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“City Project” summer interns help CEF and others

Traditionally, our summer missions team would have just returned from Christian Youth in Action® training and have begun 6-8 weeks of 5-Day Club® ministry at random sites across the Durham area.  Urban workers from around the country would have already departed Durham surviving another urban boot camp.   However, this summer a very strategic decision was made to focus on what God has put before us rather than for us to add to the plate He gave us.

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What does this mean?  It means, that CEF and its friends, who minister in Durham, are committed to all necessary strategies and tactics available to us for kingdom building.  It means, our yearly calendar and schedules may not match God’s, so what should we do?

God’s Calendar for us in Durham

During the early summer God scheduled CEF staff and ministers to continue its work in 10 under-resourced communities of Durham where the indigenous are being discipled to lead the outreach.  There are so many wonderful things happening through these efforts that, unfortunately, there is not enough space here to describe.  God allowed me to recruit and engage others from Durham to attend the Duke Summer Institute where we grappled with current and historical issues in Durham as well as navigating a course of biblical reconciliation for our city.  The PrayDurham initiative has taken me to the State Capitol in Raleigh, NC to meet with the NC Call to Prayer caucus.  I will be meeting with leaders of PrayNewark in their city during early July to learn how they mobilized their city to pray through a street adoption strategy as we are doing in Durham.

We’re enjoying breakthrough with several projects

God has also placed before us eight intelligent and committed interns from The City Project, a Campus Outreach effort of the Summit Church in Durham.  They serve on 4 teams focused on 4 projects, which CEF, BlessDurham, and World Relief are engaging.  They are helping us break new ground in ministry by (1) revamping our sports outreach—setting up camps and clinics for this summer thru next spring 2012, (2) reformatting and building our data bases for the web site, which will impact PrayDurham and connecting the churches/ministries of Durham, (3) are doing research and development of a business plan for operating food and ice cream trucks for ministry to inner city communities and to refuges, and (4) joining the Butteflz team (Bible club/tutoring) to teach and administrate its summer programs.  All have provided needed breakthrough this summer, which will propel us into 2012 on a solid foundation for sustainable ministry.

The traditional mission of CEF in the Durham area continues in mid-July and August with club ministry, sports camps, community block parties, and teachers being trained. What a great summer not being bullied by my own calendar and agenda.

There is much “abuzz” since recent events and visits to Durham by Tim Keller, John Perkins, and President Obama.  Each proclaimed Durham as a progressive and gifted city.  Participants at the National Day of Prayer, Evening with Tim Keller, and the Duke Summer Institute contemplated the challenge of reaching a city for the common good and specifically how to express the Kingdom of God within every sphere of life in Durham.  What would that look like?  Who must be involved?

  • D.L. Moody stated over 150 years ago,  “Water runs downhill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them, we shall stir the whole country.”
  • Tim Keller lays out 10 key points necessary to reach a city, which includes involving diverse segments of the greater Body of Christ working towards the same goals for evangelism, prayer, collaboration, and fellowship.
  • Jonathan Dodson discusses 3 ways to renew a city by dwelling in the city as a redemptive community: make good culture (contribute to your city within your neighborhood), redeem social ill (embrace our community), and share a whole gospel (We need to be thousands of tiny threads that strengthen and beautify our city domains.

Instead of sucking life out of the city, the church gives life to the city in the social sector.  It has a socially renewing presence.  How is this done?  Here is a current example of how this is happening in one neighborhood, which is making an impact on the city of Durham.  The role of an indigenous neighborhood to impact a city flows through its experience of following biblical models of community development.

Welcome a Mindset Change

After making a move to Carver Pond Apts in North Durham to help her mother, Sandra Underwood was robbed, assaulted, and saw kids in the neighborhood committing crimes in the open.  Her first reaction was “…what have I gotten myself in to?  I’m gettin’ out…”  But, with some encouragement, Ms. Underwood made a major faith decision to stay and help the kids who live at Carver Pond Apts despite the risks and hardships.

Her decision was indicative of her changing mindset about God and herself.  Her decision was not typical.  Most residents would have fled the neighborhood or stayed and returned evil for evil.

