I just spent the last two days being stretched by a conference named “Doing More with Less,” organized by Dr. Stacy Spencer, pastor of New Direction Church, and co-sponsored by Leadership Network. Nine pacesetting pastors gave us both their passion and their very practical advice. It was a stimulating mix of powerful oratory, panel discussion, audience Q&A, and table discussions.
If the examples below catch your imagination, then order the videos at www.stacyspencer.org, and then select “Store” at top. If you want more info beyond the website above, review some of the conference tweets at Twitter hash tag #DMWL2012
Here were the examples that spoke most to me:
Fighting the Injustice of Predatory Lending: Deforest “Buster” Soaries is doing a significant job of leading his church and his community out of debt. He pointed out that there are more predatory lending institutions in this country than there are McDonalds and Starbucks combined! His concern starts with his own story: “When I began ministry, I was in so much debt personally that I was living example of Proverbs 22:7 which says, ‘The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.’ How could I lead my congregation in that area? Yet I learned the process of becoming financially free has direct parallels to getting out of spiritual slavery.”
Truly Partnering with Your Municipal Government: Matthew Barnett says his local department of social services has come to his church, asking its help with a number of families where social services really WANTS them to stay together and make it, but they cannot due to a lack of certain basics in their home, such as a refrigerator. Without those basics, social services is required to break up the family. The church takes the checklist of what’s needed, and tries to supply the need of as many of them as possible. That’s just one example of what they’re doing. On another front, the church’s most recent development in its “Dream Center” is to open up a 60-bed facility to help victims of human trafficking.
Writing and Winning Community Transforming Grants. Greater Allen Cathedral’s Floyd Flake took us back to 1976 when he came to his church in a very run down section of Queens. Observing all the drug dealers, empty lots and abandoned homes in the neighborhood, he determined to do something about it. “I had no experience as a developer; my background was as dean of students,” he told us. But he took a simple and prayerful course of action: “I began looking to meet people who could make it happen.” Today through the Allen Community Development Corporation, millions of dollars in city, state, and federal funds have been used to help lift the area of Jamaica, Queens, out of poverty.
Transforming the Next Generation through Charter Schools. Our host church, New Direction, launched a high-performing charter school. It pursued excellence and got rated the best in Memphis. Then it sought and achieved the best in Tennessee. “Now we’re trying to be the best in the nation,” one of the school’s administrators told me. I was touched by how they refer to each student not as a pupil, but as a scholar. Apparently these kids are rising to the challenge!