A high-powered group mobilizes, but some ghetto workers are skeptical.

With his billions of dollars in budget cuts now cemented, President Reagan is encouraging church volunteers to fill the breach left by reductions in social welfare programs. For suburban, mostly white evangelicals, long impotent in dealing with inner-city ills, the cutbacks present a clear challenge to minister to the physical, social, and spiritual needs of the urban poor.

While some suburban churches have long track records of effective urban outreach, most seem ill equipped to prepare and send lay people into poor neighborhoods. It boils down to white Christians, and white money, trying to reach poor blacks and Hispanics. Already there is some concern about how successful that will be.

One evangelical Christian organization was formed in recent months to organize outreaches to the poor. The STEP Foundation (Strategies to Eliminate Poverty) is a group of wealthy business leaders and church and parachurch workers who share a conviction that suburban Christians should be about the business of ministering to the urban poor.

The STEP board of directors meets monthly in Dallas, and on it are some of that city’s wealthiest Christians. The board is composed of Henry “Bud” Smith, a Dallas insurance executive; oil and silver magnate Bunker Hunt; Clint Murchison, Jr., owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team; Bill Bright of Campus Crusade; Holly Coors, wife of Colorado beer brewer Joseph Coors; Mary Crowley, a wealthy Dallas businesswoman; Clarence “Arch” Decker, a Denver lawyer and publisher of a Christian newspaper; Harvey Oostdyk, an inner-city worker who heads the Dallas STEP program; Kent Hutcheson of Campus Crusade; and Robert Pittinger, formerly of Campus ...

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