Praying Houston

Walking with a band of believers through the streets of downtown Houston, I feasted on a wonderful sound. It was kind of a reverse take on the Pentecost experience of Acts 2. In that biblical story, people of varied tongues heard each other in their own. In Houston, the people were all from one place but speaking a variety of languages — in a group of only about 75 people.

This group from throughout metropolitan Houston “prayer walked” through the business district of downtown Houston. They were among three such groups, the others going to the criminal justice and compassion districts.

There was no majority ethnic group, nor could I detect a dominant denominational group. They had only one obvious thing in common: They called Jesus Lord and desired that others in Houston know Him.

Prayer in an open, public place on a gorgeous fall day is food for the soul of the one who prays, and who knows what good might be wrought by those prayers.

It, quite simply, was the perfect way to launch the two-week CityReach effort leading up to Texas Baptists’ Annual Meeting Nov. 16-17 in Houston. Now, across Texas, we can join them in prayer for this largest of our cities.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

Wayne Gordan at CCDA

The annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association started last night. It was great, and I will go back and add some posts about that soon.

Right now Wayne Gordan has just started to talk. This is the 21st meeting of CCDA. It started with about 15 people meeting at O’Hare airport in Chicago in 1989. Now, there is a monster crowd here in Cincinnati.

Gordan is president of CCDA. He’s going to talk about where the association is and what we’re doing.

Highlighting three books:

1) Love is an Orientation… it’s about how the church and the gay community can love each other…

2) The Next Evangelicalism… it’s about how can we free the church today from its western mindset…

3) Jesus and the Disinherited… written by Howard Thurman… now deceased… written in 1948 but as relevant today as then… Thurman started the first multi-racial church in America


I just realized that I lost my signal and I lost most of my notes. Shoot!

Here’s a couple of things of things that stood out:

Wayne says our youth are being enveloped by a culture of violence, and that Christian leaders are going to have to reinvest their lives in children and youth.

Also, he spoke from Scripture about the story of King Saul not being fully obedient to God, and God responding that He desires obedience more than sacrifice. Gordon said sin, the lack of obedience to the whole gospel of God can undermine the CCDA movement.

Then hundreds of people can to the “altar” to pray for repentence. Whoever thinks community development is just about doing good does not understand the great foundation of devotion, of love of God and things of God.

CCDA: Ministry Effectiveness

I arrived late for Amy Sherman’s workshop titled “Measure Your Ministry’s Effectiveness,” but I still picked up a few general helpful comments.

Of course, there was the obvious: Set specific goals and measure progress.

Here’s something I think a lot of us need to hear: Donors want more than anecdotes. They want to know outcomes. They want to answer the “So what?” question.

For our churches, “donors” translates to “members.”

Ask questions like, How many… how long or intense were your efforts? … What exactly did you do?

In the end, donors really want to know what difference your ministry made.

Outcomes: A target audience’s CHANGED or improved skills, attitudes or knowledge by participating in your program.

To measure the outcomes you must discover indicators, the observable evidences of those looked –for accomplishments, changes or gains.

Example: Do a pre and post test.

Some indicators are easy to measure/obtain. Others are challenging.

Schools will have reading scores, grades, attendance records.

For the harder-to-measure stuff, where do we go?… In our ministries, we usually want to see ooshee-gushee things like transformation that are difficult to measure.

Self-reported data is better than no data.

Casey Life Skills Assessment is online and free… available in English and Spanish… It’s for tweens and teens (I think)… It generates self-reported data and some third-party data…. It captures hard data and soft data… Casey will generate aggragate data results… Casey is not a Christian or spiritual group… Other tools are needed for that…. this might also work OK with younger adults, but leader should check and see if questions are appropriate to their group….

You can come up with your only template to access your progress.

Challenge: Though ministry leaders may “do the right things” (e.g., holistic, relational, ministry), they may not have the reasearch evidence at their fingertips to “back up” the value of their approach.

Here are some sources for Best Practice info:

1) Fasten’s Best Practice Checklists (… topically oriented summations drawn from literature reviews of evaluations/reports/studies

2) “Trade Associations” or Research Institutes in your social service field (like CCDA)… Christian Community Health Fellowship….

