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Not Your Father's Christian Community Development

Not Your Father's Christian Community Development

How John Perkins's CCDA has changed to respond to 21st-century realities.

For the past three years, I've managed the bookstore at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual conference. Each year I see old friends and make new ones, all the while putting new books into the hands of conference participants. It's a place where I can observe which voices are shaping ideas about what Christian community development is and how it should be practiced in neighborhoods. Authors like founder John Perkins, Bob Lupton, Amy Sherman, and Wayne Gordon represent the longstanding tradition of CCDA.

However, I have noticed over the past few years a growing interest in food, ecology, and Native American communities—topics not always considered part of Christian community development. Books by the late Richard Twiss (a Native American and a popular speaker at the last two conferences) and Wendell Berry, for instance, were among the top sellers at last fall's gathering. I wondered: Did the book-buying habits of conference participants suggest that the vision behind Christian community development is changing?

CCDA was founded in 1989 by John Perkins, who described the mission of CCDA in terms of three Rs: Reconciliation, Relocation and Redistribution. Noel Castellanos, current CEO, notes that the three Rs "articulate a biblical approach to living out kingdom values and the gospel in urban poverty situations." Central to the CCDA mission was racial reconciliation, a goal shaped by Perkins's experience growing up as the son of a sharecropper and having his brother killed by a white police officer. Relocation—both the movement of suburbanites into urban areas, and the return of urban youth to their neighborhoods after college—emphasized that places, even ones that seemed under-resourced, are worth developing from the inside. Redistribution was likewise primarily a local virtue, manifested as Christians shared their resources as the early Christians had in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Perkins has described redistribution in terms of economic development: Christians investing in each other's lives in order "to start local enterprises that meet local needs and employ indigenous people."

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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

Jim Ricker

February 23, 2013  4:00pm

Isaiah 58 is also required reading and God speaks clearly about what kind of fasting is right and the kind of 'sacrifice' he is interested in (feeding the hungry, helping the poor, breaking the yoke of the oppressed, etc).

Jim Ricker

February 23, 2013  3:59pm

The book of Amos in particular will help remove the idea that redistribution of wealth accumulated through immoral advantage over people is quite biblical. We can all debate whether or not a government and a people without a specific covenant with YHWH should mandate the wholesale redistribution of wealth by its own power but, the Scriptures put the idea that it is socialism or started with Marx or Hegel to rest. Amos 2: "Thus says the Lord, For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals..." Amos 4: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted..."

Rick Dalbey

February 22, 2013  1:50pm

Derek, this is a social movement, this is an economic movement, this is a justice movement, this is social engineering, it is just not the gospel. It has more kinship with the French revolution or the soviet revolution of 1918. Where are the healing of Jesus? The blind seeing, the crippled healed? Where is the deliverance of Philip? Demons cast out? Where is the prophecy of Philip's 4 daughters or Agabus or Cornelius or the 12 Ephesian men? Where are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Where are the 3000 saved under Peter's first sermon? The crippled healed under Peter. Does this look like the Bible or Dr. Zhivago? Does this look like Ephesians, Galations, Romans, Phillipians, Titus, Corinthians, Revelation or are we making it up as we go along. When we strip out the supernatural from Christianity it becomes a social movement.

Derek C

February 22, 2013  11:32am

@Rick, could you clarify? Are you critiquing the article or CCDA? What is the link to what happened in China? Are you saying the CCDA does not reflect the Father's heart? How are they off theologically?

Hannah N.

February 22, 2013  11:04am

Thanks for this. It's great to see how John Perkins' vision is being embraced and evolving with the next generation.

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