Doing Urban Ministry in an Unjust World

Doing Urban Ministry in an Unjust World

A conversation on Urban Discipleship with KB and Ameen Hudson


The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. 

KB: Father, we come before you in the name of your Son Jesus, in Him we move and have our being. For Him, oh God, we toil, oh God, for Him we present our bodies, Lord, for Him we present our lives, that He be glorified in all that we do. And we would feel, oh God, a great sense of loss and failure if Jesus is not glorified by our efforts.

Yet we know, Lord, that we in ourselves can do nothing. So we ask you, God, to bridge the gap, oh Lord. Lord, would you please make what we present here effective, helpful. Would you relax us together as a community, that we may be able to chew the fat, that we may be able to admire your Word, that we may be able to grow as a result of what happens in this slot. Would you please grant us that, oh God.

Guide our conversation, oh Lord, help us to speak in a way that you are pleased. Father, I pray also that wherever the enemy would wanna get in, or human brokenness would wanna get in, I pray, Lord, that you would ward that off or that you would protect all of us, oh God. That we’d be able to feel the weight of these things, and also not be distracted from obeying it. Help us, Lord Jesus. It’s in the name of your Son we pray. Amen.

So my name is KB or Kevin Burgess, but I prefer you call me KB. That’s what my wife calls me, all right. I am from Tampa, Florida. I’m a minister of the gospel. As I mentioned, I do a little hippity-dippity on the side with the hip-hoppers. And I mainly spend my life creating experiences around art, around thought, around preaching that help people to realize who God is, that’s what I do.

We’ve been doing urban ministry since I became a believer, I was 16 years old. Somebody gave me a Christian hip-hop CD actually. The gentleman on the front of the CD had dreadlocks, kind of like mine, had a red bandana going across his mouth, a red bandana going across his forehead. The gentleman that gave me the CD said it was Christian, and that confused me. Because I was sure that was bank robber music.

He said, “No, no, this is Christian, take it home.” I took that CD home in a very dark place in my life. I played that album, it had eight songs on it. The last song was a gospel presentation. I believed on Jesus, I was 16 years old, I have been walking with him ever since. And I live to help reproduce that moment that I had in my grandmother’s house for people all over the world. I also met this other gentleman here when I was 16 as well. I’ll let you take it from here.

Ameen Hudson: I’m not a rapper, so I have a weird relationship with microphones. So as KB said, we actually met one another while we were in high school. So we were working at a grocery store, typical high school job, right? And I met this guy at orientation and we kind of like, hit it off. We kind of became like best friends at orientation. But little did he know that at the time when I met him at orientation, I was searching for God. The Lord was already convicting me of my sin. I had to be…I think maybe you were 17 and I was 16.

And I was 16 years old and I was trying to white knuckle my efforts to make myself right with God. I was driving myself to church, I was like, trying to read the Bible, I was like reading the hieroglyphics. And I literally sat on my front steps at my house and I said, “This is impossible, no one can be a Christian, nobody is really living this life for real. If people are living it, they’re faking it, they’re good actors, because I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. Then I met this guy months later, who actually told me about Jesus and preached the gospel to me. And I repented and believed on the Lord Jesus, and then he discipled me. And we’ve been best friends ever since.

And that was what? 2005/2006. So, ever since then, I’ve been walking with the Lord. We’ve both been always in urban ministry together. And I write, I also speak, and we do a podcast called “Native Speaks.” If you guys don’t know about that podcast, go and subscribe to it. And yes, shameless plug. We talk art, culture, and theology, and that is our passion and urban ministry is also our passion as well. So yeah.

KB: What do we wanna do here, Ameen, what’s the objective?

Hudson: So the objective is for us to stir your love and affection for the Lord Jesus Christ when it comes to discipleship. So God has called us to be disciples, right. So He’s called us to go into the world, preach the gospel, baptizing people in the name of Father, Son and Spirit and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded. However, for us, especially those of us in the urban community, there are obstacles to the gospel. There are always obstacles to the gospel, which is because we live in a world full of sin, but in an urban community, there are unique obstacles to the gospel, right. Some of those obstacles involve injustice, right. And we see…and I think that the Bible would even testify to you that injustice is part of what the work of Satan in this world is, right.

