I am afforded a great privilege in my role as CEO of CCDA. I have the opportunity to attend many evangelical events all over the country on a yearly basis. This year, after our New Orleans Cultivate conference, I can say with more conviction than ever, that CCDA is a unique place. We are unique in that we place the margins at the center of our mission. We lift up a theological perspective that is being formed in the margins of our world.
We lift up many voices that may not be heard in other places because they are relatively unknown and are neither vetted nor academically accomplished. We are more of a family reunion than a polished collection of the most inspirational speakers and presenters we can find.
“This year, after our New Orleans Cultivate conference, I can say with more conviction than ever, that CCDA is a unique place.”
Starting with our inspirational leader, Dr. John Perkins who earned his degrees and accolades by returning to the margins that painfully forged his life’s work and philosophy, CCDA is a place where unlikely leaders can emerge.
It’s unlikely that a Mexican-American leader, who was raised along the US-Mexico border, should be leading CCDA. It’s unlikely that a white guy like ‘Coach’ from Iowa would be a key example of how to live and minister in a mostly African-American community to thousands of our members. It’s unlikely that Leroy, a poor kid from Philadelphia would not only be leading a worldwide missions organization but would serve as the chairman of our board. It’s unlikely that many of the voices heard at this year’s conference, who while not on the A-list of the evangelical speakers circuit, but who are exceptional leaders in their communities, would be the ones to challenge us so boldly, to embrace the work of cultivating unlikely leaders from our communities who might otherwise be overlooked. Thanks Michelle Alexander, Lisa Trevino Cummins, Juanita Irizarry, Leroy Barber, Troy Jackson, Antoine Bennett, Kathy Dudley, Jin Kim, Father Greg Boyle, Lorena Gonzalez, Cliff Nellis, Oscar Brown, Wayne “Coach” Gordon, Nilwona Nowlin, Robert Burnside, Robert Guerrero, John Perkins, Daniel Harris, Soong-Chan Rah, Donald Coleman, Angela Sedeno, Barbara Williams-Skinner, Lina Thompson, Ruben Torres-Fuentes, Laura Truax, Sarah Waters, Matthew Watts, Nate Ledbetter and Brian Hicks for letting God use you so powerfully!
Like Jesus, who was constantly inviting the poor, the leper, the sinner, and the marginalized to join his band of followers to help Him change the world, beginning with most vulnerable of society, we are committed to doing the same thing through CCDA.
“…because of the barrier-busting power of the Gospel, those on the margins and those in the mainstream can come together in Christ to forge a new reality.”
One of the more uncomfortable realities of putting such a strong focus on the unlikely community leaders, is that the men and women who are drawn to the work of CCD who are not minorities, or economically poor, ironically, might feel marginalized. My difficult message to you is that there may always be tension in your work in vulnerable communities as you steward and even temper the power and privilege afforded to you, mostly because of race or class. The good news is that because of the barrier-busting power of the Gospel, those on the margins and those in the mainstream can come together in Christ to forge a new reality. We can live and work together to restore the most vulnerable neighborhoods in our world for the glory of God. This partnership must be rooted in love, humility, and respect, which only Christ can make possible.
In fact, this may be the most unlikely consequence of all: to experience the possibility of the Beloved Community in the midst of a broken and divided world, with those who have been redeemed and deemed unlikely leading the way!