A Series on the Eight Principles of Christian Community Development
By Eric Basye
Hope for Restoration
In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the prophet lamented the disrepair of Jerusalem as the people had returned to rebuild the city and temple after 70 years of exile. It was reported to Nehemiah, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire” (Neh. 1:3, HCSB). Nehemiah’s response was to petition the Lord in prayer, strategize, and courageously lead the people of Israel to rebuild the wall with vision and hope for restoration.
The work of Christian Community Development (CCD) is to follow the examples in Scripture of God’s faithful followers. Like them, we are invited to engage vulnerable communities, empowered by Gospel hope to love others, friend and foe alike, and seek reconciliation through the good news of Jesus Christ.
John Perkins (pictured with me above!), the founder of the Christian Community Development Association, highlights what he calls the 3 R’s of CCD – relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. In thinking about these principles, it is important to understand that the 3 R’s are interdependent upon one another. The call of “relocation” invites us to intentionally choose where to live and whom to neighbor. As Christ-followers who have been consumed by the radical love of Jesus, neighboring means answering the call to “reconciliation”—stepping out into uncomfortable spaces to love others and establish pathways of relationship.
The third principle is “redistribution.” Let that word sink in. Like me, I imagine you may experience a flood of varying thoughts and emotions! Born and raised in Wyoming, and now calling Montana “home,” my fiery, independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality reacts negatively to what I assume is meant by redistribution. According to our friends at Wikipedia, classic redistribution is “the transfer of income and wealth from some individuals to others through a social mechanism such as taxation, welfare, public services, land reform, monetary policies, confiscation, divorce or tort law.” I assure you, this is NOT the kind of redistribution I am referring to, as Scripture calls us to something far different.
Kingdom redistribution is the acknowledgment of the reality that, while every person carries the dignity and worth of Imago Dei and possesses something of value to offer the world, individuals from lower-income communities often have far more hurdles and fewer opportunities than others. Christian redistribution, then, is openly sharing the knowledge, resources, and relational equity that one possesses for the betterment of the community. Robert Greenleaf, in his book Servant Leadership, speaks to this when he says,
All that is needed to rebuild community as a viable life form for large numbers of people is for enough servant-leaders to show the way, not by mass movements, but by each servant-leader demonstrating his or her own unlimited liability for a quite specific community-related group (p. 53).
When God’s people are moved to relocate to low-income neighborhoods with a vision for gospel restoration, they bring the things God has entrusted to them to steward for the good of others. A specific family comes to mind that made the decision to missionally relocate to the South Side. This family has taken in several youth over the years, welcoming them as their own. Not only have they housed them, but they fed them, walked with them through major life decisions, offered a shoulder to cry on, and connected them to rich community to celebrate life’s victories and provide support during life’s hardships.
Years later, these youth are now young women, and their lives have been unquestionably transformed. One is currently working on her college degree, another is working with a ministry in a neighboring state, and a third is looking forward to graduating high school in 2023. Even more critical than these accomplishments, though, are the ways in which the love of Christ has brought out the very best in these young women. While their future is still unknown, I am confident that the gifts that were redistributed to affirm and build up these young women in Christ will continue to produce fruit throughout their lives.
To Build Pathways and Empower the Community
In thinking about my own life, my story is much like those of these young women. Through a vast network of people who loved and believed in me, I, too, have been awarded many opportunities that have forever changed the course of my life. Such is the heart and vision of CLDI for the South Side; that through intentional investment, new relationships and resources will be put to work to build pathways and empower the community for holistic transformation, ultimately leading to worship of God. Circling back to Nehemiah, God used this servant to rebuild the wall in just 52 days. As a result, the wall was dedicated and the people were moved to joyous worship:
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sent for the Levites wherever they lived and brought them to Jerusalem to celebrate the joyous dedication with thanksgiving and singing accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres (Nehemiah 12:27).
Rebuilding lives, restoring families, and re-neighboring communities through the love of Christ for the praise of the King.
 “Redistribution of Income and Wealth,” Wikipedia, April 15, 2022, accessed May 5, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Redistribution_of_income_and_wealth&oldid=1082775691.