“We have some of the best urban ministry going on in the country . . . “
These were some of the introductory remarks made by Dr. Larry Lloyd, president and founder of the Memphis Leadership Foundation at this year’s Urban Summit held on the CUMC campus. Lloyd, who added that “Memphis is doing some great, great work for the sake of the gospel,” welcomed approximately 350 people involved in this very work to come and learn together from those who have served God through urban ministry.
The schedule included breakout sessions featuring urban ministry pioneers Bob Lupton, Michael Mata, and Memphis’ own David Montague. The keynote speaker was civil rights leader John M. Perkins.
It didn’t take long for #Urban2012 to be trending on the Twitter pages of Memphis and remain that way well into the afternoon.
Bob Lupton shared the driving ideology of his ministry with FCS Urban Ministries which he has published in his book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It).
After being advised by John Perkins himself to live among the people that he was called to serve, Lupton moved his family to inner-city Atlanta. There he learned from experience that the church should be striving towards not just charity, but empowerment. A couple of reasons: One, simple charity which leads to one-way giving “almost always diminishes the dignity of the recipient,” said Lupton.
The goal is a healthy relationship with those you are serving, and “Relationships that are built on need almost never remain healthy.”Instead of one-way giving, empowerment teaches and enables others to do what they have the capacity to do themselves. In this way, people aren’t deprived of the opportunity of being at the exchange table and of being actual participants in the well-being of their community.
The other reason to engage in empowerment over simple charity is that this would provide the needed aid for the church’s tendency to minister in “crisis mode” instead of “chronic mode.” Too often, the church in “crisis mode” responds in great strength to particular needs but then vanishes after only a short time. The church in “chronic mode,” rather, focuses on ministering to larger needs that require a significant investment in time and effort to see progress with staying power.