“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.

David Montague left a job with the Memphis brokerage firm Morgan Keegan to work in the inner-city. Having served as the director of SOS for several years, he is now the director of the Memphis Teacher Residency. This ministry functions with the conviction that “urban education is the single largest injustice in America today.” And Memphis, as the 5th poorest urban school district in the U.S., has become the “center in education reform” in this country. “All eyes are on this city to see if we can educate our children–what works here may work in larger cities like Detroit, or New York,” Montague stated.
The goal of MTR is to work toward this end, and so to provide the best teachers that inner-city Memphis children can have in order to reverse the dire current patterns of both student–and teacher–dropout rates. His two objectives at the conference were 1) to define and inform participants about urban education, and 2) to recruit them to be a part of the education reform going on in Memphis.
Montague’s main message to Memphians: To not sit on the sidelines and simply be a critic of the state of urban education but to be an advocate and a participant in its progress.To engage Christianity and the gospel not just on a personal level but on a social level, for this is the Christianity of Christ.
The keynote address by John M. Perkins was a passionate expression of his excitement about the upcoming generation from someone who sees “in Memphis something absolutely unique going on.” Mentioning that he will be turning 82 in June, Perkins said he saw the Urban Summit as one example of all these years of hard work in civil rights. Here in one place were black and white people living, working, and serving side-by-side for the sake of the gospel. He offered encouragement to look even further beyond racial barriers, and ended with a reading of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Having chosen to go back into the tumultuous conflict in Mississippi to work for racial reconciliation,  he reflected on his calling to go back into the cage. But, he said lastly, “the Jesus who went up is going to come back and I’m going to fly away.”


Listen to the audio from all the Urban Summit 2012 presentations here.

The next Urban Summit will be in April 2013.

Thanks to Breezy Torres of SOS and John Carroll of City Leadership for the photos.





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