Changing Our World

By Jeremy Summers

What is Christian community development and how are Wesleyans involved in communities across the U.S.? Jeremy Summers discusses how Wesleyans are making an impact in their communities.

What in the world is Christian community development?

  • Matt and Emily Miller moved intentionally to an under-resourced neighborhood in Greenville, S.C., and got involved, not just in their local church, but also their children’s Title I elementary school.
  • Mark Judkins left a successful business and started The Wesley Community Center, rooting himself into the fabric of 7 Mile, an urban section of Detroit.
  • Debra Meyer, passionate about transforming her depressed community of Broomfield, Colorado, established the Affordable Housing Task Force and was awarded the 2016 Heart of Broomfield Community Service Award.
  • Jeff Mansell resigned as district superintendent for the Greater Ohio District and founded Seven Baskets where he and his wife Cheryl lead school partnership programs and develop local leaders in Columbus, Ohio.

These ministers, and many more like them, have two things in common. First, they are living out the mission of God (missio dei), which is to restore the image of God (imago dei) to humankind. Second, they have all tapped into The Wesleyan Church’s ten- year partnership with CCDA (Christian Community Development Association).

For Wesleyans, seeing God’s image restored in people is not a new idea. This is our theology, our heritage, and our calling.

We affirm the truth of Scripture that compels us to embrace biblical justice, work toward racial and economic reconciliation, protect the oppressed and vulnerable, and welcome the stranger. We proclaim a message of both personal salvation and liberation from forces that damage the God-given image in people.

Just as Jesus healed the physically and emotionally broken, missio dei has never been only about caring for people’s eternity, but also caring for people’s lives here and now.

Wesleyan Community-Based Ministries
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Wesleyans get this. The Church, the body of Christ, is God’s great agent of mission in the world and effective, wholistic ministry divorced from the local church is nearly impossible. Yet some local churches could be guilty of being rather unfriendly neighbors in their communities. In neighborhoods where systemic injustice and great needs abound, too many churches are only open on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and seem almost irrelevant to the needs of the people right around them.

Witnessing this divide back in 1960, John and Vera Mai Perkins moved from California back to their homeland of Mississippi to help alleviate poverty and oppression. Through their work and ministry, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) was conceived. And now CCDA equips more than 5,000 Christian leaders and over 500 ministries, churches, and faith-based organizations to usher in the love of Christ to their neighborhoods and communities. CCDA is led by practitioners who are rooted deeply in their own communities practicing the principles of serving Jesus Christ by serving the whole community and the whole person.

The Wesleyan Church has seen over 1,000 pastors and leaders go through this local level training.

In September 2010, only 30 Wesleyan pastors attended an annual CCDA conference in Chicago. In the last six years there has been steady growth. In November 2015, over 150 Wesleyans representing 16 districts, 14 states, and 4 countries attended the CCDA Conference in Memphis, Tenn. Even more importantly, we have partnered with CCDA to provide local training, networking, and leadership development to hundreds of Wesleyan churches and ministries through Community Café events held throughout the denomination at the district and local church levels.

Go Now and Be the Church: Becoming an Overflowing Community by Brian Bennett. Order from Wesleyan Publishing House.

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The Wesleyan Church has seen over 1,000 pastors and leaders go through this local level training. Pastor to inner-city Detroit, Mark Judkins, states: “Wesleyans practicing community-based ministries will not find a greater source of best practices, biblical inspiration, and step- by-step processes to bring the good news of Jesus in both action and truth, than through CCDA.” Transformed lives equate to transformed communities . . . and transformed communities are made up of lives made new in Jesus Christ.

Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, founder of Focused Community Strategies, and friend of The Wesleyan Church, writes, “A church that is committed to Christian Community Development sees not only the soul of a person as significant, but also his or her whole life on earth. It is being completely pro-life for a person.”

The Wesleyan Church’s partnership with CCDA is calling out a new generation of leaders who are passionate about personal and community transformation. There is still so much more to do, and this growing band of kingdom laborers serving The Wesleyan Church and serving their cities and neighborhoods is changing the world. Ready to join them?