A Series on the Eight Principles of Christian Community Development
By Eric Basye
In the fall of 2020, I began working on my Doctor of Leadership through George Fox University. I toyed with the idea for years, having completed one year of doctoral work through Fuller Seminary in 2005, but then life happened. Shelly and I had our first son, she was working 100+ hours/week as a second-year medical resident, and I was busy leading a ministry in the inner city of Memphis where we lived. While we are no less busy now, our kids are older and more established, and Shelly is working significantly less than she was during those early years. It seemed that if ever there were an opportune time to pursue this dream, it was now. Thankfully, I have an amazing family and Board of Directors that have supported me, and I look forward to graduating in May 2023.
Who are the Leaders?
As I step into my final year, I will be developing a six-month leadership development curriculum. In working with the marginalized, I’ve observed that a lack of healthy, holistic relationships make it difficult for vulnerable communities to flourish. My leadership program will attempt to provide a solution to this problem. A few months ago, I had the privilege of facilitating a prototype cohort with eight individuals for a four-week class. Meeting on Sundays over a shared meal, we discussed the following topics: defining leadership, Imago Dei (identify formation), viewing people from a place of having something to offer vs. a place of deficit, and finally, that we all have been made to cultivate. At the close of each class, I provided a suggested take-home assignment that participants could respond to if they chose. In thinking about leadership development, and the concept of Imago Dei, I was awestruck by one of the responses I received:
I have never considered or even heard of the term “Imago Dei.” However, I read the questions you asked daily, listened to an audiobook, and read the first part of Genesis multiple times a day. The conclusion I’ve come to is that God made all of us to be leaders. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth”. Now I am certainly no scholar, and I am even newer to Scripture than I am to Christianity. However, this verse really makes me think that God has made each of us to be leaders in our own right. When it comes to embracing this term and applying it to leadership in my life, I think of the team of guys I oversee at work. Each of them has certain qualities and excels in unique categories. It is my job as their leader to identify what they excel in and apply them to these categories on each job site whenever possible… Again, if I think of this in terms of “Imago Dei,” it is realizing that we are all made uniquely in God’s image, and as a leader, it is important that we identify these unique qualities and help our people apply them to the work we do.
Filling the Vacuum
This student vividly communicated the principle of leadership development in Christian community development (CCD). We are witnessing a leadership vacuum nationwide, and it is no less true for low-income communities. Sadly, these communities often experience what I refer to as the Exodus Problem; the challenge posed when people, businesses, and churches leave the community to seek better opportunities. While growing up in an impoverished neighborhood often bears a badge of honor and affection for the community, if the opportunity presents itself, those who have the chance to leave often do. This is true not only of people, but also of businesses and churches. Concerning homeownership, if given the opportunity to own a home in a vulnerable community or a wealthier neighborhood, the vulnerable community is rarely chosen.
According to longtime community developer “Coach” Gordon, “The primary goal of leadership development is to restore the stabilizing glue and fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so prevalent in poor communities by developing leaders.” Leadership development is paramount for CCD, as the core of the gospel message is reconciliation; God restoring us to our intended purpose and identity. I believe my friend said it well when he said we are all called to be leaders, for this is how God created us.
Throughout the various works of CLDI, a central theme is the restoration of individuals, families, and communities to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we don’t do it perfectly, we aim to develop leaders through the relationships formed with our KMC tenants, the youth and their families we befriend and mentor through Youth Works, the apprentices we train at the Rail//Line Coffee, the women and children we invest in at the Hannah House, and the young leaders we equip and send out through the Internship. Going forward, CLDI has identified that it is essential to prioritize indigenous leadership development in the community as part of our strategic plan. In creating more pathways to encourage these opportunities, such as through a 6-month leadership development cohort, the bi-product of my doctoral work, we are convinced that leadership development in and among our community is possible! Please join us in praying that God does great wonders and works in our neighborhood such that He raises disciples and leaders who will invest in the flourishing of our South Side community and beyond.
 Dr Wayne L Gordon, “The Eight Components of Christian Community Development,” 4, https://nsc-church.org/CCDA%208%20Points.pdf.