Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cleaning Up Baltimore, Portland, New York, or LA

A friend of mine, who lives near Baltimore, posted on Facebook yesterday that news stations are not reporting on the coming together of people in the city of Baltimore to help clean it up.

Another friend posted a link to ten images you're not likely to see on television.  And, most powerful of all, a video of hundreds of faith leaders, led by a man in a wheelchair, risking their lives to bring a sense of calm and collaboration in the midst of the chaos.

This dramatic scenario reminded me of my recent interview with Kevin Palau (president of the Luis Palau Association, LPA). I also read Kevin's soon-to-be released book Unlikely: What Happens When We Set Aside Our Differences to Live Out the Gospel. The details of what happened in Portland, Oregon when churches got beyond the barriers of denomination, age, gender, race--and became the Church serving the city--were more than intriguing; they were inspiring. The movement began when a team from LPA went to the gay mayor and asked: "How can we serve the city?" The result has brought about tremendous change, not only in the city but in the perception of Christians. By pouring out their love on the school system, foster care system, in gang-infested neighborhoods, with the homeless, in health and wellness and human trafficking, they've become known for their servant hearts. Instead of being critical and judgmental, these Christ-followers learned to love their neighbors.

The Body of Christ faces the challenges of poverty, orphans, human rights, ideology, and broken relationships on a global scale--along with the challenges of evangelism and the celebration of who God is and LPA is addressing those, too, at its NY City Fest. Currently the LPA's City Serve and City Fest efforts are focused in the New York Metropolitan area. and after two years, they are already making a noticeable difference.

People have begun noticing a different in Los Angeles, too. And, surprisingly it was reported in yesterday's local newspaper, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. While reporting on why LA is not experiencing riots like Baltimore, reporter Sarah Favot said that:
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stood Monday evening with county and faith leaders and called for continued peace while warning against similar outbreaks here.
"Los Angeles is calm for a reason," McDonnell said at a news conference outside the Hall of Justice downtown. . . . "The L.A. Sheriff's Department has worked side by side with our police partners, faith leaders and the community as a whole to ensure that we know the pulse of  the community [emphasis mine]."
This collaborative effort involving Christian leaders in the community has been building in L.A. over time. A couple of months ago, I attended Together LA at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. (That's where Stevie Wonder and Denzel Washington worship.) Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians Christian leaders came together to find out more about getting past our differences and working toward the betterment of our communities. Like the LPA's effort in Portland or the current effort in Baltimore, L.A. government leaders have recognized that Christians offer a message of hope and light in the midst of injustice. Part of that recognition may have come about because of the powerful effort of Christians serving their communities by fighting human trafficking in a multitude of ways--after-school programs, working with foster care kids, supporting survivors, assisting the poor and on and on.

CARE 18's been leading this collaborative effort in L.A., and this past weekend, I spoke on a panel about how churches can join the fight against modern-day slavery. Christians from various walks of life came together at that event to learn best practices from each other. When we stop judging each other and start loving one another to work together in unity, so much more can be accomplished. Then we become known--not for what we're against--but for our love. And, the good news is that everyone can and should participate.

That gives us something worth celebrating--God's love is the source of our joy. For me this was the best part of the Together LA conference. Worshiping and praising our great God in unity was a little taste of heaven. That's the good news and there's nothing better than sharing it--both by our actions and by presenting the Gospel.If you're not already involved in your community--try it, you'll like it. If you are, I'd love to know about your efforts. Please click on "No Comments" to post a comment telling us what you're doing.

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