Will We See Signs and Wonders?

I wonder what it was like to be one of the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out? Not the twelve, you know those that spent all their time with Jesus,  one of the seventy. Yes, they knew Jesus, but not as well as His closest disciples. But that didn’t stop them from being sent out on a special mission. They knew what they saw and heard. They knew what they believed. They were “sold-out” to Jesus, so when it came time for Jesus to get the area excited about His mission, He commissioned all seventy to go forth and do miracles in His name. Can you imagine? One moment you are following Jesus, listening to His preaching, wanting to serve Him, and the next minute He empowers you to do miracles. Demons are cast out, people are healed, grown men cry out in repentance and dedicate their life to Christ. And you know it’s not of your own doing, it is a miraculous power from on high.

Well, if Jesus empowered those seventy and He said that after He ascended that His future followers (That included us) would do the same things He was doing, why don’t we see it today?

I think that there are a few reasons

1. We don’t believe in supernatural miracles and “signs”. Many seminaries teach a “cessation” theory that says the miracles that Christ and the early Church did, ceased once we received the written word of God. Could it be the verse that says, “You have not because you ask not.” is a self-fulfilling prophecy for the church and the use of the Spiritual Gifts?

2. We are not taught what to do even if we had a supernatural gift. Our spiritual life is a maturation process, why would we think that we would know all there is about Spiritual Gifts without a learning process? Who is teaching on the Spiritual Gifts?

3. We don’t try. Whether we are too embarrassed that someone will laugh at us or mock us if we prayed for a miracle and it didn’t happen, it is enough to keep us from trying. Miracles are way out of our comfort zone so we don’t ask God to give us any supernatural gifts.

Personally, I believe we need to repent. There is a dying world that is going to hell and we sit here with a silent witness. We need to go forth with the power of the Holy Spirit, armed with the Spiritual Gifts and witness to the world. Jesus was right when He said, “A wicked generation seeks after a sign.” That is why He, Moses and the Prophets used supernatural ‘s gifts. God desires us to do the same today.  Will, we repent and be obedient. Ask God to show you and your church your Spiritual Gifts today. Ask Him to unleash His Spiritual Gifts into the world.

CLICK HERE for a FREE online Spiritual Gifts survey

You Are Called To Personal Ministry


The Bible clearly teaches that God created you and me with a purpose. This purpose is to be involved in personal ministry.  This was perfectly exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 22:36, the Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. They wanted to know the most important thing they should do. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Jesus not only said these words, but we know from reading the New Testament that Jesus lived these words. Even better, God has made it possible for you and me to live them, as well! This is the miracle of Christianity. God is able to take you and me, who so often separate ourselves from him and want nothing to do with his control in our lives and bring us into a wonderful relationship with him. That’s what Jesus is all about. His life was set as an example for our own ministry, and his death and resurrection is the bridge that brings us to God. When we first realized our need for Christ and came to him in repentance and accepted him as our Savior, we began our relationship with God. It is with this relationship that we find meaning, significance, and purpose; we begin our ministry. Jesus called it, “being born again.” This is when we accept the new life that God has for us and his invitation to join him in his work for this world.
The question is, how do we live out this ministry that Jesus talked about? How do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves? We do it through personal ministry.


We live out our personal ministry by being aware of God’s presence in our lives, the love he has for us, and the power that he wants to use. This moves our heart, soul, and mind into action. We then love our neighbor by serving God with everything we have and in everything we do.

Awareness of God is the first stage in developing our personal ministry. We are living for God. Not just a god, but the living God. What a difference! We’re not living out some religious experience—we’ve entered into a relationship with the risen Christ. So often we treat Jesus like another historic figure. We meet on Sundays to remember his death, we sing his praises for what he has done and then go about our week as if his present risen-ness has no bearing on our lives. For a vibrant ministry, we must have a vital relationship with the risen Christ, one that influences every aspect of our lives. This realization results in a transformation that empowers our psyche and, in turn, the results of our ministry. He is alive. And the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is available for our ministry. Living every hour of every day in the conscious awareness of the love of Jesus gives hope and peace. The risen Jesus motivates, inspires, gives courage, and leads us in the way that we should go.

