CCDA Favorite Moment #3 – Dr. John Perkins


One of the things I most look forward to each year is the annual CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) Conference.

When I started River City Community Church in early 2003 I had a sense that God had led me to start this church, but the details of the picture still felt very unclear. CCDA – and the many wonderful men and women that I have met there – have played an instrumental role in bringing increasing clarity to that picture.

The best part each year is catching up with dear friends and co-laborers that I admire.  This year was no different. It was fantastic to grab time with Crissy Brooks, Rev. Pedro Windsor, Michelle Warren, Louie Carlo, Peter Ahn, and Lisa Sharon Harper, amongst others.

The conference is also filled with wonderful teaching, sharing, and inspiration from a variety of practitioners and theologians. I always learn a lot in these, but this year I tried to look for something in particular, something I referred to in my journal as “moments.” These were the points of the conference that went beyond just interesting knowledge. I was looking for moments where I would have an experience with God, almost as if God were using the words of that particular speaker to say something very specific to me. There were three of those moments at the conference.

Favorite Moment #3: Dr. John Perkins

Anyone who knows me knows that Dr. Perkins is one of the real heroes of faith that I truly admire. His theology and practice have had a deep impact on me. Dr. Perkins opens each morning with a Bible study, and I never miss these. By now I have heard him give most of these lessons multiple times, but that doesn’t diminish the joy of listening to it time and again.

In addition to the Bible studies a group of DMin students also sat in an early morning session with him as part of our doctoral studies. It was a very early morning, and we were all crammed into a small classroom. But it was well worth it. Even that early in the morning Dr. Perkins is filled with passion and spiritual vitality. He preached to us with the same vigor and energy that he would have had in a packed stadium. It was the first profound moment of the conference for me. Here were a few of his sound bytes.

On the importance of Christian character:

“Character is when you look like Jesus.  When your life looks how it would look if Jesus lived inside of you, that is character.”

“Character is an invisible but seeable product.”

“In Antioch the disciples were living and acting like Jesus and looked a lot like him because they had been disciples.  That is when the people started calling them Christians.”

“Dr. King dreamed of a day when his children were not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Character is important.”

On the connection between Christian character and impact in society:

“We celebrate churches that pull together a mass of people, but a mass of people doesn’t necessarily translate into impact.  In fact, it usually doesn’t.  You need a small, critical mass of people who are authentic disciples of Jesus and are trying to carry out his mission in the society and in their neighborhood.”

“To make an impact in society we need to have a critical mass of people.  That’s what the church is.  We need a critical mass of people in each zip code to be God’s people carrying out God’s intention for society.”

On the connection between character and reconciliation:

Someone in the class was trying to understand how he was connecting discipleship, character, and reconciliation, and asked Dr. Perkins to expand.  This is how he responded:

“I discovered that reconciliation was the intention of the Gospel.  We have made it something else.  “God was in Christ” – that is the incarnation of Christ – “reconciling himself to the world – and he has called us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.”

“You can use a butter knife as a screwdriver, but that was not it was designed for.  That is what we do with the Gospel.”  We use the Gospel to colonize people instead of using the Gospel to set us free.”

“Reconciliation is a truth, but we have allowed error to come in.  Everyone has been created in the image of God and has dignity.  If we taught that we wouldn’t have to focus on reconciliation.  But we are greedy and want power and therefore reconciliation becomes critical.

“I only have a third grade education.  But I don’t think of myself as ignorant.  I am created in the image of God and the Spirit of God resides in me.  I have power.  Becoming a person of character helps you to think like that and live like that.”

“We have a Mickey Mouse Gospel in the world. A complete truth preached would minimize the need for reconciliation.”

On how to figure out what programs to begin in your neighborhood:

“Go slow and get to know the people. I don’t like when people think they know the solution to something too quickly.  We look for symptomatic responses instead of root causes.”

“Programs come from pain.  You don’t know what God has called the community to do until you have entered the pain with the people.”

“One of the most important functions of leadership is to work with the people to determine what the problem is that you want to solve.”

And finally, I don’t know what category to put this quote in, but I liked it:

“We need to figure out how to create spaces where the Holy Spirit can be moving.  The old revivalists understood this.  When the Holy Spirit is moving you don’t dare move.  We need more conviction in our lives.”

Amen!

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