So our goal is to show you the unique circumstances and situations that people in urban communities are in, and how you guys can help in that, in your discipleship. And that to us is part of destroying the works of Satan in this world is bringing down to obstacles to the gospel and people’s unique context. The urban community has a unique context and we wanna help you guys be able to do that.

KB:  Amen. Amen.

So I’m going to sort of frame the convo a little bit. Address, I think, an obstacle that we typically all face out the gate. And then I’m gonna bounce pass it to Ameen and let him sort of take us deep into this subject. I think a good place to begin is thinking about how we ourselves are often our biggest obstacles to urban ministry. And let me pause real quick and say what I mean by urban ministry because that can mean a bunch of different things as well. I took a class in school called urban ministry, and it was about farmers.

So with globalization, and with gentrification, which are two different entities that redefine what urban means, we may touch on some of that later. I’m just gonna get real specific and say under-resourced, particularly black and brown experiences that’s I mean by urban, all right.

So one of the great obstacles to this is often ourselves, out the gate, we trip over our own selves. Back home, my pastor, he’s in the back, Pastor Darrell Williamson, we talk a lot about this concept, this triad of orthodoxy, right, right thinking, orthopraxy, we wanna act rightly. But then we often leave out this third piece that is a big emphasis for us back in living faith is orthopathos, which is right feeling. Because we often forget that the driving force behind urban engagement is not just biblical ideas, but it’s biblical attitude.

And we have to ask ourselves very simply, do we care? We gotta start there. And then maybe…I’ve had to do this. There’s a lot of repenting that has to take place for any of this stuff to have wings. Is that can I look at the suffering of my neighbor and just observe it and not feel anything? Or feel theological about it or political about it. Can I just keep scrolling past the suffering? Don’t like that, move on with my life. As people are being taken advantage of and people are being sort of attacked or oppressed, does it do anything in my heart? Then the question is does it do something in God’s heart?

Last summer I released a song called “Long Live the Champion,” and it was this Latin trap record that was very, very focused. In the song was trying to celebrate the folks who I kind of termed as forgotten, particularly immigrants coming up from the global south. When I released it, I wanted to prepare my fans that we’re going into a season now where this is what we’re gonna be talking about. We’re going to be paying attention to this particular issue. We’re gonna raise money, we’re going to get folks educated, we are going to truthfully consider how we can be a part of solving the issue as opposed to debating it on Facebook.

What I thought we should do was put up this video. I put up this video that was a reenactment by this bipartisan organization of children representing themselves in immigration court, three and four-year-olds. Kids standing before judges having been separated from their parents and being asked questions like, do you know what a lawyer is? Do you know what a judge is? Do you know what immigration court is?

And in those proceedings, you can either increase your chances of getting asylum or decrease them. And what do you think a child representing themselves in court does? Increases their chances of going back to these war-torn, cartel-controlled, oppressive environments. And I put this video up and I tagged it at the top I said, “This breaks my heart.” That’s it. A lot of the responses that I got were positive. People were like, “Yes, it breaks my heart too.” But there was more pushback than usual, of folks that were outraged that I had posted this. Not because babies are representing themselves in courts and thus increasing their chance of going into a very, very bad situation. They were upset that I sounded a little liberal.

I got threats, people started saying “I’m done with you, I’ll never stream or buy another project for you.” I actually wrote down one of the comments, they said, “Was KB’s account hacked? No Christian artists or child of God should be speaking about these things on social media.” And what I felt was a kind of unfurling of a deeper issue. Is that not that we identify very strongly with our political positions, I can understand that. But how it is not often enough that we identify with the heart of a compassionate God, that our knee jerk reaction is not mercy on an attitude level. Before we work through all of the practices and the policies, but principally, are we the type of people that react and overflow in compassion.

And brothers and sisters, if we say that we are followers of Christ, that we have the knowledge of God, yet we observe people suffering… Let me say it like this. If the God we serve does not have an overwhelmingly particular interest and commitment to immigrants, orphans, widows, needy folks, then we are not serving the God of the Bible. We’re not serving the God of the Bible. This is who God is. This is how he presents himself, the defender of the weak, the defender of the poor. If nobody is excited about urban ministry, if the resources from those who have it aren’t funneling into this work, with these people, that is no reflection on the heart of God.

