Meeting the Demands of a New Generation of Christian Leaders

I’ve got a new article up at The Huffington Post called, Meeting the Demands of a New Generation of Christian Leaders. I hope you’ll give it a quick read & help me put the word out about it by sharing it on Facebook, etc. It’s about some of the work friend Chris Jehle is doing. Chris is the founder and CEO of an urban KCMO ministry called The Hope Center. Chris and his wife Tammy have poured their lives into this wonderful ministry and both serve on the board of directors for the CCDA, a storied Christian organization that has been a force for justice and compassion within the church catholic for two generations.

The article tells a little bit of Chris’ story and how life and ministry in the Urban Core of KC drove him to find a deeper theological foundation from which to do ministry. He has helped CCDA to start their own theological journal. I’m excited for Chris & am glad to get to highlight this endeavor. Here’s an excerpt.

“Practics has long dominated the field of Christian social action. What works? What strategies and techniques will actually bring about change in our community? These have been the central questions of past generations. However, among a new generation of church and community leaders, practical questions are not the sole concern, and in some cases not even the primary concern.

The reason for this is that practical questions and answers can only take a ministry so far. When addressing tough issues such as generational poverty or the complete and total social breakdown of a neighborhood, practitioners often come face to face with the limits of a good strategy. How, then, do we remain faithful when nothing we are doing seems to work? When all of the practical means have been exhausted and the ends have not yet been reached what do we do next? All of the best practices, strategies and ministry consultants in the world can’t answer that question because the answer is not practical, it is theological.

Part of the theology was there already for the CCDA. A deep faith in the lordship of Jesus Christ coupled with a desire to love one’s neighbor — especially the vulnerable — has long drawn people to work with those who live on the margins of society. But part of that theology has been missing, or at least underdeveloped.

Chris Jehle, a member of the CCDA board of directors who founded The Hope Center, a remarkable Christian community development association in Kansas City, has written about his need for a deeper theology. Jehle found that the “gospel of sin management” couldn’t come close to addressing the complexities of his own neighborhood. Although the gospel as he then understood it propelled him from the suburbs into the urban core, in Jehle’s words, “It did not fully capture the primary story found in the Scriptures and therefore offered minimal guidance once I began life and work in a low-income neighborhood.”

Jehle’s context — the frayed, hope-starved injustice of urban KCMO — would require a much deeper theological framework from which to do ministry. Thus after years working in the urban core, Jehle went back to school to get a seminary degree.

According to Jehle, this theological quest has made all of the difference in his day to day ministry. “My understanding of the gospel now more fully captures the grand narrative found in the Scriptures. A more comprehensive understanding of the gospel includes not only the salvation of individual souls, but also the restoration of life in God’s good creation to his original intent, achieved through Jesus Christ.” This new theological sensitivity now serves as the foundation for The Hope Center.”

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