So often, our experience has been that despite the fact the Bible emphasizes the importance of both Jesus and social justice to our faith, churches tend to focus on one or the other. That's why I think the work of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) - an organization whose commitment to social justice ministry stems from it's belief in Jesus - is so important. In his book, Where the Cross Meets the Street , CEO of the CCDA Noel Castellanos explores what happens to the neighborhood when God is at the center.
The book, part memoir, is a fascinating read. Throughout it, Noel shares his own story, using it to emphasize how and why he became involved in community development. As a white female committed to better understanding different cultures and races, I admit I felt a sense of shame when I realized how little I know about the Mexican community, especially given it's growing importance in the United States. For this reason, I greatly appreciated Noel's willingness to share his heritage and story throughout this book, along with both the joys and challenges that face Mexican immigrants, even in my own city of Chicago.
Throughout Where the Cross Meets the Street, I also greatly appreciated the way in which Noel unpacks his theology of ministry. In his words, “God consistently puts the neglected and oppressed at the center of his ultimate concern, not by targeting them as the objects of his salvific action but by redeeming and engaging them to be colaborers with the Holy Spirit in the mission of declaring and demonstrating to the entire world that the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Noel also reminds his readers of the ways in which a proclamation-only ministry falls short and instead challenges people to see the “incarnation as the linchpin and foundation for all effective ministry.” To help his readers do so, he unpacks the book of Nehemiah in terms of community development principles, a section of the book that is particularly strong.
More than just a theology book, however, Where the Cross Meets the Street is also practical. Chapter 9, “Confrontation of Injustice” shines in this regard, helping people to think critically about their involvement in a variety of justice issues including immigration, mass incarceration, and education, which Noel suggests is the “most significant justice issue many of our poor communities face”.
As a youth pastor and a Christian committed to both Jesus and social justice, I have no doubt that Where the Cross Meets the Street is a book that I will refer to and recommend often.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Where the Cross Meets the Streets from Youth Worker Journal in exchange for an honest review of it.