Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), knows about ministry to underserved communities, having served for more than 30 years in urban Latino neighborhoods. In Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God Is at the Center (InterVarsity Press), Castellanos shows how ministries can address inequality and injustice without forsaking evangelism and discipleship. David Swanson, pastor of Chicago’s New Community Covenant Church, spoke with Castellanos about forging faith and community at society’s margins.
You write, “We can no longer maintain our old paradigms of ministry that compartmentalize and truncate the work of the kingdom.” How does this principle guide your work?
In most evangelical churches, evangelism and discipleship are the bread and butter. But to bring the full gospel to poor and marginalized communities, we need further tools.
CCDA’s biblical framework begins from a foundation of proclamation and formation. But from my experience in urban and Latino communities, I learned that we needed to put compassion front and center. Compassion is a language Christians can understand in our hurting world: the need for a cup of water, clothing, shelter, or some other practical form of love.
We want to help create economic opportunity—to teach people how to fish, and even to own the pond. We want to restore dignity by restoring the ability to care for oneself and one’s family.
As I got involved with the struggle for immigration reform in the United States, I realized that confronting injustice would be essential.
Where can churches look for examples of putting the full gospel into action?
Think of the black church and the way leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. read the Bible from a different perspective, giving new meaning to words like liberation and reconciliation. The black church’s mobilization and involvement in justice work has influenced the Latino community as we have begun to mobilize on issues of immigration and poverty. I hope we can learn from the black church’s experience without losing our fervor for evangelism.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Interview by David Swanson