The heart of God… God is excited about urban ministry. God wants to display himself and those who are forgotten. That’s who He is. I often say, if God had a Facebook or Twitter, his bio would say these things. I, Yahweh, the Lord your God, love the immigrant, I love the poor, I mend the broken, I sustain the fatherless. When all the gods of the ancient near East only revealed themselves to the strong, to the elites, they sort of aligned themselves with those who were in power, and they saw the poor as expendable. God steps in and says, no, there’s no God like me, I am the God of the weak, the God of the forgotten, the God of the small, the God of the slave. That’s who I am.

And if we are going to do urban ministry, that’s who we need to be, living a life that reflects the character of God. Now, I do wanna pivot quickly, and say that one of the obstacles that sort of locks up a heart and keeps us outside of really resonating with the overwhelming… And if I had time I could take you through 400 scriptures, man, of God’s overwhelming heart for those who are vulnerable for the weak. For those who are forgotten, those who are oppressed, those who are underresourced, it is blatantly clear in the Scripture. One of the things that stops us from kind of getting to that place where we can…so it sort of clears out the pathway so we can feel how God feels is that we don’t think how God thinks. When we don’t think about justice biblically, we often miss out on the biblical pathos that we need.

First of all, doing justice is not just a secondary issue. It’s not a secondary issue. Not that it earns you right standing with God, but it confirms that you are standing rightly before for God. I love the way John Wesley frames this. He calls it social holiness. He says this whole conversation around social justice, you’re getting caught in the weeds. That the idea for the brother or the sister in Christ is to display a type of holiness that shows that we care about those who are outside of power. That’s what it means to know God. And without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. We must do the work of conforming our definition of justice, to the way that the Bible puts it before us.

First of all, justice and mercy cannot be… Excuse me. Second of all, justice and mercy cannot be separated. Justice and mercy are attached at the hip in Scripture. Justice and mercy are attached in the hip in the Bible. The lack of mercy towards those around us is injustice, to be holding back mercy, locking up our hearts and not caring is injustice. And the lack of justice leads to mercilessness. Justice is doing what is right, mercy is to then do that right, lavishly with an attitude that glorifies God.

This is Micah 7. To walk with God, how do we walk with you? Do justice, love mercy. “Gracious is the Lord and just. Our God is merciful.” Psalms 116:5 “Great is your mercy, O Lord, give me life according to your justice.” Psalms 119:156. “Therefore he will show mercy to you for the Lord is a God of justice.” Justice and mercy is one reality in the texts.

Typically when we think about justice… The last thing I’ll say I’m gonna bounce past it. Typically when we think about justice, we think about it in a very…no knock on conservatism, I’m just saying. We think about it more politically than we do biblically sometimes. That we think about law and order you know. For all my Republican brothers and sisters, God bless us, you, I’m just poking a little jab, was a family, it’s a family affair. We want to hear that our candidate is gonna bring law and order. Law and order that is the phrase, because that’s justice. Amen. But in Scripture, it’s not… The Hebrew word for justice is not simply giving what is wrong… Excuse me, repaying sort of being retributive towards what is wrong. But it’s also restoring what is right. It’s restoring what is right.

So we want people no matter who you are race, color, or creed, if you do wrong, they should be punished equally. But as an image-bearer, there are certain things that the Bible says are right and must be given to us. Job 31, I don’t have time to get into it. Job is saying, he says, “If I was eating at my table, eating bread by myself, while I’m looking out the window seeing the orphan go hungry or the widow go hungry.” He says, “Let the judgment of God fall on me.” In the book of Ezekiel, I’ll give you the exact chapter it’s right here. Ezekiel talks about how “When I had goods, when I had food, and I gave it to those who needed it, was that not me not committing robbery.” What that means is, that is a kind of robbery when you look at people going hungry while you eat comfortably. The Bible calls that stealing from God’s resources.