Using our personal gifts and skills for God is a deliberate choice to be cognizant of all that we are, live for all that he is, and be mindful of all that needs to be done. We ask ourselves, “What is my part? What is my role in this drama of life?” We find the answer when we come to the realization that God has given us a unique combination of personality, interests, spiritual gifts, and aptitudes that we can use for him. There are many factors that make us who we are. Each of these variables combines to produce the outcome of our unique selves.

We are God’s masterpiece or, as some translations put it, workmanship. When a pottery artisan sets out to make an object, a simple lump of clay is transformed into the object the artisan had envisioned. Our great and loving God thought about you and me individually and then intentionally created us for specific good works. We were not mass-produced; we’re God’s workmanship. We are the unique, one-of-a-kind ambassador that God created us to be in this world. As we respond to the life we’ve been given with our unique selves, as we become conscious of our ministry preferences and more proficient with the skills, abilities, and resources that God has given us, we live out the unique ministries set before us in our lives for God.

If you want to know more about your own personal ministry order our new book, Wired For Ministry. 

Two Websites That Can Help You Witness To Others About Christ

Exciting things are happening in evangelism. Sharing about God has always been at the forefront of evangelism causing many a Christian to uncomfortable. Many ask, “What do I say?” Others, “I don’t know how to defend my faith.” Now there are two websites that can help you overcome those obstacles.


The first site is http://www.exploregod.com This site is a comprehensive witnessing machine that whole cities can use. The church I attend is getting ready for January 13 where over 800 churches in the Chicagoland area are going to do a seven-week campaign with sermons and discussion groups. The discussion groups are easy to lead. It causes spiritual curiosity with a lot of follow up material that can help lead people to Christ.

When you open the site you can choose the level you are interested in pursuing. Simply go to the top and click on resources. You can choose, individual, group, church, or city. From there it will lead you into how to use the website and get others involved.

This site has everything you need to start a discussion group. Look over the short training videos on being a group facilitator.

There is plenty of material there. It is somewhat tricky to navigate but will be worth the effort.

http://www.everystudent.com     www.everyperson.com

I know I said there were only two websites but now I have added a third. Not really! This is the same site but different pictures and other nuances that make http://www.everyperson.com for older adults and http://www.everystudent.com for the younger crowd.

This site was started by a converted atheist that wanted to put information out there for others that were doubters like her. This site is a juggernaut with close to 1000 people around the world coming to Christ every day. It is easy to navigate and the topics are really relevant. The answers are brief but long enough. Again there is plenty of material here for seekers.

Take a look at these two great websites and start praying about sharing them with your friends and co-workers.

Help People Find Jobs!

At our church, we started a non-profit called Calvary Charities. We were able to join, Put Illinois Back To Work and help close to 400 people find jobs. We also started a Jobs For Life Training program. I highly recommend it. We helped a lot of people with the program. Your Church can do the same!

Churches Can Help With Job Training, Local Commerce, and Micro-Enterprise
A community will not survive if its people cannot work. Neighborhood job training, commerce, and micro-enterprising are vital to stimulating economic growth. For many, an automobile is not an option. Besides the initial cost of buying a car, one has to have insurance, pay for repairs and gas and in the cities, there are exorbitant parking expenses. At the same time, many neighborhoods are not convenient to mass transit. By creating jobs near people’s homes or work that can be done from their home, the hindrance of transportation can be overcome. An advantage to providing jobs in the neighborhood is that it keeps money circulating in the neighborhood. Bob Lupton, in his book Return Flight, gives an illustration of this concept.