3) The Search Institutes’s “40 Developmental Assets” … 40 key factors that affect a youth’s ability to thrive. The more assets a youth has, the less likely she is to engage in risk behaviors and the more likely she is to exhibit positives behaviors and attitudes…. foundations are really into these paradigms….

CCDA: Economic crisis has historical roots

Lowell Noble led a workshop titled “Our Current Economic Crisis Has Historical Roots,” and it challenges Christians to think about their faith in relation to our economic system. Lowell is a volunteer with the John Perkins Foundation, and he’s a sociologist and anthropologist. (Unless I use quotation marks, the notes are paraphrases of Lowell’s comments.) Here are some highlights; one of the things I really like are the references to books and articles:

Lowell wrote this on a pad at the beginning, with reference to giant financial firms — “To big to fail, too powerful to regulate effectively, too oppressive to continue.”

“Our historical past haunts our sociological present,” or you could say our economic present.
Justice has a strong economic component to it.

The American pulpit hasn’t had much to say about the economic crisis, even though the Bible has a lot to say about economics. …

Bush’s Treasurer secretary, Henry Paulsen, said in an interview during the ’08 financial crisis that raw capitalism (high risk, unregulated, speculative capitalism) is dead. … Bush’s economic advisors told the president if he didn’t act quickly we would have another Great Depression or worse. … It put the break on. … Obama continued with the bailout.

One of Lowell’s favorite authors is Kevin Phillips. … He is a conservative Republican. At the end of the Reagan he wrote, The Politics of Rich and Poor, which was a severe critique of the Reagan years. … Deficit doubled. … Pushed deregulation and dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor…. Read it now and it seems also to be about the ’08 crisis…

Phillips also wrote Wealth and Democracy. … He said one of the signs of a declining empire is when there are more people making money, handling money than there are people producing goods…. This is true today. … Money handlers are almost parasites of society. … We need a certain number, but it can get out of hand.

Now, Phillips has written Bad Money…. He is not an ideologue. … He has been one of my mentors.

Another mentor, Paul Krugman. … The Conscience of a Liberal… Krugman says the rich and powerful have dominated society for most of (a given time)…

Great Depression broke the hold of the rich and powerful. …

Can you regulate the system enough to control the abuse or does it have to be destroyed…. Destruction would have terrible consequences; it would mean unemployment doubles…. We almost have to have a catastrophe before the system can be turned around. …

I’m afraid corporate lobbyists will prevent Obama from solving the problem. If anyone can solve it, Obama is the one. …

A small town banker told Lowell that “my function is to make rich people richer.” … This banker thinks there may be a better way. …

Another book: Mark Noll’s God and Race in American Politics

Another book: Charles Avila’s Ownership….

Augustine…. He saw the prevailing oppression of his time as an assault on Christ…. He laid the blame on the exclusive right of private ownership… The Creator willed creation to that of all in common….

Basil the Great…. Says that land, grain and sun are the part of nature to be available to all… koina… common goods contrasted with one’s own things. … an idiot is one who piles up an excessive number of goods. … “excessive ownership is a form of theft”….

Sept. 21, 2009, Newsweek issue … The author says the problem is worse now than in ’08 when it almost failed. …

David Brooks…. Generally regarded as a conservative economist … Lowell says Brooks is moderate…. He’s a thoughtful capitalist columnist for The New York Times…. He’s been agonizing over this whole situation…. What went wrong? … the vast expansion of corporate influence…. Gauntlet of lobbyists and lies…

Krugman: year ago said he was terrified…

Now the really bad news: It’s worse than any of you think…. “Stupid and Unsustainable”…

Another book: “Black Wealth, White Wealth” by Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro. … It’s discusses, among other things, the high rate of incarceration in the US…

There is a massive misuse of our resources in regard to incarceration….

Military budget…. US is spending as much as all of the rest of the world … If we keep spending like currently, we are digging ourselves a big hole…

An article: “For a Fairer America” by Mortimer B. Zuckerm in US News and World Report
In WWII the government controlled almost all economic activity of any consequence…. During the next generation we had the best equality … then began to dissipate with Reagan and afterward.

An article: The Nation, July 6, 2009: “The Most Important Financial Journalist of Her Generation”…. Gretchen Morgenson….