That justice is punishing wrong but also doing what is right, giving people what is right. Everyone that has made in the image of God has a value on them and that value demands a certain type of right. You are not to be harmed, you are not to be oppressed, you are not to be enslaved, you are not to be forbidden food, you are not to be forgotten. This is the work of justice and what we wanna be thinking and framing our hearts and minds around as we engage. Ameen.

Hudson: So like my brother KB said when he was framing the discussion around justice, that this is all in the context of justice, and we’re talking about discipleship, right, we’re talking about discipleship. And one of the things that…I wanna go through a couple of things in regards to discipleship around justice that we should actually consider. And I’m gonna probably speed through it because I want us to have time for Q&A and I don’t wanna hold anybody up. But discipleship happens in a context, right, is one of the things that we must think about. One part of discipleship is to consider that people, in general, are not a monolith. People are in different contexts with different circumstances and situations.

We can’t have this kind of evangelical discipleship, formula pack, which is a one size fits all discipleship, right? Discipleship has to be bespoke to a person’s context, and to what they are dealing with, their unique situations, right. And that discipleship always though, includes core imperatives of obedience. That doesn’t mean that the discipleship that I give you is different than the discipleship that I give you. I tell you to obey God, I tell you not to obey God. But it means that the vehicle through which it comes and the way that it looks may look different depending upon your context. But there’s always gonna be fundamental obedience and things that we must obey when it comes to God’s Word.

And we see that when we think about the Jerusalem Council when they tell the Gentiles what they should do. These are the fundamentals that you guys should always be obeying, these other things which is more cultural, in accordance to you know, Jewish culture you don’t have to worry about these. But these things, not worshipping idols, etc these are the things that I want you guys to concern yourself with. So discipleship is always gonna have that fundamental form of obedience that we always must have but it looks different as far as the context, right?

How one would go about disciplining someone in parts of Asia that’s hostile to the gospel, is different than the way that I will go about discipleship in Coral Gables in Miami, which is the suburbs, right? Or the way that I will go about discipleship in Coral Gables in the suburbs of Miami is different than I’m gonna go about discipleship in Overtown, which is the crazy hood part of Miami, right is going to look different. One of the things that I also want us to consider when we’re talking about urban discipleship, especially in areas that are undervalued and under-resourced is that you in a place of urban discipleship, you are stepping into history, right. You are not going into a place that has a clean slate.

So consider the fact that the people that you are disciplining and the people that are in these areas, majority black and brown folks are here, not because they woke up in the morning and said, “We wanna live in the most dangerous, dilapidated, under-resourced areas in the world, right? Statistically, people of color live in the most dangerous, under-resourced areas in America in almost any state that you look at statistics in. We didn’t wake up in the morning and said, “This is where we wanna live,” right, that’s not what happened. This is a result of systemic and institutional forces that was way before us. And we want to make sure that when we go in to disciple in these areas that we have that in mind.

That it was manufactured and that is a part of destroying the works of Satan, in our opinion, to actually push back against that. It was manufactured by social works of the devil that decided that we are gonna show partiality to people, right. So the legacy of that partiality is that now the majority of you guys live in these areas. And then when people talk about that legacy, people say, “Oh, they wanna live there, they’re just lazy.” Nobody wants to wake up in a war zone. Chicago is a war zone, right. Certain parts of Compton, war zone. Certain parts that me and KB come from, war zone. People have died in my driveway, shot, murdered. We didn’t wake up and say we wanna live here. And if people could, they would leave. Which is why when you see rappers get money they leave right?

So because discipleship happens in a context, you have to consider that in the inner city, your discipleship is going to be done in the midst of people who are lacking in resources. That’s in education, economy, and usually access to quality healthcare, right. So you’re gonna be dealing with the people that are also marked by hopelessness, a people that feel forgotten and left behind. Those people exist. Can you hand me one of those waters? Sorry. Armor bearer KB.

All right, so when you think about what James says when says, “What good is it…” in James. “My brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds, can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food, if one of you says to them, go in peace, keep warm and be well-fed, but does nothing about their physical needs what good is it?