A young man enters our Family Store. He heads straight for the rack where men’s used shirts are merchandised. In a few minutes, he brings a warm wool shirt to the cash register and presents a dollar to the cashier. A transaction occurs. He slips on the shirt and walks out into the crisp morning air, quite unaware of the chain reaction he has just set off.
Keep your eye on the dollar that has just been exchanged. It will soon be removed from the cash register, deposited in the bank as reissued as part of a paycheck to Betty, a management trainee in the store. Follow it as it is carried to the Home Resource Center, where Betty exchanges it for a used crib for her new grandson. Into another cash register and out again – this time in a paycheck to Lonnie, who is learning retail operations at the center. On to Park Pointe Community Grocery (our nonprofit food store), where Lonnie purchases a supply of groceries. It turns over again. Another paycheck. Untrell takes it home to assist his mother to make her house payment on an interest-free loan for the home a suburban church has built for them. Their payment will help purchase a piece of land to build another home for another family in the community.
A dollar–a simple medium of exchange. Passing through the hands of four, five, six or more people in the same inner-city community. And with every transaction comes a flicker of new economic life A dollar has turned, and in one community the powerless have made choices, the jobless have worked, the ill-housed have become homeowners. The creative force of exchange rightly done causes a cumulative economic rise that enhances the entire community.
Consider another scenario. The same young man on a cold January morning is given a warm wool shirt. The donor is compassionate, but there is no exchange. It is a single, one-way gift. No creative economic spark to benefit others in the community. End of scenario.

Neighborhood businesses provide income to those living in the neighborhood. These people, via their purchases, support the local shops. The process is cyclical and can work to the entire neighborhood’s betterment. Many of the suburbs work in this fashion. How many of us, when we were old enough, worked at stores in our community? How many of us have encouraged our children to do the same? Many teenagers and single, working mothers need only travel to the nearest shopping center or local business for employment.
Pastor Jim Holley of Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit had nothing but blight surrounding his church property. Highland Park has been very depressed with abandoned buildings, boarded up storefronts and distraught neighborhoods. Instead of becoming discouraged he saw an opportunity to make a difference.  Pastor Holley had a dream to rebuild the area and help the people of his church at the same time.  He wanted to improve the financial health of the people in his church and at the same time make the neighborhood more appealing to middle-income families.
The first thing Little Rock Baptist Church did was to start a for-profit business to raise money for a foundation. The second was to start an investment club for people in the church. The profit-making company, Country Preacher Foods, distributes food and paper products. In 2002 it grossed $5,000,000. The profit goes toward college scholarships. The investment club receives $100 a month from each member, and since 1998 has invested in the stock market. In 2001 they thought they could outperform the market by starting their own business opportunities. They invested in a strip mall and are in negotiation for a second one. They partnered with a development company and now the strip mall has China One Chinese Food, Domino Pizza, Dollars Days and Subway owned by the members. This helps create jobs for people in the church and neighborhood, gives people places to shop and eat in their own neighborhood, and makes the whole area more appealing to other potential businesses. They are also building homes valued at $120,000 – $150,000. This will produce mixed-income housing and hopefully, ignite more market-value homes and commerce into the community. The Detroit News quoted Rev. Holley on his philosophy of building this shopping center. He said in the September 19, 2001 issue, “Churches will build a $20,000,000 facility to worship in one day a week when you can take that money and create an industry six days a week.”
Clearly, many neighborhoods are without community shopping and business districts. In these situations, micro-enterprising will give people a chance to work near home and keep money in the neighborhood.
Some people consider job training and microeconomics as a non-spiritual issue. Viv Grigg, in his classic book Companion to the Poor, challenges this kind of thinking.

I skipped over a mud puddle and saw Aling Cynthia was just ahead of me. I shouted out to her, ‘Where are you going?’
To work! And You?’ she replied.
‘The Doctor’, I said showing her my rash on my hands and feet that developed from bacteria in the polluted pump water. We walked and talked.
‘You know, Viv, you have no real problems,’ she said. ‘You have enough to live on,’ she continued. Since Mang Mario, her second husband, had a heart attack, everything has gone wrong.
‘You know how happy I used to be. Now I do not smile. For one year now, life has been so hard.’
I remembered Aling Cynthia as the enthusiastic member of a Bible study group a year before.
‘If only there was work,’ I said sadly.
We walked in the silence of sympathy. She knew that I knew she would be forced to go to prostitution to feed her three children.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘For one year now I have searched, but there are no jobs.’
As I listened, I felt as if my heart was falling apart. I thought back to a conversation with a young man in a church back home, who had asked, ‘Is it true you can just pray and God will provide jobs for people?’ I had answered, ‘Yes, I can pray and God will answer. His answer is you. You are to sell all your excess things, work hard and make enough money to give to developing work for these poor!’
‘Oh Cynthia,’ I said, ‘I will do all I can. You pray for me, too, that I can find some men who will set up industries here in the squatter areas. It is so hard.’