What happened last year was the result of a system of oppression. It was just greed or stupidity…

In Reagan and afterward, corporate American argued for deregulation….

Paul Krugman: The change in america’s financial world was Ronald Reagan’s biggest gift to the western world and it’s the gift that keeps on taking.

Warren Buffet 2005: US is becoming a sharecropper’s society

Another book: Ulrich Duchrow’s Alternatives to Global Capitalism

Lowell believes we will face another financial crisis in a few years. So what’s the implication for CCDA ministries: I suggest you have a subcommittee on your board that looks at this and says, if that happens to be true, what should we do in the meantime…. Out of the ashes what could we build? …

Years ago, in Mondragon, Spain… after a financial catastrophe, they created a whole society based on cooperatives …. Grocery stores, universities,

It is possible to design an economic system that is much more Christian than ours.

Book: The Moral Measure of the Economy by Chuck Collins and Mary Wright.
—- ——-
This was a side note: Economic professors in Christian colleges are very little different from others…. Maybe there is an opportunity there…. We need to take Acts 4 seriously…. Holding things in common…

CCDA: Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners, connects with my mind and heart as do few others. He spoke tonight at the Christian Community Development Association conference in Cincinnati. His topic was “How Our Choices Make Change,” and the broader theme was Synergy.

The following are some good quotes and paraphrases excerpted from the message:

First, his word to the people of CCDA: “You are a mosaic of God’s children who love the poorest of God’s children.”

You can’t keep pulling bodies from the river and not go up stream and see what’s throwing them in.

To CCDA: “What you do everyday has made the gospel more creditable in this country. … You are helping to restore our integrity. …”

Synergy teaches us that, no matter what you learned in school, one plus one does not equal two. … Synergy teaches us that when different forces are brought together in cooperation their combined force is greater than the sum of their parts. … In feeding the 5,000, Jesus could have just done it by himself, but the kid with the loaves and fishes gave Jesus something to work with; and, with God, things tend to multiply.

The dangers of government are no more evident than in Revelation 13 where it is a demonic servant. … But in Romans 13, … it is God’s servant for good. …

In last year’s election, sincere people of faith voted differently. … I suspect that no matter how you cast your vote, no one’s going to hell for how you voted. …

At the time I warned about two possible mistakes: 1) To believe that change has already come, or 2) that things cannot change.

“God is personal but never private.”

“Historians say it isn’t revival until it changes something in society,” the public stuff. …

We’ve got some challenges, some chains that need loosening. … Ministry is where we start, but ministry by itself cannot loosen the chains of injustice. The God of the Bible is a God of justice. …

We, as the people of God, are in the mountain-moving business. … We can’t limit God to just changing our neighborhood. God needs to change our nation, our world. It takes synergy.

We’ve got some big fights… The Dow hit 10,000 and unemployment hit 10% in the same week.…

We’re not going to get into partisan battles. We’re going to hold both sides accountable. We’re not going to go left or right, we’re going to go deeper. …

We have got to do more than just care about what’s in our neighborhood, nor can we just lobby in D.C. We must do both. Start in our neighborhoods and then go to Washington and cry, “Let justice roll down like rivers.”

There are different biblical models for how to do this. I’ve been attracted to Amos…. There’s also Joseph, who saved his family from starving. … There’s Daniel, who gave good advice but kept the faith …. Esther who protected her people…. Nehemiah knew the king was not going to rebuild the wall. …

Let’s look at Nehemiah, he may be a prophet for our time. … Martin Luther King Jr. went to Washington after winning the Nobel Peace Prize and after President Johnson had gotten some other key legislation passed. MLK said now we need a Voting Rights Act. … Johnson said he couldn’t do it. … MLK went home and organized in Selma and attention of the nation focused on Selma and in five months we had a voting rights act. … MLK made new things possible.

We can’t just deal with the symptoms, and we can’t just whisper in the ears of politicians. We have to be wind-changers.

Our choices make changes and produce a movement. It’s always the people on the ground with the forgotten people, that’s where the change comes from. …

We have to be those who lift up the synergy of a movement…. We have to go to the root causes. …

“God’s calling up a new generation for a new time such as this. … God is calling us up together. …”

This is the formula for change: Faith that prompts hope and then action action and then change.