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Evangelism - Myers Mott Maggay Linthicum        

Transforming Theological Education through Experiential Learning in Urban Context
By Paul Hertig

Excerpts below - for the entire article   

Walter Wink has observed that people who may be somewhat free of racial prejudice and may have friends with those on the margins may still unintentionally support unjust structures that dominate one racial group over another. ...

There is an intersection of narratives between the learner and community. The fingerprints of God are found in the story of people in the community. Therefore, it is a humbling and necessary experience to pause from our own narratives and immerse ourselves in the narratives of others. Conversation was a key aspect of Jesus' ministry. He was often depicted at a meal, coming from a meal, or going to a meal. Conversation thus becomes "a model and metaphor for dealing inclusively with theological diversity, and a concrete way of doing ministry ...

We must never adopt the accepted patterns of disengaged truth prevalent in higher education, not the accepted patterns of disengaged ministry prevalent in the institutionalized church. Robert Linthicum confirms that "Only a man or woman who allows his or her heart to be broken with the pain and the plight of the hurting poor and/or the hurting powerful of the city belongs in ministry there. . . .”  The typical church or theological school responds to its community by determining the needs, the problems, and the solutions of its neighborhood community. It then implements a new program for the community--all without listening to the voices of the community. Such a scheme in all likelihood is predetermined to fail because the ownership of the problem, the solution, and the program to implement that solution lies in the church--not in the people. It is the church’s program. The people of the community have no ownership in it. They may attend it and participate in it, but they will always be spectators and clients, never participants and goal-owners. 

Thus we need to view the community through its own eyes. Listening to the survival strategy of the community validates the community members and reminds them that they have the local understanding, the abilities, and networking that is valuable and foundational for the process of community organizing.

The biblical notion of networking assumes that all people, “however uneducated, exploited, and beaten down by life, have a greater capacity to understand and act upon their situation than the most highly informed or sympathetic outsider. Every human being, no matter how deprived, is created in the image of God” and is as capable as the most well educated, self-motivated person to determine his or her future. ...

Jesus did not journey into the world with preprogrammed methods. He responded to people differently according to their unique needs and contexts, as revealed in his dialogues with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the expert in the law, the rich ruler, Zacchaeus, and so forth. However, most ministries in the city “make the same fateful error of taking a programmatic approach, over and over again.” Such an approach is arrogant, insensitive and destructive. But to be a partner in the community involves the breaking down of barriers of fear, mistrust, and dominance. The task of neighborhood ministry is not the task of a hero, but the task of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others. When outreach into a community is merely an extension of a church or educational program, the people of the community will “always be spectators and clients, never participants and goal-owners.” 

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