After this introduction, Viv Grigg gives a stirring appeal for help.

There is a drum-beat beating in my head day after day, a beat that impels me forward into long hours of discipline and constant work. It is the cry of those saved from their sins, only to be entangled again by that same sin – by the tentacles of their poverty, drawing them down, down, down till they are totally lost to this earth.
We must work and direct our undivided energy and unflagging zeal to provide economic stability for these, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must avoid being so busy working among the slum people that we forget to deal with the problems of the slums themselves.
The biblical response to poverty caused by sin is to preach the gospel to the sinner, but the Biblical response to sin caused by poverty is to destroy the curse of poverty.

Consider starting a Jobs For Life Program at your church. You can change lives!!!

Being Like Jesus

A Healthy Christian is outwardly focused. That means that they are on-mission with Jesus—sharing the love of God to those in their community that don’t know Jesus. You cannot separate Jesus from His mission. It is why He came to earth. He came to be the Savior of the world. That is something only He could do. It is the same with the church. You cannot separate us from our mission. Jesus came to establish the Church so we could be His hands and feet after He left. He commissioned us to do greater things than He did. It is the mission of the church and its people to live the kind of life that Jesus did. We see this mission with three parts: compassion, justice, and sharing the Gospel message.

Be Like Jesus

Jesus was full of compassion:

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:35-38). J

Jesus described the kind of ministry He came to do:

When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.’ He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day” (Luke 4:16-21).

This mercy and compassion were expressed in the parable that Jesus shared about the good Samaritan.

Jesus replied with a story: ‘A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.” “Now, which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same” (Luke 10:30-37).

In this parable, Jesus was deliberate in His choice of characters. He purposely chose two religious leaders to be the ones who were not compassionate and a Samaritan, a person from a group that the Jews despised, to be the person who showed the compassion of God.
Why did Jesus tell this story? To correct the misconception that Christianity is to be a religion unto itself, not caring for the rest of the world. It was to wake us up from our apathy and help us see that to be Christ-like we need to be helping those that are hurting on the side of the road in our own neighborhoods. In fact, Jesus was so serious about us helping others that this was the only time Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” This, however, was not the only time the people of God were told that they were overlooking their mandate in loving those outside their circle. God has always cared for the whole world and has always wanted us to be outwardly focused.

In Isaiah 58, God rebukes His people over their ritual of fasting:

We have fasted before you, they say, and why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it! I will tell you why. It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (Isaiah 58:3-7).
This was not an exception. Compassion was part of the Law of Moses. God always intended His people to help those in need. Moses wrote:

If there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” (Deuteronomy 14:7-11).

James described the same responsibility for compassion to the New Testament church:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 3:14-17).

If we are going to be serious followers of Jesus Christ, we must look beyond our own needs and look to the needs of others around us. We must exhibit the love and compassion of Christ to those outside the church.

Are You Outwardly Focused?

Eric Swanson wrote a book called the Outwardly Focused Church. In it he pointed out how so many of our churches were inwardly focused, that is they mainly took care of their own needs as a church. His challenge was that we needed to be more like Jesus and care for the needs of those who do not go to church. We are to be a witness to the world and we cannot do that if we are not engaged with them.

The real test is to look at our budget and see what % of the income is spent on programs, staff, and equipment reaching those that do not know Christ. We can also look at our allocation of time. How many volunteer hours are spent on ministry inside the church versus the hours spent outside the church?

How outwardly focused are you? Answer the questions on this easy to do survey.

