Tag Archives: CCDA

A Tale Of Two Leaders

In August of 1998 a young intern walked into the office of the president of Circle Urban Ministries of Chicago and let him have it.  It was a week or so into his internship and he did not feel he was getting his money’s worth.  “I’ve uprooted my life and drug my family 300 miles for this!?!” was his mindset that particular day and he really didn’t care who knew.   At some point in the rant he shared “I’ve seen you at Promisekeepers, and I know you are a big wig in the denomination, but I’m not impressed with you national guys.  You’ve got the same Holy Spirit I got!”   It was one of many rants that president would have to endure over the next 13 years from the young man.

The young man was in a stage in life where he attacked viciously anybody he felt who had a superficial understanding of faith.  He had good reason to do so.  He was coming off an intense episode of “church abuse” where for 3 years he and his wife served their heart out for a leader, only to realize said leader was manipulating them for his own personal gain.  When it became apparent the manipulation no longer could happen, the young leader was slandered throughout his hometown.  The intern’s former boss actively tried to destroy the young man’s ministry career.  It was an attack of narcissism to the Nth degree.

So now it was on – with everybody in established leadership.  The young leader was wounded, and like a wounded animal his major mode of engagement was attack.  He perceived established leaders to have no deep commitment to change the racial and social class status quo, and believed they possessed no deep thoughts.   They were only in ministry for the notoriety, he thought.   He saw Christian leaders (particularly nationally known ones) as having a colossal problem of possessing a faith not worth having.

At the end of the office rant the intern demanded more of the president’s time!   The president calmly said he would do what he could.  The intern said that wasn’t good enough.  “You need to meet with me because I’m worth it” the intern said, very arrogantly.  The president looked the intern dead in the eye and said “Ok.   We’ll see if you are as good as you think you are.”

The president helped the intern lick his church abuse wounds.  Over the next 2 years the young man learned from the president that faith meant a life lived in solidarity in Christ in all things, not a mental assent to the teachings of Jesus.  He learned to focus his ministry on productive good deeds for others, not trying to make a name for himself.

While other prominent leaders focused on Ephesians 2:8-9 and made an idol over the “not by works” phrase within the context of a myopic focus on heaven,  the president instilled in the intern that a right prayer prayed is not enough to go to heaven.  And while you are on earth waiting to go there, there is plenty of work to do.  He taught the young man never conclude from those verses that one didn’t have to do anything.  Just read the next verse.

When that intern left in 2000 the president kept his door open as the young man planted a church in Cincinnati based on the lessons he learned in Chicago.  The president worked tirelessly behind the scenes within his denomination to platform the former intern, having him serve on all kinds of boards the former intern shouldn’t have been on.  And when the young man predictably blew up board meetings the mentor cleaned up his messes quietly behind the scenes and instructed his former intern gently on how to handle things in the future.

Maybe the most important lesson the president taught his former intern was how to handle life when it comes undone. He gave him a theology of failure.   The former intern watched him handle one family and ministry crisis after another with grace, dignity, and truth.  The young man watched the president go through several dark nights of the soul and emerge with an even stronger faith.

The president for over 30 years held his denomination’s feet to the fire concerning reconciliation, compassion, and justice issues.  Most of the urban ministries within the denomination has a direct tie to Circle Urban.  He constantly agitated the national leadership to not contain all old white males, and to care for justice issues.  Over the years the leadership listened, first by hiring one of the president’s former staff.   They then hired another ethnic leader.   But the president was not satisfied.  “You need someone of color at the highest level.  You’re not serious until you do that” he told them.

So his denomination listened to the president, who in 2007 recommended they hire the young man who in 1998 had called him a shallow national leader.  The young leader is not so young anymore and to the core of his soul realizes that he stands on the president’s shoulders.  And he is eternally grateful.

I have met many Christians over the course of my life.  Sadly, I’d say half of them have a shallow faith totally centered on escaping judgement.  In other words they just want their fire insurance, or they see God as an ecclesiastical genie in a lamp to rub in the midst of a crisis.   Maybe only 5% of the Christians I know I would honestly say I have modeled my life after. These are people who have a genuine faith worth having and have shared that faith generously.  At the top of the list is Glen Kehrein, former president of Circle Urban Ministries and present resident of heaven.

Thanks Glen Kehrein for the gift of you.   You will be greatly missed.

