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Community Developers Program: Theological Foundation

A Mother and daughter who are clients of Humboldt Park Social Services in ChicagoThe mission and ministry in community development is rooted in an understanding of God's will and purpose for humankind in the creation of loving and just communities. God created people for community – to be at peace with self and one another.

Although human sin thwarts and frustrates God’s purposes for community, God is ever active to bring to perfection His creation and calls believers to participate in that process. God heals and reconciles the broken communities of the world. The Community Developers Program seeks to be a channel through which this healing can be realized.

Scripture affirms, and the Community Developers Program espouses that God has a deep concern for communities that are poor and oppressed. The Word of God about the Israelites in bondage was:
“ I have seen their afflictions...and heard their cry by reasons of their taskmasters...I know their sorrows, and I am coming down to deliver them...and bring them out of that land to a good land.” Exodus 3:7-8 NIV

The recognition of this active participation by God to establish justice is a source of power to communities of oppression and despair. Knowing that God detests oppression and acts to free persons and communities from oppression, there is always hope for a new future.

The Community Developers Program ministry is also based on a belief that salvation by God is a communal as well as an individual experience. In the Old Testament the act of salvation and deliverance was for the community. The deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage was an act of salvation for the whole community. While personal holiness and personal salvation are important to an authentic Christian faith, a concept of the salvation of the whole community is equally important to move us from individualism towards community responsibility and the redemption of unjust systems that deny communities the perfection of God’s creation. When engaged in community development, we further the work of God and participate in the process of salvation that frees individuals from sin and delivers communities from oppression.

A mandate for ministries in community development may also be seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first public pronouncement of Jesus of his ministry declared that the Spirit of the Lord:
“has anointed me to bring good news to the poor...proclaim release to the captives...recovery of sight to the blind...to let the oppressed go free.” Luke 4:18 NRSV

The ministry that Jesus declared for himself was rooted in his recognition that God knew the forces that were destructive of communities, and that he needed to be in full solidarity with efforts to establish justice for the poor and oppressed. Furthermore, Jesus recognized and demonstrated that establishing just and loving communities involves the giving of self and sharing of power and resources.

The mission of the church in community development is based on a deep concern for the life of others and a profound respect for the ways in which various communities have experienced God and have sought to be in mission. The mission of the church is thus viewed as mutual, and not one-directional, and through the ministries of the church and its community developers, a dialogue is established with others involved in mission.

Photo: Mother and daughter clients of Humboldt Park Social Services in Chicago, IL.