our city that is a little more financially challenged – people living in motels, etc… Hearing this is a good book, I was eager to read it and think about how we can best reach a community in need. I was not disappointed. The book is brief enough that it is a quick read for anyone – so I won’t give too much away, but I’ll hit some basic principles that I found compelling and that challenged my thinking on how to minister to the poor – as a church in general and in our community.

His basic goal was community development, not serving the poor. The goal is to get those who have been marginalized and beat down to being full functioning members of their community, caring for their community, taking pride in it, and seeing it transformed. This doesn’t come with free services in and of themselves. It comes by reminding people they have something to offer, something valuable to give. It gives them dignity and creates what they need to restore their communities.

I have often thought about a coffee shop (or something like it) in conjunction with a ministry in downtown LA we work with. It could get people who are doing well (lots of people struggling with addictions down there) out of a bad environment, give them job training, etc… Lupton rebukes that idea. Taking thriving people out of a hard environment only makes that environment worse. God has called the church to care for the poor as brothers and sisters, not to drop in and serve to feel good. That means we’re called to transform communities in a way that leads to the best possible change for God’s glory – and this will take much more than clergy. It takes all kinds of businessmen using their gifts and talents to see God’s glory transform communities.

I’ll probably get mushy on some of the details if I keep going, but it is small enough that it will be easy to scan again as need arises. I highly recommend it. In fact, I have a handful of friends who are good businessmen and/or have a heart for the poor that I’m going to buy one for. Lupton’s book may not be the most in-depth analysis, but I thought it was great for a novice in this area like myself. I’m sure there are others like me who could benefit from it.

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