Embrace Community Activism

Her friend, Wendy Clark, immediately connected her with CEF Durham for help.  After the Director, John Blake, made a few phone calls and shared his vision for reaching city kids in under-resourced communities, Ms. Underwood had a plan along with an initial ministry team.  Within 2 short weeks the Butterflz after school program began with community interest, yet had only 5 kids attending.

Sandra Underwood and kids at Butterflz after school program enjoy hugs!

However, it did not take long for the value of Butterflz to increase. Currently, 23 children are enrolled and regrettably the staff must turn kids away every week due to the lack of space and adult volunteers.  Kids at Carver Pond must be accepted into the academic and Bible club program, which meets weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Retired teacher, Lou Brogden, works diligently alongside Ms. Underwood to run the Butterflz weekly club.  Other residents of the neighborhood have begun to help as their eyes have opened to their needs and realized the assets within the community to meet them.  Today, these neighbors are engaged in a collaborative effort of meeting some of the needs as they join their assets with others for the sake of their kids.

Celebrate Breakthrough and Small Victories

Recently, the Carver Pond management agreed to create more space for the club.  Underwood and Brogden are rejoicing!  They received this great news  only a week after holding a successful fund raising talent show featuring the Butterflz kids.  Their hard work and fund raising will allow the group to enjoy a field trip this summer and purchase supplies for the Butterflz after school program.

Here is tangible evidence of a community with great needs beginning to turn around because neighbors indigenous to the neighborhood have engaged a shared problem.  Here is where the concerned friends of these neighbors came alongside and are collaboratively bearing the neighborhood’s burdens.  Here is one example of how a neighborhood can inspire and give hope to its own city.

Press Through Constant Challenges

Over the summer months a major clean up and reorganization job will be conducted in the old Carver Pond community building.  This free-standing building will more than triple the space currently used for the Butterflz program, but more volunteers and support are still needed to complete the project and meet the staffing demands for the Tuesday-Thursday program.

The program continues as the management and Butterflz staff press through these challenges.  As the city takes notice, its citizens are getting involved with the Carver Pond Butterflz project.  Everyone learns how to press through this challenge, which will prepare them for the next challenge − which will come.

The 10 Challenge is embraced weekly at Liberty St. Apts. Durham

Teens from Liberty St. Apts with Lori Fisher and Amanda Hallsbrook, student volunteer-mentor, together at "Blacktop Games"

It’s common after weeks of serving together that fellow volunteers and mission team members would become friends. Shared experiences and challenges creates a unique bond between those who were there with a first-hand perspective.  After five years of weekly outreach and discipleship at the Liberty St. Apts. in Durham many of the children do not know life without a Good News Club® (here called “Downtown Bible Club”) on Tuesday night.  Many teens in this community have grown up in the club from childhood.  There have also been many workers, teachers, and volunteers during these five short years.  There has also been a church, First Baptist Durham, which adopted the community embracing the 10 Challenge from CEF Ministries.  During this journey many acquaintances were made and stronger friendships established.  It’s almost expected that this would happen between fellow workers.

But what was unexpected, yet so natural and biblical, most of the children, teens, and families have developed real friendships within this outreach team.  The team of college students, young professionals, and ministers feel the same way.  Friendships and trusting relationships have been forged at the margins of our city.  How did this happen?  The Gospel… of course.  It’s been shared and received.  Discipleship… yes, weekly Bible teaching, devotionals, and activities are conducted, but the team has consistently engaged the entire community, which has made the biggest holistic difference.

Through a working relationship with the Durham Housing Authority and team members attending the Liberty St. Apts. resident council’s monthly meetings, many extra activities, camps, field trips, and resources have been provided for the community.  The defining attributes of this developing friendship are not the programs, extra curricular activities, or even the resources provided, like painting lines on the community blacktop so that kids had a game surface they could enjoy and take pride in, but it has been the personal experiences and relationship shared which have enriched the team’s lives and the community.

A call for unselfish collaboration within the regional Church

This 4-part article has the essence of the following statements:

The citizens of our city like others have nurtured division and isolation, which resemble the words of the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy, “…men with whom we share a city, but not a community.  Men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort…”

Yet, I will state, recently I’ve seen ordinary people doing extraordinary things empowered by Almighty God… reconciliation and biblical transformation is happening when ordinary people (called the Church or Body) work together in collaboration with each other and God.

