This is my third Christian Community Development Association conference and definitely a highlight of the year meeting people from all over Americaland of all shapes and backgrounds and sizes involved in all kinds of different areas of community development dealing with things from poverty to human trafficking and from education to incarceration and more.

A high percentage of quality people all squeezed into one place for a couple of days… and just so much goodness. Today was pretty much a registration day and intro to the thing and yet i feel like already there has been so much to take away. Connecting with Erin [who was hugely involved in running CCDA the last 6 years and is now working at the Simple Way where we used to be] and catching up with old friends and having dinner with bossman, John and ‘the beard’ [aka Scott who we met a week ago at our friends Mark and Lisa’s place] and having some great conversations…

And then two powerful talks… i don’t want these blog posts to be a blow by blow account of what I’m experiencing at this conference but i hope to share some glimpses and potential gems that will hopefully be an encouragement to whoever reads these:


Noel Castellanos, president of the CCDA, a man i have come to respect a lot over my last two conferences, gave the opening address which was really powerful. Had a diagram which highlighted different areas of how CCDA gets involved and how each area is not enough without the next one. So CCDA has been really good at incarnation, which i blogged about the other day in terms of living in the communities of the people you are working with. He made an interesting point about Jesus linked to both Galilee and Nazareth with the question ‘Which neighborhood did God move into?’

He spoke about Proclamation and Formation. So it is not enough to just proclaim a message but you have to live it out and it has to be able to bring transformation in people as well. He made what was probably his most between-the-eyes point when he proclaimed that ‘Evangelism from the outside feels like drive-by evangelism.’ [I feel like this is a point tbV would have loved!] But that’s exactly what a lot of it is – without any kind of long-term relationship a lot of well intentioned ministry can feel a lot by driving into neighborhoods, dropping stuff off and then hightailing it out of there. [We don’t want to be contaminated by those we’re serving, after all?]

He said that when you add Formation to Proclamation then you see a demonstration of compassion.

Compassion [crisis help] is not the ultimate cure for poverty. If ten years later you are still ‘helping this family out’ then perhaps that isn’t the best thing. It is important for a while but you need to move on to Restoration and Development. 

Then he finished by saying he thought all of those things were the picture, but that he had come to realise over 30 years of doing community development stuff that there was another one. “When you put the poor at the heart of our concern like it is at the heart of God’s concern, the forces of hell will come against you.” The last one that needs to be taken on is Confrontation of Justice. Taking on the systems and mindsets that have helped create the problems that you are facing.


Leroy Barber was head of Mission Year and has just become the Global Director for Word MadeFlesh and he is also, i believe, the chairman of the board of CCDA. He preached some heat off of Isaiah 61:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

And the most powerful point i got out of his message came from the whole comparison where ashes have become beauty, mourning has become joy and despair has become praise… which is all great and fine and good, but then he followed it up with something i had not thought of before… Firstly there is the transformation of these people [formerly the ones with the ashes, mourning and despair] becoming oaks of righteousness, but then it is THEY [verse 4] who will be the ones who rebuild the ancient ruins.

Leroy got so excited and animated about this point and rightly so. Looking at the audience he shouted at them, ‘That’s why so many of you get burned out.’ ‘That’s why you need five holidays a year.’ Because the focus has always been on you rebuilding the city from the ruins… when this passage seems to indicate it is those who have been transformed [by the work you have done/been involved in] who are the ones who will do the rebuilding.

He challenged all the leaders at CCDA that next year he wants to see each person having brought one of those upcoming leaders with them. Those are the ones who need to be here.

Ooh. Wow. So good. My soul already feels somewhat cultivated. Can’t wait for a full day of this tomorrow…

[For more from Day two of the conference, click here]