I am involved in a ministry.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I volunteer when needed for extra duties at church.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I meet the needs of the needy when called upon.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I invite people to church services and activities.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I share literature and other witnessing tools with people outside the church.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I share my own testimony of God’s active role in my life with others.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I share the gospel message with those that do not know it.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no
I have led someone to the Lord in the last two years.
 regularly
 often
 sometimes
 no

*Taken from the book, Five Signs of a Healthy Christian by Ronald Ovitt

How did you do? The truth is that the majority of those in the church do not do well on this survey. The main cause is that we don’t have much training on being outwardly focused with our Christianity. But that can easily change.

Here are some materials you can study to help you be more of a witness of your faith.

Outwardly Focused Church – by Eric Swans

Evangelism Outside the Box – by Rick Richardson

The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door – by Jay Pathak, Dave Runyon

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World – by Rosaria Butterfield

Wired For Ministry – by Ron Ovitt


You and Your Church Can Help With A Food Ministry

If your church is large enough or in an area where there are a sufficient amount of people needing assistance with food, you may want to consider a food pantry. The size would depend on the need and the availability of other assistance. If you are just looking to help those in your own church and their network, you may only need a moderate size pantry. If you are going to open it up to the public, depending on the number of other pantries in the area, you may need a larger pantry.

What should you stock?

When planning a food pantry it is good to know what to buy or ask donors for. If allowed, you will find that many good minded people will donate food that you cannot use. It may be outdated or items that are not very popular. It helps if you can supply people with a list based around six basic groups. Those groups could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, toiletries, paper supplies, and necessary clothing. Also, you need to determine how often you will be using the pantry. If occasional use by those that drop by or are in need in congregation then set up an area for mainly can goods and boxed goods that will keep. If there are weekly pick-ups you may want to add things that you can refrigerate. If there is daily traffic you may want to include an area with fresh donated food. 

Here are some of the basics: 

Breakfast – STORED: Cereals, breakfast bars, dried milk, fruit juices, coffee, and tea. REFRIGERATION: Eggs, milk, cheeses, some meats. DAILY: Pastries and baked goods.  

LunchSTORED: Peanut butter & jelly, tuna fish, canned meats, meals in a can, i.e., Spaghetti-O’s, stews, hash, ravioli, soups, condiments for sandwiches, crackers, and cookies. REFRIGERATION: Cold cuts, lunch meats, cheese, eggs, milk, and some meats. DAILY: Prepared food for reheating and sandwiches. 

Dinner – STORED: Canned fruits & vegetables, beans, pasta, rice, sauces, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Canned meats, soups, and meals. Jello and pudding. Box and jar baby food. REFRIGERATION: Cold cuts, cheese, milk, and some meats. Casseroles and precooked meals. DAILY: Prepared food for reheating. 

Toiletries – Soap, shampoo, conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and foot powder.

Paper supplies – Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, diapers, and handi-wipes.
Necessary clothing – Underwear, socks, tee-shirts, clothes, warm coats and hats. 

If you or someone in your church is seriously interested in having a ministry like this, I would encourage you to make a few calls and find out what other churches or agencies are doing. Ask them for help and find out what the true need is in your area.

Change Our Behavior Or Change Our Name!

There is a story about a young man that was brought before Alexander the Great. The young man had stolen a horse and was brought in by the guards so he could be judged. Knowing that this was an offense that was severely punished, everyone waited to see what Alexander would do.

Alexander looked at the boy and was moved by the look of fear on his face. Thinking of leniency, Alexander asked the boy his name. The boy looked up and sheepishly said, “Alexander”. The Emperor taken back, moved toward the boy in anger and said, “Boy, what is your name?” The boy afraid for his life said, “Alexander sir.” No more did the word come out of his mouth that the emperor jumped on the boy and threw him to the ground. Enraged he pointed at the boy and said, “Boy, change your behavior or change your name!”

I am not sure of the authenticity of the story, but I think the point is well taken. We need to walk our talk!

The Bible in the book of James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14-17)

There are needs all around us. We need to be busy helping to meet those needs. The church has ignored the cries of those around them for too long. We have lost of credibility as people helpers. When is the last time a church has been invited to meetings about social needs? Helping reduce crime, eradicate poverty, provide affordable housing, help the homeless. These and hundreds of other social needs are crying out for help. Where are we? If we were brought before Jesus today and had to give an account of what we and our churches are doing to make a difference outside our four walls, what would He say? Would we hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” or “Change your behavior or change your name!”

