Archives For Justice

Made in the Streets

Charles Kiser —  January 7, 2010 — 1 Comment

In 2008, we started a Storyline Christmas tradition as part of the Advent Conspiracy: taking up an offering for a global service organization that serves the cause of justice. In 2008 we gave to Touch A Life, an organization that helps liberate children from slavery in Ghana, West Africa.

This Christmas we decided to continue the Advent Conspiracy tradition by making a donation to Made in the Streets. Made in the Streets serves streets kids in Nairobi, Kenya. They provide shelter, food and education to kids who would otherwise be left to roam the streets.

Watch this video to hear a story about Laurent, a young teenager whose life was changed by the ministry of Made in the Streets. Charles and Darlene Coulston, founders of the organization, tell the story.

A special connection is that South MacArthur Church of Christ, one of our partnering churches, is heavily involved in supporting Made in the Streets. It’s exciting to me the way Storyline is now able to come alongside South Mac in mission in this small way.

All are welcome to make a donation to help God’s work through Made in the Streets.

Storyline is accepting tax-deductible donations until Friday, January 8, here. If you’d like to make a donation directly to Made in the Streets after January 8, you can do so here.

We have the special opportunity to present Storyline’s gift to Charles and Darlene Coulton this weekend at our January worship gathering.

Best Practice Luncheon

Charles Kiser —  August 25, 2009 — 2 Comments

DMag_03_09_CoverThis Thursday we’re hosting the Best Practice Luncheon in partnership with the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce.

“Best practices” is a familiar term in the professional world. The phrase refers to those methods that produce the best results in any given industry by the most effective means.

The idea behind the event is that our best practice as professionals is our own personal development – inspired by Earl Creps’s thought: “My best practice must be me.”

My best practice is me.

Your best practice is you.

We’re pleased that Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins has accepted our invitation to come speak on this topic. Watkins is the first African American D.A. in the state of Texas. He was recently featured on 60 Minutes and in D Magazine (see the provocative article here) for his work to free men who had been wrongly imprisoned. He is turning the justice system upside down with his approach and is turning heads nationwide.

Watkins will share about his own personal development after coming into a position of great power and being the object of intense criticism.

I heard him speak at a Central Dallas Ministries prayer breakfast in April and he was fantastic.

If you’d like more information you can visit www.storylinecommunity.com/luncheon.

Registration ends today so hurry and register if you’d like to attend. Lunch is provided but seats are limited. It’s open to all. Register by sending an email to info@storylinecommunity.com or RSVP to the Facebook Event.

Please pray for the success of this event and that it will open doors for deeper conversation about personal development and spiritual formation among our young professional peers here in the Uptown area.

cookin up burgers

On July 18 we entered into a major partnership for the work of justice in Dallas. We partnered with SoupMobile, an organization that feeds 150,000 meals/year to our homeless and impoverished neighbors in Dallas, to host a Neighbors’ Cookout at the Dallas International Street Church in Fair Park / South Dallas.

We fed hundreds of our friends in poverty a nice meal of hamburgers, hotdogs, all the fixings, vitamins, fruit, cookies and drinks. Our neighbors were encouraged to go through the line as many times as they wanted until the food was all gone.

We also put out a bounce house and sprinkler to keep the kiddos entertained.

More than 40 volunteers from six different organizations showed up to make the event a tremendous (and smooth) success: 1) SoupMobile; 2) Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce; 3) Skillman Church of Christ; 4) Richardson East Church of Christ; 5) Dallas Christian School; and 6) Storyline.

At the end of our Cookout, the SoupMan (David Timothy, director of SoupMobile), got on the bullhorn and we raffled off dozens of backpacks filled with goodies, McDonalds gift cards, a men’s mountain bike, and a women’s mountain bike.

I had the fortune – or misfortune – of drawing tickets for prizes. (Each person was given a raffle ticket as they came through the line.)

I heard the groan in the crowd when the SoupMan introduced me and said, “This is Pastor Charles Kiser of Storyline Christian Community. You can be sure he’s honest because he’s a pastor!” I’m afraid I disappointed a few people with my picks – and many of my new friends had a good time letting me know it. 🙂

But for those who were blessed to win – some of them two or three prizes – I’m not sure I’ve seen bigger smiles. It was a special day for them.

Regardless of winning or not, I believe that our work brought a glimmer of joy and hope to those who are often overlooked and discounted.

I particularly enjoyed meeting an intelligent man named Artis. He’s a musician (bass guitar) and a politician of sorts. We had a fascinating conversation about homelessness and “the system”. Apparently Artis is a spokesperson and consultant of sorts for the big dogs in city government and social services who serve the poor. I’m looking forward to spending more time with him in the future.

What’s also great is that this whole event was organized by Storyliner Deborah McClain, who came to us about nine months ago disconnected from Christian community. Since then she’s become a dear friend and co-worker for the gospel.

The event wouldn’t have happened without her tireless work, delegation and organizational skills. Thank you, Deborah.

Thanks, also, to everyone who volunteered, and to SoupMobile for providing us their experience in feeding the homeless of Dallas.

Our Neighbors’ Cookout was a small, but significant, glimpse into a different world – the new world that began to break into our world in the resurrection of Jesus. It is a foretaste of the social dignity, genuine relationships and provision that will come in fullness when God one day restores the world and makes everything right.

And so we continue to labor with God, because our work for the coming world is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-58).

