Bearing witness through community organizing

“In the rapidly changing landscape in which the church finds itself, congregations and leaders are looking for strategies, practices and tools to live out our mission of being church for the sake of the world.

In attempting to relate the liberating power of the gospel to the devastating effects of racism, economic inequality, the environmental crisis and other forms of structural injustice, congregations are drawing on and adapting the principles and practices of community organizing to build relationships with their neighbors to transform their communities.

ELCA congregations have a long history of involvement in congregation-based organizing as an effective way for people of faith to take collective action to address the larger causes of the pressures they and their communities face each day. Those involved in community organizing who are motivated by their faith see it as a way of bearing witness to the transforming power of God’s love through Jesus.

Scholar and social activist Cornel West reminds us that justice is what love looks like in public, and those involved in faith-rooted organizing take their cue from Jesus’ public and prophetic ministry in Galilee.

The story of Jesus most of us learned and internalized early in life is an abbreviated version that says he died for our sins and was raised from the dead so we might have eternal life. What is missing from this account is context. The canonical Gospels provide the context for interpreting the significance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection by connecting them to his ministry in Galilee and his trial and execution in Jerusalem. Jesus emerged initially in his own Galilean community as a prophet concerned with the renewal of village life.

In the language of community organizing, the Gospels portray Jesus’ proclamation and enactment of the kingdom of God in terms of the world as it is versus the world as it should be, ordered according to God’s purpose. For a variety of reasons we have come to interpret the story of Jesus through an individualistic lens as the saving of souls and deliverance from personal sin. But throughout Scripture salvation refers to rescue from present danger or liberation from oppression, and the language of sin in many instances refers to structural evil.”

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Sourced from Living Lutheran. Written by Raymond Pickett