Christian Community Development at ACAC
In 2006, Allegheny Center Alliance embarked on a strategic planning process that began with strategic listening… listening for what God was saying to us as a church family about the direction our ministry should take in the years ahead. Among seven key Leadings that we discerned as God’s direction for our congregation was the following:
“God is calling us as a church to reach out to our North Side neighborhoods…listening, engaging, serving, partnering and evangelizing… to facilitate restoration, reconciliation and community in Christ’s Name.”
This Leading was but a re-focusing of efforts that had begun many years earlier when our leadership prayerfully laid out a new vision for the church that included “compassion for hurting people that produces both proclamation and demonstration of God’s love through Christian community development.”
If Jesus’ Great Commandment is to love God and love our neighbors, our hope is to excel in neighborliness as we follow Jesus in diverse community. And as members of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), we subscribe to a philosophy of community ministry that is holistic and church-based; one that understands that to “do justice” is a requirement, not an option, for God’s people. (Micah 6:8)
CCDA founder, Dr. John Perkins, has identified 3 key elements of a vital Christian community development strategy. He calls these “the three R’s”, and the descriptions below are taken from Dr. Perkin’s description of this principles in his book, Restoring At-Risk Communities.
- Relocation- i.e. living among the poor. Jesus relocated. He became one of us. He didn’t commute back and forth to heaven. Similarly, the most effective messenger of the gospel to the poor will also live among the poor.
- Reconciliation- People to God, Neighbor to Neighbor. Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel… Our love for Christ should break down every racial, ethnic or economic barrier.
- Redistribution- This is not taking away from the rich and giving to the poor. Rather, it is when God’s people with resources are living in the poor community and are part of it, applying skills and resources to the problems of the community and thereby allowing a natural redistribution to occur.
There was a time, decades ago, when most of our church members had moved from the nearby urban communities to what was thought to be “greener pastures” in the suburbs. However, this is no longer the case. As ACAC’s witness has been observed by those living in the surrounding communities, the response has been transformative. Many hundreds of church members now come from our local neighborhoods. Hundreds more come from miles away, drawn by God’s Spirit and gathered together as young and old, rich and poor, black and white, urban and suburban, to worship Jesus as brothers and sisters in the faith.
Some have felt called to relocate to the North Side to advance our community mission. This has resulted in a clear witness before a watching culture. Pittsburgh’s mayor has applauded ACAC for its contribution to community development, and in 2007, the North Side Chamber of Commerce recognized ACAC for outstanding service to the community.
But man’s applause is not our motivation. Instead, our desire is merely to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) in such a way that our neighbors on the North Side of Pittsburgh are drawn to Jesus, and that our community experiences an ever-increasing measure of His wholeness and peace (shalom).