About Me

My photo
Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

Popular Posts

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I visited John and Vera Mae Perkins in Jackson, MS, this week. It is hard for me to express the extent to which my understanding of the church, its relation to the world, and its approach to living out the Reign of God, have been challenged and changed since coming to know these people. By God's grace I read an essay by Dr. Tammy Williams, written when she was still a graduate student at Fuller Theological Seminary. The book was Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition, edited by Nancey Murphy, et al. In it, Tammy wrote about virtue ethics in relation to race relations, and her essay focused around the story of Voice of Calvary Ministries and the work of John and Vera Mae Perkins.

It was an awakening to me. I had studied academic theology, plowed through many books, and processed the traditions of church-state relations in theological writings. I had latched onto certain approaches to ecclesiology as crucial for a critique and construction of the church amidst the context of the modern nation-state. But I had only begun to scratch the surface of what the form of such an ecclesiology would be in the setting of the United States. And then I read Tammy's essay.

I remain convinced after seven years of further study that there is not more faithful witness to the calling of the church to follow Jesus than the movement with which the Perkins's are so intricately associated--Christian Community Development. It is a movement which appeared by the coming together of many churches and ministry leaders who had come to understand the church's mission as bringing the whole gospel to the whole person and the whole community, or as Latino leaders said, an integral approach to ministry.

This Tuesday, John Perkins talked to me about the gospel as God's loving way of coming to meet us at the deepest level of our need. For him, it was a need to know he was significant to someone, having lost his mother to death and having his father leave him to live with relatives. He grew up thinking he was not as "special" as other kids with mothers or fathers to live with. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he was not as good as other kids, causing his dad to leave him. But the good news came to him that God loves him and wants to live life with him. Learning this to be God's way, Perkins realized that he was to be the bearer of this good news to others. If they were having health problems, he was to demonstrate God's live by taking them to a clinic, or even convincing a doctor to come set up a clinic to serve the poor. If they had no place to live, he could be God's love by getting them a place to stay, and even building or renovating housing that can be affordable for the poor. The gospel reaches the deep needs of people and changes them into its agents.

He has written elsewhere that he also came to see that the gospel was not about a solitary life with God. It was about community. The gift God has offered us as the very purpose of our existence is community, a shared life, a life of growth through mutual accountability, a life of love and care for one another. There is no higher end. God calls us together to be brothers and sisters, to have power to bring change by being a united people serving a God of love and justice.

Perkins formulated his understanding of ministry around three Rs. The three Rs are part of the eight principles of Christian Community Development. They are Relocation, an incarnational ministry of living among the poor; Redistribution, a sharing of gifts and talents in communities where leadership and professional services are absent; and Reconciliation, briding the divisions across racial and class divisions. The three Rs are a challenge to every church to re-examine its mission and practices.

I thank God for another chance to learn from John and Vera Mae Perkins.

No comments:

Baptist Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf
Christian Peace Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf