One of the first appointments we made after arriving in Dallas was with Larry James at Central Dallas Ministries. We desired to get to know what was going on in the city in terms of community service and development, and CDM is making a significant impact in those areas. We asked Larry how we might come alongside CDM and partner with them in community development.
He said a couple things that got my attention. The first was that not many churches ask that question. Most are concerned with volunteer opportunities for their members and avenues for evangelism among the poor. The second thing: he encouraged us to build relationships with our poor neighbors. Personal relationship would benefit both us and our neighbors more than any token volunteer hours could.
We met Chad and Marjorie Matthews several weeks ago. Chad was a youth pastor in east Texas for a few years. He recently quit his job and, after receiving an unexpected monetary gift, relocated with his wife to downtown Dallas. What do they do now? They hang out with the homeless every day. They take them out to lunch. They have them over for dinner. They offer chauffer services when someone needs a car to get around. They call what they do “I Love Evelyn,” the name of the first homeless woman they met in Dallas. Chad says with a gleam in his eye, “We just want to see what love can do.”
Porche and I recently went to eat lunch with Chad, Marjorie and their friend Wesley. Wesley is intelligent. He is a man of values. He is a man of integrity. He is a man of gratitude and humility. He is 67 years old and looks 47.
When Wesley learned that I was a “preacher”, he cautioned me not to be like other preachers who were in it for money or renown. When I asked him what counsel he would give me as a preacher he said, “When you get behind that pulpit, you better not half-step it; you better bring it all. Tell the truth.”
Wesley, by the way, doesn’t have a home right now. He sells newspapers on a downtown corner so he can make ends meet and save up for a new place.
A couple weeks ago I volunteered with a non-profit organization in town called SoupMobile. It is directed by a man named David Timothy, affectionately referred to as the Soup Man. Every week day he prepares lunches for the homeless in downtown. Around 1 p.m. he loads it up in a van and drives to the Day Resource Center parking lot, where hundreds of people line up to receive a warm meal. His friends always know when he’s coming because he plays the Rocky theme song through speakers attached to the exterior of his van.
On the day I helped out, I gave away 600 hot dogs in 60 minutes.
Ryan and I came back from the National New Church Conference with some new resolve to listen for the needs of our local community by conducting some form of a community needs assessment. In short, it entails meeting with community leaders at every level—business owners, school counselors, social workers, non-profit organization directors, elected officials—and in one way or another, asking them what are the needs of the surrounding community.
The hope is that by doing so, we can develop relationships all across the city that will open doors for joint partnerships to do good things for the city and its inhabitants: to help the poor; to curb injustice; to be good neighbors to all our neighbors.
Why spend our time doing such things? Why not pour all our efforts in meeting people who are far from God and joining in their spiritual journeys? Why not hold off on “benevolence-oriented” ministry until the church gets off the ground?
Because to us, these things are expressions of one facet of God’s fully-orbed mission in the world: justice. Not justice in the American sense, but justice in the biblical sense. In the Scriptures, particularly in the OT prophets and teachings of Jesus, justice (or righteousness) means taking care of the needs of the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and orphans, the aliens.
We’re having justice conversations because justice is what God is already doing in the world and we want to join him. We want to begin to be the kind of church now that we want to be five years from now—and that means participating in some way in all the facets of God’s mission.
James puts it well: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27).
Keep kickin’ it, Charles! The track you’ve chosen to walk on with your new church makes me want to keep going myself.
This will preach, brother!!! Keep on keeping on. I love to hear that folks are livin’ what James says!
Charles, This post makes me even more grateful for the opportunity you’ve given us to be a small part of your church from afar. I thank God for you.
It is really exciting to see what God is doing through you. Keep serving him, brother!
It is an inspiration to hear of the work that God is doing through you guys and the vision that He has placed in you!! It encourages me personally to always be looking for opportunities to serve…they are EVERYWHERE!
Thanks and “never, ever give up”!!
Awesome. May all of your actions continue to be the best sermons you preach.
Charles…you are so on target. I hope your generation will change what people think of disciples of Christ – that they do walk in His footsteps. You are teaching me so much. I send love’s prayers … Dotite
Matthew 23:23-24 says: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
So I think that your church will never really be “off the ground” unless you do practice the more important matters of the law. Rather than being a well-intentioned side ministry of your church, your service to your community will be your foundation. That is amazing.
It’s great to watch from here. Much love.
Keep up the good work, Brother Charles. Your faith and your heart are like a flower growing through cracks in the pavement.
Glory be, da funk’s on me,
600 hot dogs….where does he find all those hot dogs?
I think that benevolence or outreach to the poor is necessary to the christian lifestyle–I’m excited that your fledgling church feels the same and is looking to model that behavior to even the ‘bigger’ churches and people in the area. It also makes me a little jealous for memphis, that dallas gets you and we don’t ; )
Amen! The number one complaint God had against the people of Israel was that they oppressed or simply ignored the poor/aliens/widows/orphans. I am always struck by God’s comments that he desires our mercy rather than our sacrifice. Thanks for the work you are doing in being an advocate for social justice.
We think and pray for you guys often. Just this past Sunday we met some folks from Pleasant Valley you had worked with during school. God is moving through us in much the same way here in Little Rock. The kingdom is near. Love to Julie and Ryan and all who celebrate the new creation in uptown Dallas.
This totally fires me up! We’re on parallel paths in many ways, bro. James 1:26-27 was the text we focused on last Sunday…it rocked the house. Thank you for not swimming with the other fishes, for refusing to play church, and for wrestling with the tough questions.
I appreciate your thoughts here. CDM is a great model for community development – one that I look up to greatly. I’m glad you guys have sought them out.
Keep up the great work!
I like it.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about as of lately is how true love manifest true justice. True love is always shown by our actions (1 John 3:18 Dear Children, let us not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions!)
What I’ve noticed in my own life is that when I begin to love people, a natural desire is birthed inside of me to want to provide and bring justice into that persons live.
Thanks again, Charles, for your friendship and wisdom. They are both very much appreciated.
You know what I think, CK. Right on!
As an aside: I wonder what we as followers of Jesus would really do if no one except God was watching…if we were not accountable to supporters or an overseeing church. If God were our only accountability would our emphasis and day-to-day routine be any different? Would we go places we wouldn’t otherwise? Would we spend more time with some people and less or none with others? Would our practise of church be different?
How AWESOME is this! Christ in ACTION through Charles! It is an amazing sight to see! You’re in our thoughts and prayers! Love the fact that your listening to Christ and acting out His great works! Continue being a blessing to others!