Ella aka Big Birda line waveall lined upalmost therehey I got the ticketsAnd the Winners are

June turned out to be a sabbatical from blogging. It’s good to be back in the blogosphere.

The past month reminded me of graduate school perhaps more than any month since I graduated from Harding Grad in May 2006. It was a good month — heavy on reflection, writing and speaking.

The month’s events included:

  • Writing a review of Organic Leadership by Neil Cole for the July 2009 issue of the Christian Chronicle
  • Facilitating three sessions on Engaging Culture and another on Spiritual Formation Retreats at the Mission Alive Strategy Lab for church planters
  • Writing a paper entitled The Role of Social Justice in Church Planting Among the Urban Affluent — An Experiment in Process, which I presented at the Christian Scholars’ Conference at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Joining the editorial board of a new journal called Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis, a publication I’m partnering with friends from Harding Grad to start — all of them in very diverse mission contexts.

It gives me tired head just thinking back through it. Yet I’m so glad for the opportunity to reflect and process. These are important seasons in the life of a church planter and can often be neglected. It’s much easier just to get out there and do it. At least until we create something we regret having created apart from deeper theological discernment.

The hard work is asking, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?” And “What does God want us to be doing and why?”

It’s one of the reasons I appreciate Mission Alive’s mantra of moving from theology to practice. If we don’t have seasons of theological reflection, then we move instead from practice to practice — from ministry fad to ministry fad. Theological reflection helps us to judge what embodies the kingdom of God for our context.

Isn’t that exactly what Paul was doing in his letters to the churches he helped to plant? He was doing theological reflection “on the fly” — in the context of specific mission points on the map. All of Paul’s letters are “occasional,” that is, written for a specific church or purpose and for a specific context or scenario. Even Romans. Especially Romans.

The occasional nature of Scripture makes me think twice before deeming anything a “universal truth,” as if truth looks the same for every time and place. Truth is, all truth is encased within a particular cultural context, which makes it all the more important to spend time translating such “encased truth” into contemporary cultural contexts.

Thus, as compensation for a long hiatus from blogging, over the next few days I’ll be blogging about what I learned from the above opportunities for writing and reflection, and how we might translate what I’ve been learning into our ministry context.

Journey into Justice

Charles Kiser —  February 18, 2009 — 8 Comments

We want Storyline to be a community that works for justice.

Part of the reason we decided for a context in the city was because of its proximity to poverty and injustice. We wanted to be close enough to serve and love oppressed people, and even stand up for what was right before the powers that be.

We know that much. That much, in fact, has come to us pretty easily.

Discovering how to go about being that kind of community has been a much more difficult process.

I read somewhere recently about a distinction Brian McLaren made between justice and mercy. He said that mercy is caring for people who were made sick, for instance, when they drank polluted water from a nearby stream.

Working for justice, on the other hand, is going upstream to see who polluted the water and getting them to stop.

I love the analogy of the river. We’d do well to translate it into other contemporary metaphors of injustice.

McLaren’s definition of justice, however, seems to put forward a false distinction between justice and mercy. Justice in the Hebrew prophets seems to be both confrontational and merciful. Working for justice to “roll down like a river,” in Amos’ words, was both to uproot unjust rulers and to care for those in poverty.

To work for justice is both to care for people made sick by polluted water and also to stop the people who are polluting the water.

Here’s a million dollar question I’m wrestling with: what does it look like for Storyline to work for both facets of justice in a way that’s consistent with our values and style?

Last year I attended the National New Church Conference (aka Exponential) and listened to David Mills talk about conducting a “community needs assessment.”

The needs assessment entails networking with and interviewing social service organizations in the community for the sake of discerning deeper needs. Mills even suggested forming a separate nonprofit organization that would one day fill a niche in the community discovered by the needs assessment process.

I loved the idea and began to pursue it. But as I talked with my friends in Dallas who work in social services and community development, the idea didn’t gain much traction.

It began not to sit well with me either, but I could not put my finger on why.

Then it dawned on me: a needs assessment process and the development of a separate nonprofit for justice is an institutional way of working for justice.

It starts at the top — discerning needs from those who work with people in poverty, rather than discerning needs by serving and living among people at the bottom in a grassroots, relational way.

What would it look like to translate yet another institutional paradigm for ministry into a more organic one?

Perhaps we start by asking our Storyline people who live among the poor what needs they see in the lives of their neighbors. Then we seek to enter into relationship with them and serve them.

Perhaps we adopt their neighborhoods and even one day move into them.

Perhaps our justice ministry is not centralized but rather localized within our house churches such that each works for justice in ways that connect to its particular passions, gifts, neighbors and neighborhoods.

We’ll network with social service organizations not to discern needs but rather to ask for help with the needs we’re discovering because we’re involved relationally in the lives of hurting people.

These kinds of things are already happening within each house church in the Storyline Community, despite my sluggishness. The jobless are getting help with networking and resume development. Those on the cusp of being evicted are getting rent assistance from grassroots collections in the community. Those who need groceries for the week are getting them.

It seems I am, as always, one step behind what God is already doing.

When the time comes, as we’re in the thick of loving and serving people in such ways, house churches will begin to sniff out the larger, systemic forces that oppress our neighbors.

So we’ll collaborate with our friends in social services and community development and begin to bark and lay our lives on the line until things change on a systemic level.

God, of course, will be the one with the power to change systems of such scope.

What do you think of all this crazy talk? Help me translate. What would it look like for churches to work for justice in more organic ways?