We Can Make A Difference


I was only sixteen when I would fill up my car with friends and lead a parade of other cars down to Myrtle and Twelfth street in Detroit. Usually, thirty-five or so of us teenagers from Thurston High School Christian Club would go to Ness Memorial Children’s Mission every Wednesday and Thursday night. We would put on a weekly program for the hundred or so inner-city children. It was there that I first saw the needs of a distraught neighborhood. Going with the Director, Mr. Van, to pick up children and take them home, I would find people living in poverty, overcrowded and often without their daily needs met. After high school, I moved into the mission to work with Mr. Van while attending Wayne State University. Besides the two weekly evening Bible Clubs, we worked with feeding, clothing, housing and trying to meet the needs of the children that lived in the community. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation and deeply touched by the love, concern, and sacrifice of Mr. Van.

I was enrolled in Monteith College, a division of Wayne State, which had a strong social science department. It just so happened that one of my teachers was deeply involved in a brand new social concept called “Urban Renewal”. As a result in 1969, I became involved in Detroit’s “Cass Corridor” Urban Renewal project. It was there that I first worked on community development. I began to see that poverty, economics, housing, education, zoning, politics were all part of a system. I learned that if we were going to really make changes, we would have to get to the systemic roots of the problems.

It would take years for me to fully understand the influence that those early days had on me. It was not until I worked for World Relief that I started to understand more about the needs of a community and was introduced to community and economic development on a worldwide level. It was so exciting to see how creative programs could make such a difference. I became so excited that I wanted to share the theory of community and economic development with local churches. I believed if we could harness the manpower and resources of the congregations scattered within a thirty to forty mile radius of poor neighborhoods, we could make a dramatic difference! It would take seven more years but God prepared my heart through many wonderful ministry experiences. During my ministry at Central Baptist Children’s Services, Breakthrough Urban Ministries and Adventures In Missions, I saw many wonderful programs and ministries make great differences in the lives of so many. It was finally in Gainesville, Georgia that God led me to start Walking the Talk Ministry and The Lay Ministry Institute in order to motivate and mobilize adults to help with the overwhelming needs of the poor neighborhoods in this country.

I had just left as Vice President of Adventures In Missions with a passion to get adults and local churches interested in short-term mission projects in the inner-cities of the United States. As I was sitting one morning on my garden bench, I was reading the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem lay in rubble, utterly destroyed. The Jews were dispersed throughout the world and yet one man, Nehemiah, with a strong belief in God, dared to make a difference. Nehemiah is not as familiar as the other Old and New Testament characters. There are no great miracles recorded, like the parting of the Red Sea; yet the supernatural working of God through the life of Nehemiah and the people he influenced, produced great results. It was through Nehemiah that God rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. God called Nehemiah, a humble cupbearer of the King Artaxerxes, to respond to the needs of Jerusalem. Nehemiah obeyed God and restored the ruined city, snatching it from the brink of oblivion.

As I read the account of Nehemiah I saw a picture of community renewal and development. There’s a chapter where the author names the different gates that were being rebuilt. As he named the dung gate, water gate, sheep gate, it suddenly hit me that the gates had obvious utilitarian functions. I quickly read the names of all the gates and started to study what they represented. I soon realized that, as Nehemiah rebuilt the gates he was actually involved in community development! He would end up making a tremendous difference in the life of that once destroyed community. As God calls us to respond to the needs around us, we can use these same principles to help rebuild communities. I knew then that I had my message. I wanted people to see that God used Nehemiah to make a difference in a distraught neighborhood and that He can use us too!

What is Community Development?

For many, the term “community development” is a new concept. You may be wondering, “What is community development? What is a community development corporation? What do they do?”  Carol Wayman, in the NCCED (National Congress For Community Economic Development) 2001 Practitioner’s Guide, wrote a very insightful CDC (Community Development Corporation) Industry Profile.