There is lament, a plea, and hope for contemporary renewal — radical, but authentic  faith within the Church as I state in part 3 and 4: 
I see emerging a generation and community who thrives on social relationships and longs for authentic experiences with God…  What if, as Jesus prayed, we ministered together as a unified Church — poor with affluent, mega with storefront, older believers with younger… ?

These are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things who are also saying, Enough is enough! Stop the bleeding.  “Stop dividing the Body… severing its limbs and discarding some of its body parts…”

Final edition: Part 4 with entire article for your convenience

Don’t you hate it when a good working relationship with someone falls apart?  It seemed so right and possessed so much potential.  There were extraordinary moments of success.  You may have experienced an extremely difficult time when you supported each other.  There was a unique bond.  However, life’s circumstances or a mindset change divided you and destroyed what could have been.

Part 1 – A Current Reflection

Now at 56, I’m often reminded of significant relationships that were cut short.  I also think of current friendships that have enormous potential for doing great things together.  I ask myself, How did I fail in the past?  What could I have done differently?  How can I foster sustainable relationships today?  I believe these are some of the same questions the Church should be asking itself today on its mission.

Some of the answers or at least a few thoughts to get the discussion started can be found in the words of a current friend, Chris Rice, “A divided world needs people with vision, spiritual maturity and daily skills integral to reconciliation.  The church needs fresh resources – a mix of biblical vision, skills in social and historical analysis, and practical gifts of spirituality and social leadership – in order to pursue reconciliation in real places, from congregations to communities.”

People and reconciliation are key words in Chris Rice’s statement.  But no person, organization, or church congregation is equipped to supply the needed resources described.  Ordinary people can do extraordinary things empowered by Almighty God.  Thus, reconciliation and biblical transformation happens when ordinary people work together in collaboration with each other and God.  Even if our friends say it in different ways, the essence of these words is what everyone wants to see happen in our city… people working together to solve our mutual problems.

Part 2 – A Past Reality

Unfortunately, history of the Church and our society reveals a different story.  Sen. Bobby Kennedy eloquently stated this reality about people, relationships, and violence in America during a 1968 speech only a few weeks before his assassination:

“…We learn at the last to look at our brothers as alien.  Alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community.  Men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort.  We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.  Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done too great… to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours…”

I agree with Kennedy and others who lament over the relational abandonment of our society.  Bluntly, it means divided, separate, or indifferent we will fall, but the Gospel gives hope that together we can stand.  What would it look like… what blessing awaits the Church if it were to live together in unity (Psalm 133) and functions as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)?

As another friend and author, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, recently quoted a 9th century Benedictine monk, “We must always be on the lookout for Christ’s twofold coming, the one when he comes day after day to stir our consciences, and the other when we shall have to give an account of everything we have done.  He comes to us now in order that his future coming may find us prepared.”  Will the Church, which includes every Christian and every congregation, heed these reminders and follow the countless examples of what it means to live and minister in a divided world?  Yes, we must remember the reality of our past if we’re to progress going forward.  Where do I see this happening?

I see emerging a generation and community who thrives on social relationships and longs for authentic experiences with God.  This is an expanding population of radical and revolutionary Christians willing to live and minister in this simple way — as Jesus taught and modeled.  A correction has begun in their hearts and a plea for action is upon many of their lips.  Will this restoration impact the Church?  Will their cry be heard in our city?

Part 3 – A Future Restoration

Therefore, It’s because of this reality and our history that I’ve asked the Church a series of questions over the past two years: What if the Church at Durham took seriously its responsibility for taking the Gospel to city kids and their families?  What if for 10 years a collaboration of churches and ministries comprehensively served the most physically and spiritually needy or under-resourced communities in Durham?

And by the way, these are the communities with no voice − where crime and evil have dominated life for way too long − where kids are not expected to succeed and adults are viewed with little value in solving its own problems.