I Love You CCDA, But We Gotta Talk

Now let me start off with a word of ignorance: I haven’t been around that long when it comes to Christian Community Development Association. I’ve been to the last three national conferences, been a part of a workshop panel, presented a workshop myself, worked a booth there, and been a part of a couple of soirees in the various cities. But yeah I admit it, I’ve only been to three. And let me also say that I “get” it. I like it and I admire it and I want more of it, but I gotta come clean, I do have a little beef with CCDA. I’m not a hater, but I got a few issues.

First off, I admire John Perkins and think he’s a great and godly man, but from the first year I showed up at national conference, I sensed a strong push to mythologize the man and his legacy. It sounded slightly cultish in the beginning and still feels weird when Coach talks about John Perkins the boy who vowed to love his White bullies and when others talk about his story as part of their own plenary talks – John Perkins this and John Perkins that. (Ironically, Perkins doesn’t talk about himself that much, but everyone around him seems to be rehearsing eulogies already).  Now I understand he’s important and integral to the Christian understanding of community development, particularly in evangelical circles. I get that he survived the Civil Rights movement and he’s from Mississippi, I get that, but the projection of the man for some reason makes me feel as though we are forgetting a whole host of other people who have given their lives for the work of reconciliation. We need not make a cult of Perkins just because there is this warped reflex in American culture to plaster someone’s face on a movement and to push the man into the realm of myth. This is dangerous to the movement in my point of view. Mythology about work that is profoundly incarnational and incapable of commodification makes the myth itself (and the object of that myth) a commodity. In other words, John Perkins the man and legend, becomes an idol, whom we all adore but rarely seek to aspire – similar to a Mother Teresa. We make them saints so we can remain pedestrians. Instead of being a path for practitioners to walk through, the myth becomes a sort of ceiling. Granted, I know that much of the ado about Perkins was because he was stepping down from responsibilities and intentionally lowering his profile, but as believers, I think we aren’t doing the movement any favors by wearing Perkins’ visage on our t-shirts and writing premature hagiographies. JP ain’t no JC, I know he knows that but do we?

Second, for as much diversity as the CCDA national conference has, which is awesome by the way. I’m still surprised by the fact that as long as the conference has been running, I only see the tips of the ethnic icebergs. What I mean by that is I feel like the minorities or even the majority represented there are in some cases the “early adopters” (to borrow language from the tech world). You say, of course, these are the people at the front lines of community development! But I say, this is a movement about 30 years old and it’s still only speaking to the periphery of ethnic consciousness? At some point, and maybe we’re getting close to that tipping point, if the tail is really substantive in what it is claiming, it begins to wag the dog. But I don’t see that yet. I don’t see people who are staunchly entrenched in Black identity (for instance, Jeremiah Wright’s crowd) being swayed by CCDA folk. And one of my personal heroes, Soong Chan Rah, I love the man and what he has to say, but he isn’t quite speaking from the heart of Asian American Christianity. Oh no, this is where the fragmentation of even American Christendom renders the potential influence of something like CCDA marginal or ineffective because while I believe in the groundswell of young, socially aware evangelicals, we have yet to really move the needle in our own communities. Which means to me that Christians talk big when no one else is around, but we don’t have as much impact as we dream of having when it comes to diversity as a whole.

Now I know I sound like a hater, but I’m not. These are just the impressions of a relative neophyte. I stand to be corrected, but hear me out. I love CCDA. I rep CCDA. I just gotta get it off my chest.

In terms of solutions, I would like to see John Perkins’ myth be more open to imitation as opposed to flattery. I know that’s hard to convey at the national conference level. Obviously, Perkins arguably is to CCDA what Steve Jobs has been to Apple, but that succession, that formation needs to happen and be more apparent soon. At the same time, there needs to be a deconstruction of Christian celebrity that runs counter to our culture’s bent to idolize him and even others like him. We need to somehow be able to platform failure and celebrate difficulty and pain with the same gusto as we platform success. We need to be able to see dysfunction and not look away — as Christ did with the woman at the well, as Christ did with Zaccheus; we need to stop looking at wonderful outcomes as always being caused by amazing people. Wonderful outcomes are caused by a wonderful God with ordinary, obedient, and faithful people. John Perkins is a giant in the faith, but God is fine with a John Doe too and CCDA needs express that sentiment, not just imply it. And then, we need to do some more soul-searching when it comes to tackling the subject of ethnic identity and its part in mission. The tension of black/white history in this country is still palpable and it brings power to the redemptive narrative that plays out in CCDA, but the various dimensions — Native American v. White; Asian American v. Black; Latino v. White. These dimensions need a more honest appraisal of how to shake the centers of solidarity within each ethnic enclave. I know that sounds ludicrous in a post-racial society and certainly race isn’t the only dimension, but it gives us a ready-made handle in which to approach communities without leaving the movement to some ethos of “random acts of kindness.” Intentional reconciliation should imply that we have a good grip on our self-awareness and identity. In other words, the more diverse a setting is, the more clear we have to be about what we are bringing to the table. CCDA has that potential but sometimes we are more about the work outside than the work inside. It’s natural of course, to work to meet the needs — but we also have to match our actions with reflection.