Community development corporations (CDCs) are non-profit community-based organizations that strategically redevelop economically depressed areas by developing affordable housing, sponsoring community economic development projects, providing vital social services and participating in community organizing efforts. CDCs undertake a range of activities including housing counseling, developing business incubators and tutoring at-risk youth. CDCs are business-oriented and entrepreneurial. They work to improve the lives of people in low-income and minority communities afflicted by disinvestment – undertaking development projects that the traditional for-profit sector shuns. Working to mitigate the risks that are often associated with engaging in developments in distressed areas, CDCs draw private investment into troubled areas. Over the past thirty years, CDCs have emerged as one of the most successful community revitalization models in the country.1

As I read Ms. Wayman’s description of a Community Development Corporation, I have to ask myself, “Where is the Church? Why aren’t we doing these things?” Isn’t there a resounding familiarity between the action she describes and what we read from Isaiah 58 and James 3?

While Community Development offers good sounding solutions, there is a need for much more than architectural designs, empowerment zones, and well-planned communities. Without spiritual and moral foundations, all the best-planned communities in the world will be, as Jesus suggested, “built on sand.” We dare not abdicate our responsibility for the community to the government or secular agencies. We, as the Church, have at our disposal the power of Almighty God; the manpower and the vast resources of the Church and its people. If we step out in faith and obedience, we can make a radical difference. The question is, “Will we?”

I believe as Christians we should be involved in community renewal. If God so loved the world, shouldn’t we? That is why I advocate for Evangelical Community Development. As evangelical Christians, part of the good news that we bring to people is love, mercy, and justice.

Evangelical Community Development

Why do I call it Evangelical? Because I believe in the two strong tenets that I see in Evangelical Christianity. One tenet is about man’s need for salvation and the other is the belief in the resurrection of Christ. Our belief that lasting change comes from believing the Gospel is crucial to the way we work with people. It is through a personal relationship with God and the following of His word that the power of God is unleashed in a person’s life. But without the resurrection, where is the power? Paul the Apostle writes to the Church in Ephesus in Ephesians 1: 18-19:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly realms.

It is the power of God that not only gives us the strength to do the work that He has called us to but it is the source of power for change. His power can change the lives of the people to whom we minister, change the community in which they live and change the world’s patterns of injustice that so often prevail. What separates us from other social agencies? Should it not be the power of the resurrection? We need to cry out to God to use His almighty power, the same power He used to raise Jesus from the dead, to use His power to resurrect broken lives and the communities in which they live.

This is the evangelical message that needs to be the foundation for community development. For too long we have given social aspects of community development the preeminence. Housing, economic development, social work are all vital parts of community development, but I believe that God wants Himself, His power and His principles to be at the core of community renewal. Without spiritual renewal that Christ and the Bible brings, any community development is incomplete.

You And Your Church Can Make A Difference

There has never been a better time to get involved in community development. Municipalities are looking for assistance in the face of an over burgeoning of social issues and shrinking revenue. What if churches would work together in entrepreneurial ways and create results? What if the impact of a sustained evangelical community development project reduced crime, teen pregnancy and lowered the recidivism of people back into the penal system? What if faith-based economic initiatives and mixed-income housing actually did bring back the economy to distraught communities? What if we could rebuild neighborhoods without displacing the poor? What if Churches again became vibrant assets to a community in which it was located? Maybe then not only we but the world, would understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in Heaven.”

The Church can do it. Churches that are concerned about youth, hire youth pastors and organize a youth program. Churches concerned about discipleship, hire a small groups pastor and organize a small group initiative. If we say we care for the poor, disadvantaged, those who are marginal; then why not organize ourselves and maybe even hire a person in charge of helping those in need? Why not take a large portion of the budget and dedicate it toward this ministry? Why not create ministries that allow church members to really get involved? 

The purpose of this blog is to help spur people to action. In the years to come, we are hoping to see thousands of churches in all the major cities in the United States begin to take bold steps in helping turn around distraught neighborhoods. It is time for action. Here are some different areas you can get involved in Hunger; poverty; housing; addictions; homelessness; parenting; neighborhood repair; evangelism; healthcare; elder care; financial assistance; environmental care and conservation; single parenting; and mental health. 



He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:9