People To God
Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus said that the essence of Christianity could be summed up in two inseparable commandments: Love God, and love thy neighbor. (Mt 22:37-39) First, Christian Community Development is concerned with reconciling people to God and bringing them into a church fellowship where they can be discipled in their faith.
Evangelism is very much a part of Christian Community Development. It is recognized that the answer is not just a job or a decent place to live but having a true relationship with Jesus Christ. It is essential that the good news of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and that individuals place their faith in Christ for salvation. Christian discipleship is very much a part of this philosophy.
The gospel, rightly understood, is wholistic. It responds to people as whole people; it does not single out just spiritual or just physical needs and speak to those. Christian Community Development begins with people transformed by the love of God, who then respond to God’s call to share the gospel with others through evangelism, social action, economic development, and justice.
People To People
The most segregated time of the week in our nation is Sunday morning during church services. American churches rarely are integrated and weaken the gospel because of this practice. Christians pray in the model prayer that the Lord taught: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Mt 6:9 Churches should reflect heaven on earth, and heaven will be the most integrated place in the world. People of every nation and every tongue will worship Christ together. This is the picture of the church Christ presents to his people.
The question is: Can a gospel that reconciles people to God without reconciling people to people be the true gospel of Jesus Christ? A person’s love for Christ should break down every racial, ethnic and economic barrier. As Christians come together to solve the problems of their community, the great challenge is to partner and witness together across these barriers in order to demonstrate our oneness in Christ. Christian Community Development recognizes that the task of loving the poor is shared by the entire body of Christ: rich and poor; urban and suburban; educated and uneducated. While the Bible transcends culture and race, the church is still having a hard time with living out the reality of our unity in Christ. Christian Community Development is intentional about reconciliation and works hard to bring people of all races and cultures into the one worshipping body of Christ.
This comes not so much through a program but through a commitment to living together in the same neighborhood. This is why relocation is so important and how each of the other principles builds upon it.
This is where what Dr. John Perkins calls the felt-need concept can be so helpful for individuals seeking to establish authentic cross-cultural relationships in under-resourced neighborhoods. In order to build trust with people who may be suspicious about our motives for being in the ‘hood’ because of negative past experiences, stereotypes, or ignorance, we must begin by getting to know people right where they are. As we listen to their stories and get to know their hopes and concerns for the present and future, we also begin to identify one another’s deepest felt-needs; those hurts and longings that allows us opportunities to connect with people on a deeper level, which is always necessary for true reconciliation to take place.
The power of authentic reconciliation between us and God, and between people of every culture and race is an essential component of effective ministry in our hurting world.