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Organizing the Church

My involvement with the Occupy movement this year has given me a lot of insight into the way groups of people unite around a common set of concerns. In my work with Occupy Our Homes, I have seen the power that can be unleashed when a small group of people focus their passion to work together for justice. And in recent months I have spent time studying and testing models of community organizing that could forge our organization into a more effective instrument of empowerment for the 99%.

As I have begun to explore the practice of community organizing, a whole new world has opened up for me. I am particularly inspired by the pioneering strategic philosophy of Saul Alinsky and his successors. While by no means do I agree with the whole of Alinsky’s ideology (especially his abysmally cynical view of human nature), I know in my gut that his model, which has been refined and enriched by successive generations of organizers, is of great value. I feel the need to integrate the wisdom of this tradition into my own life and work.
This will involve integrating my “religious” concern as a gospel minister and my “social” concern as a budding organizer for economic justice. Looking to Jesus, I see that his “spiritual” mission was never separated from his “social” mission. Spiritual liberty and material emancipation from social and economic bondage have always been two sides of the same coin. I serve the Savior who brings not merely an invisible, “spiritual” rebirth, but a genuine refashioning of the whole human community. As Jesus revealed when he was nailed to a cross for sedition against the Roman state, the gospel is dangerously practical!
Is my own faith similarly practical? Does the life of my community reveal the messianic Kingdom of Jesus – the visible, redeemed network of social relationships that God created us for? Does the life of the Church bear witness to the wholeness, justice, mercy and love of the God of Isaiah?

As a Christian in the United States, these questions challenge me. I see how many of our Christian communities have far too little to do with the living power of Jesus’ gospel. So often, we fail to combine the inward work of spiritual transformation with the outward labor of making the Kingdom of God visible.

Rather than dividing the work of spiritual transformation and social justice between religious and secular institutions, how could we embody the dynamic inward/outward tension that Jesus demonstrates? What might the practice of community organizing teach us about building healthy congregations that exist to serve our neighbors?
  • A couple of things you are free to ignore but need to be pointed out.

    With all respect, but in sincerity and truth, as all know you are part of the Society of Friends, please do not claim to be in “gospel ministry” in that context on the blog any more…while most of us understand that all believers indeed are a priesthood, and minister to others, in the Society we do have a defined recognition of that before one casually puts that in a blog….

    Also, do scriptures state that Jesus was crucified by the Romans for sedition against Rome??? That is what you said. It is not true to scriptures in any way. He claimed to be the Son of God and the Living Christ Messiah, equal with God, which the Jews in power saw as blasphemy and sent him on to the Romans to be killed because they wished it. Prophesy thus fulfilled. The Jews were not killers of Jesus but they did what sinful human nature would do….the local leader of Romans even tried to convince them not to yell “crucify him”….so correct that please…

    The Jesus of Nazareth who said ” the poor you will have with you always”, loved the poor, but not because they were poor and oppressed. He loved Nicodemus and the rich young ruler. People rich and poor needed him equally….He didn’t entice to class envy…He brought true peace and community and justice if we followed Him.

    Don’t mix up social causes and a bent for anarchy with the gospel…”The Spirit of the Lord” was upon Him to open prison doors and set captives free, make blind see, lame to walk, preach to poor (society’s uncared-for)
    …it was not a gospel of liberation theology…it was a gospel of liberation from sin which soves all human’s problems…poor sin like middle class like rich like everyone…we all need Him…