James is saying what good is your faith, right? In the same way, “Faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action is dead” is what James says. “But someone will say you have faith, I have deeds.” James says, “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”You believe that there is one God, good, even the demons believe that and shutter, right. We cannot tell people when we’re preaching the gospel to them, especially in urban areas, “Your soul is saved, praise God, that’s what we care about, but go home to a refrigerator full of no food and rats and roaches. Praise God, count it all joy, right. Your soul is saved but go back to the doctor that’s ignoring your healthcare concerns because you don’t have the best insurance, count it all joy.”

And actually that happened to me and my wife. My wife could have died because of it. If you guys wanna talk to me about that afterwards we’ll tell you about that, right. But your soul is saved, praise God, you have the gospel. You have the gospel, your soul is saved, but police stop and harass you. And when that happens, just pray that nothing happens or don’t do anything to make them wanna harm you, or kill you, or arrest you. Praise God. You got the five points of Calvinism that will keep you out of harm’s way. That’s not how it works, right. Does the gospel have nothing to say to those things, right? Are these things ethically and morally right? Is the question and if not, if they aren’t ethically and morally right, is that okay?

Not with you, but is that okay with God is the question? Is that justice the type of justice that the Bible says the Hebrew word Tsedeq which means righteousness, which means doing what is right. The word that KB brought up, mishpat, is rectifying justice. Tsedeq is righteousness, which means if we were all walking in tsedeq we wouldn’t need mishpat because there wouldn’t be anything to rectify, right. You’ll meet a lot of folks in inner-city, they’re in a very bad way financially, economically and some educationally, and because of this they feel stuck, that this is their lot in life. And in Proverbs, it says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” In the underresourced area, you have people that have crushed spirits, whose bones are dried up.

Lack of resources causes you to not see beyond survival. If you think about that, when you wake up every day, and your only mindset is how am I gonna make it tomorrow? How am I gonna put food on the table? How am I going to survive? I have no time to think about any kind of vision of God in my life. Because I have to eat. What kind of ministry am I gonna think about if I can’t put food on the table? What kind of open-air preaching am I gonna do on the corner if I can’t put food on the table for my children? Right? I think about my cousin. Actually, I think about a friend of mine, who the only world that he actually knew was his neighborhood. And when you’re going into urban ministry, that’s gonna be a lot of people which you deal with, right?

All you guys know Orlando, Florida where Disney World is, right. I have a friend, lives in Tampa where we live, a person that I know, Orlando is only an hour and a half away. All of us in Tampa know what Orlando is. Had a brother that was talking to this brother about Orlando. And he was like, “Man, maybe we should go to Orlando one day.” This dude was from the hood and he was trying to talk to him about the gospel and he was like, “Maybe we should go to Orlando one day and maybe we can just go out there and kind of relax.”So he was like, “What is Orlando?” And he was like, “Orlando, Florida.” He was like, “I don’t know what that is, I don’t know where Orlando is.” 17 years old. Orlando is an hour and a half away.

My cousin lives in Southside St. Petersburg, where me and KB are from, Tampa is 30 minutes away. He literally moved to Tampa and said, “Moving to Tampa gave him hope because he didn’t see anything outside of St Petersburg.” That was his world, right? So the questions that folks in urban communities wanna know is this. Does the gospel have the power not only to save and redeem my soul but does it have the power to redeem my life here not just an eschaton? Can the gospel restore to me years that the moth and locust of hopelessness and even injustice has eaten away? Does the gospel not only give me hope in the afterlife and the by and by and the eschaton but does it give me hope in this life or is my hope only in the eschaton, right?

And what I call that is a type of fatalistic providence that some evangelicals teach. It’s actually not much different than what they taught slaves. That I know that you want justice now, but you’ll have it then. The by and by, you can’t have it now. It’s not how it’s working, you can’t have freedom now. But when you get to heaven, all will be made right. That’s fatalistic providence. It’s a teaching that teaches you where you are in life is where you are going to stay, because that’s where God wants you. So if you’re raised in the projects, if you’re in Section 8, this is God’s lot for you in life and this is where you’re gonna stay, “Just accept it, don’t think about a gospel vision that is gonna move you pass that,” that’s called fatalistic providence. That’s what I call that, right?