What if peculiar doctrines of Scripture and Christian service in the community no long brought name-recognition or spiritual arrogance?  What if the Church set aside its differences and used its diverse strengths for compassionate and intelligent ministry to our city?  What if, as Jesus prayed, we ministered together as a unified Church — poor with affluent, mega with storefront, older believers with younger, etc?  These questions scream out for answers from each person as well as from the congregations that make up the regional Church at Durham.

Part 4 – A Lament, Plea, and Hope

Durham needs those willing to enter the pain and suffering of its people… those with a vision, which has been turned into a passion of service unto the Lord.  These are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things who are also saying, Enough is enough! Stop the bleeding.  Chris Heuertz stated in a 2010 sermon while in Durham, “Stop dividing the Body… severing its limbs and discarding some of its body parts as if they were insignificant or unimportant.”

A Lament for the Church

Oh Lord the bleeding has gone on for way too long.
I repent of my disobedience and contributing to the
lack of unity within the Body.  Forgive me oh God!

Your arm is not short nor weak to fulfill Your prayer
that we will be one as You and Your Father are One.
Oh Lord, so many do not believe in You because they
see the Church divided and separated from humanity.

Oh Lord, cleanse us of this great sin. Bring us together.
Create in us a pure heart and unify our actions oh Lord that we may join You in the work we are called to do.  Bring glory to Yourself as we glorify You in our unified expressions of the Gospel: justice, mercy, and humility.

A Plea for Action

Lamentation, restlessness, and a plea for action from the Church typically expresses radical Christians.  We have an authentic faith, but need a developing community to facilitate authentic or biblical expressions of the Gospel.  In possessing the greatest truth, we must show the greatest love, the heart of Christ, to accurately express the Gospel in words and deeds.  This is the greatest proof, which the Church and our city needs.  The proof that God really did …so love the world… that God’s plans are …not to harm you, but plans to give you hope and a future.  Our city will clearly understand this when it sees the Church believing, loving, and working together collaboratively with Christ-centered unity as it engages the culture of our city.  This is the proof Durham needs to welcome  Christ as God of our city.

Community-based kingdom building and collaborative ministry were clear in the New Testament where 39 of 40 explicit powers of the Holy Spirit were displayed in local communities.  All but 2-3 miracles of Christ were done in the community marketplace where people lived… not in worship gatherings or meetings. The proof of God through the Church is expressed in communities.

This proof is diminished if the Church is divided and segregated into non-collaborative congregations.  However, the Church is strongest and biblical when it collaboratively builds Christian community within local communities of our city.  There are several local initiatives gaining traction which show the greatest proof in Durham.

A Present Hope

When times are tough and a biblical response is needed, the Bible says, “…but the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do great exploits.” Daniel 11:32 Hope is present in Durham.  God’s people are initiating and sustaining many Gospel-centered efforts.  Here are some examples of the most collaborative initiatives building Christian community and hope in our city.

Pray for Durham is an initiative to have every street prayed over everyday by hundreds of concerned Christians for spiritual air supremacy over the city.  Durham Ministers in Prayer and Transformation Durham are meeting weekly and focus their prayer on Durham and not personal needs.  CEF, Reality Ministries, Urban Hope, and the Youth Life Foundation are working with children and youth in schools and neighborhoods daily.  Bull City Outreach ministers to the homeless and hungry; Frontlinez Ministries holds monthly block parties; and JusticeMatters, a Christian non-profit, provides pro-bono legal services to those living within the same communities where the above ministries serve.

In addition, ABCD is an emerging group of intermediary Christian community developers, which empowers community assets while providing a supportive learning environment, resources, and tools to those who transform communities.  The last two examples of hope are using a web-based approach to uniquely connect the regional Church and the city to each other and opportunities to serve its fellow-man.  DurhamCares is helping our city love its neighbors and engage in serving each other, building relationships across cultural boundaries, and transforming our community through committed involvement.  Bless Durham exists to be a communication hub for the Body of Christ and bless Durham through the strategic coordination of efforts and relationships within our community.

Many of these church, marketplace, and non-profit ministers are part of an urban network, which meets regularly to seek diverse ways of collaboration in ministry and share its resources for the development of Christian communities in Durham over the next 10 years.  The Church working together will stand… develop many initiatives like these, and do even greater exploits.


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