And The Winner Is…

At the CCDA 2011 National Conference in Indianapolis last week, we rolled out some new conference duds and instead of handing out cheap conference swag, we decided to give you folks who care about compassion, justice and reconciliation who took the time to visit us in our booth and subscribed to this blog a chance to win a new iPad2. That’s right, and since it’s coming out after the latest iOS5 updates, it will be a pretty nice addition to anyone’s technological palette. That’s how we roll here at Samaritan Way.

And for those of you who scoff at the notion that anyone with an iPad 2 could seriously embody the work of reconciliation, here are ten ways the iPad can help you do some good in the neighborhood.

  1. You can carry an entire library of resources in your hand with the Kindle app. I’d recommend John M. Perkins’ library for immediate download. 🙂
  2. Take notes of your neighborhood survey with the Evernote app. You can type or audio record them.
  3. Organize multiple schedules on the go with iCal.
  4. Calculate the interest payment of a loan with powerOne Financial Calculator app.
  5. You can take pictures with the built-in camera for your board or your newsletter.
  6. Then write that newsletter with Pages. Or use it to preach from. I’ve been saving paper this way.
  7. Present your pitch with Keynote to attract donors or to tell your stories.
  8. Accept credit card payments with the Square app.
  9. Extend your desktop monitor with the Splashtop app.
  10. Finally, invite the neighborhood kids to play Air Hockey with you. Trust me, they flock to this like nobody’s business and it gives you the chance to interact with them.
Well, we got a nice long list of names in Indianapolis last week and we have a winner!
Drum roll, please! Using the list of email addresses, numbering them, and then using the random number generator developed especially for raffles here, the winning number was 29, which was Walt McCall!
Of course, since you subscribed to this blog, you’ll probably read this from here, but we’ll be contacting you shortly to find out where to send your new iPad2!
Congratulations! And we do hope it helps you serve the Lord and others better. From Samaritan Way~

Don’t Forget to Represent!

CCDA 2011 Indianapolis was off the chain!

I’ve only been to three of these national conferences, but this one was the most enjoyable by far. Richard Twiss and Arthur Brooks were a couple of my favorite plenary speakers (you should definitely check them out!). Both of them literally had the entire audience of 3,000 breathless at some points in their talks. The focus of the conference was education, but because all the various aspects of society – family, economics, politics, church, and law – all play into the success of education, it didn’t feel myopic at all. What impressed me most however was the strong showing of women in CCD ministries. In comparison with other evangelical conferences that seek to build the body, CCDA is leagues ahead in attendance of women and minorities. It was absolutely refreshing to see that mix.

I was in particular awe of Arloa Sutter, whom I finally had the chance to meet and have lunch with; Jenny Yang, advocate at World Relief; and Dave Buehring, as my personal time with them was both refreshing and inspiring.

Also, I enjoyed a lunch with some fellow Asian Americans who were attending the CCDA conference, and though I love all my Asian brothers and sisters, I have to say I observed something unusual about the Asian Americans there. That is Latinos tended to represent Latino communities and African Americans generally represent African American needs; White folks tended to serve as bridge builders from White communities; but Asians…Asians tended to work in non-Asian environments. I thought it was a fascinating anecdote that many of us simply couldn’t connect Christian Community Development work with our own ethnic communities. What does that say about us? What does that say about our communities?

Just a question. But just wanted to ask what it means to represent ourselves.

I supposed I asked the question last year at CCDA, but I guess it struck me afresh this year.

Take a listen if you like and let me know what you think. Peace.