What we have to consider is that there’s a vertical, horizontal and cosmological reality when it comes to the gospel, right. I think about one theologian that talks about the vertical reality, Jesus’s death made vertical reconciliation between man and God. There was penal substitutionary atonement in death. He absorbed the wrath of God for all kinds of men. God raised Jesus from the dead and now he reigns victorious over all things on Earth and in heaven, including injustice. He is sovereign over the principalities of the air, both earthly and demonic forces, right? That’s the vertical reality.

There’s a horizontal reality, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jews and Gentiles are being reconciled to God and each other, which has social implications for racial division. Which is why we pursue racial reconciliation, some would think that we don’t need racial reconciliation because it doesn’t exist. I would tend to tell you, and I would submit to you that that Jew and Gentile divide is not just specifically talking about Jews and Gentiles, but any kind of divide. And they exist because sin exists, right?

Then there’s a cosmological reality. He’s taking back the cosmos. He’s taking back from Adam what Adam lost in the garden. And in reconciling the entire cosmos to himself we see that Paul says Galatians 1:4, right, that “Jesus dies to deliver,” which Dr. Jarvis Williams will say is Exodus language, right, “us from the present evil age.” Right, it doesn’t just talk about God’s wrath that’s later in Romans 3, but he emphasizes the present evil age, right. So the rhetorical question for us is, does the gospel end with the sinner being saved? Is that where it starts and ends? It doesn’t. It’s part of that. But it also extends to the horizontal cosmological reality that requires me to live out that reality in my concern for the widow, and my neighbor, and the fatherless, in and outside of the church, right. And because of that, moving forward, we need empowerment. Urban discipleship to be done well cannot be done apart from all the other churches in suburbia and worldwide. We need everybody, right?

So I wanna help cultivate the way that some of us think about…some of us outside of the hood think about the hood, right. First people in the hood are smart and intelligent, they’re not dumb. People when they talk about drug dealers and white people like big Meech, had a multimillion-dollar empire off of illegal drugs. Can you imagine what that kind of mind could do if he was in some kind of administrative position at TGC? Do you…can you imagine what kind of infrastructure he can put in place if he had a heart for the gospel, and talent to be able to do things like that? Do we think about people like that when we see them? Do you think about drug dealers like that when you see them? Or do you think, “Ah, sinner, they need salvation.” But what is he gonna do after he has salvation is the question.

I have a guy that I spoke to, dude was a drug dealer on the street we were talking about the gospel. And what was so crazy is that he was eager to hear about the gospel, right. I came up to him in a group of friends and was talking to him about Jesus everybody else left. He was like, “Stay here, I’m gonna go to the store, get some cigarettes I’m coming back and I want you to stay here.” We were in a parking lot at 11.30 at night. He came back, only him. We talked for two or three hours about Jesus. He told me a story and said, “Bro, I moved my family, and my sister out of the hood out here into this nice neighborhood off of selling drugs. And the reason that I do these things, and I buy shoes and clothes and all of that for my sister because I don’t want my sister to think that a man has to buy those things for her.” What do you tell that brother once he repents and believes in the Gospel? That’s the question. How’s he gonna keep them out there? Should they move back to the hood? What resources does he have to be able to continue to provide for his family? Do we think that far? Or do we only think about getting him saved, put the gospel notch under our belt and keep it moving, right?

Jeremiah 29:7, the Lord says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I’ve sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on his behalf for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In the welfare of the city, you will find your welfare. If God thinks that way, about the children, that he is sitting there in judgment, if that’s how they’re supposed to look at the city they’re going to, which was a pretty bad city, right. We know the context of that. How much more does he think that towards us who are intentionally going into neighborhoods to preach the gospel and disciple individuals? What does seeking the welfare of the city look like for you? You cannot have urban discipleship without empowerment and justice, right? you can’t. Even when you wanna think about Martin Luther, in the Reformation, justice was included. I know that we don’t hear about that. When we hear about the Reformation, we like to hear about it Ninety-five Theses, we like to hear about the theological corrections. But do you know that those theological corrections came in the midst of a people that were being exploited by a medieval church? The poor were being robbed because of false theology, buying indulgences.

