Key to Neighborhood Transformation
If you live in Memphis, you may have been blessed by hearing Tim Keller teach last night at Christ United Methodist Church. Keller is an evangelical pastor who has faithfully held up both the gospel and justice. He has faithfully held the two together, preaching that they are "joined at the hip" and cannot be separated. He has clearly expressed the heart behind SOS - that the Church must proclaim the gospel in both word and deed. The two are inseparable. One is not lifted above the other, and one is not simply a means to the other. If we are faithfully doing one, we will inevitably be doing the other as well. One take-away from Keller's talk that is important to remember as we seek to empower persons and transform neighborhoods: the gospel is the key to both empowering poor persons and transforming poor neighborhoods. Here's why... In the gospel, Christians have simultaneously a low and a high status. They have a low status because they recognize the depths of their wickedness. At the same time, they have a high status because in Christ they are "sons of God" (Romans 8). When we understand this truth, the gospel gives us a new self-image. If you are materially wealthy and successful, the gospel reminds you of your poverty and your need for Jesus. If you are rejected by society, materially poor, and despised by outsiders, the gospel reminds you that you are accepted into God's family, spiritually rich as an heir of God, and fully loved by God through Jesus.
Therefore, as we seek to empower persons and transform neighborhoods, we must clearly proclaim the gospel in both word and deed. The gospel will empower materially poor individuals and families, and they will in return transform their neighborhoods for the glory of God.
These thoughts are all very clearly presented in Tim Keller's book, Generous Justice. It's short, easy to read, and very worth your time.