A part of that Reformation and Ninety-five Theses was getting them to not be exploited by false theology, right. Luther’s Reformation was a part about giving a sound and solid theology so that those within Germany will no longer be able to be exploited and oppressed by the misuse of Scripture, right. Because sound theology and empowerment was meant to lead not only to spiritual freedom but to their social freedom, right. And a part of that liberation was them no longer being exploited economically, by the purchase of indulgences.

The 43rd of the Ninety-five Theses was Luther saying, “Christians ought to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences,” is what Luther said in those theses. The 45th, Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by yet gives us money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences, but God’s wrath. Luther’s Reformation was directly connected to the social oppression and exploitation that arose from false theology. And the same is the case for almost all injustice and false theology. False theology leads to exploitation, not just theologically, but socially. That’s one of the problems that we have with the prosperity gospel. Instead of getting people to give their money away, people that really don’t have money a lot of the times. Because they believe that God is gonna do something for them because of that, right.

Okay, five minutes to Q&A, Lord have mercy I have so much to get to. But yeah, when we talk about empowerment in an urban community, we have to consider these things. One of the things that we’re doing at Living Faith is we’re adopting two schools, right? There’s a school called Rover’s Park, there’s a school that’s Sulphur Springs, right. Both of these schools have a 90% illiteracy rating.

KB: Let that sink in.

Hudson: Can you think about that? 90%. Nine out of 10 children cannot read, which also means that parents probably cannot read. So if you’re in the neighborhood like that, and you’re handing out Bibles, how are they gonna read the Bible if they can’t read? These are the kind of things that we have to think about when it comes to urban ministry or how you think about people in urban ministry. Part of your discipleship then there is teaching people how to read so they can read the Bible, right. Isaiah 1:17 tells us to “Learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah doesn’t just say respond to oppression but correct it. So not only is our goal to teach children how to read but also has to be to fix the education system that has 9 out of 10 kids not reading in the first place, right.

That’s what that involves. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself means that what you do not want for yourself you don’t want for your neighbor. So if you don’t want your child going to a school where they can’t learn how to read, why would you want that for your neighbor, right? If you don’t wanna have bad health care or not get good treatment because of your health care, why do you want that for your neighbor? How can you look at your neighbor getting that treatment and say, “At least it’s not me.” That’s not what it means to love your neighbor as you love who? Yourself, right. You can’t just simply tell people what to do, you need to help people get their hands dirty and help them be empowered.

Also, with empowerment, we need to understand that in the urban community it needs to happen in specific ways. We may be able to get to that in the Q&A. But all I wanted to say is that we have to…I have so much stuff. All I want to say is that we do have to consider these things and we have to consider like KB said the orthopathos of do we care? The question is, if I hear about injustice happening, if I see a people suffering, if I can look at that suffering and feel nothing because of my politics, then I have a God problem, it’s not a political problem. “Oh, the people in Flint, they don’t have clean water, man, at least not us. I guess I’ll shoot a prayer for them tonight. God have mercy. Thoughts and prayers.”

Like we have to understand that we cannot look at suffering and not be moved. And if you can look at suffering and not be moved, if you could just have an ascendancy…we’ll all assent like we’ll all agree that that’s bad. The question is do you feel it though? Do you feel that people in Flint still don’t have clean water? Remember how long ago that was on the news? It’s still a problem right now. So their kids have elevated levels of lead in their blood, which cannot be removed. So we have to feel it.

So if we look at suffering and we don’t feel it, then whatever kind of theological confession you have, whatever kind of confession you hold to, whatever kind of theological assent you’re able to make is inconsequential. Because theology cannot give you orthopathos in the sense that if it’s not there, your theology is there. The only person that can give you that compassion is God. That is a God problem. There’s so much stuff we want to get to but we can get to Q&A.

KB: Thank you, Ameen.

“We can’t have this kind of evangelical-discipleship-formula pack that is one-size-fits-all. Discipleship has to be bespoke to a person’s context, and to what they are dealing with, their unique situations, right? But there’s always gonna be fundamental obedience and things we must obey when it comes to God’s Word.” — Ameen Hudson

Date: April 2, 2019

Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast.


Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page.