Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Alan Murdock, who works with the organization Project Connect Nashville.
Project Connect Nashville was formed in response to some historic flooding which occurred ten years ago in the Nashville area. But today rather than solely focusing on disaster relief, they primarily build relationships with individuals that are stuck in the cycle of poverty and connect them to a church that will walk with them throughout life’s joys and struggles.
Alan is with us to talk about serving the poor in our own backyards and how finding connection and community with the church is an integral part of healing.
- Think differently about poverty. // Normally we think of poverty locally as being a financial problem, and sometimes even a lazy problem. Project Connect Nashville provides a lot of education to debunk those myths and help the church understand that poverty is a lot more complex than that. People aren’t lazy, but rather traumatized and without hope. Poverty is about broken relationships and one of those broken relationships is with the church.
- Focus on your own community. // As believers we’re challenged by the fact that local missions doesn’t sound as exciting as going overseas to serve. It also doesn’t seem to be the reality in what is needed because while we have relationships with missionaries, we may not have relationships with the people in our communities that are suffering. As a result it’s hard to understand what the poor in our own backyard may be going through and it’s easier to look at them through political eyes and expect the government to take care of it.
- Connecting is the important part of the mission. // Many churches and pastors want to help the poor in their community and they want their church to live on mission in this area, but they don’t know where to start. When trying to do something in the local community, church leaders have reported getting pushback from their congregation for political reasons. The reality is that the church itself is the answer in these situations. Once people from your church get into everyday relationships with these people who are suffering, we learn to both sympathize and empathize, and we become transformed because of connection. Give your people the opportunity to connect with the poor and those who are suffering in your community.
- More than practical needs. // It’s great for churches to meet practical needs, such as providing blankets and meals to the homeless, but use your benevolence to do more than that as well. Meeting needs are the beginning of building a relationship with hurting people who may still be struggling with addictions or mental health issues. They still need the gospel, and to hear it regularly, in order to move beyond their circumstances. The church can aid in developing those relationships and support.
- Educate and focus on scripture. // When seeking a nonprofit that can work with your church like Project Connect Nashville does, look for one that wants to embrace your people as part of their team and works to help them understand the people they are serving. As Project Connect comes in to churches to do trainings, they redefine poverty and people start to recognize the poverties in their own lives which creates connection and breaks down walls between “us” and “them”. Rather than using loaded terms like “social justice”, which can be politically charged and can change based on what the media says, Project Connect focuses on loving your neighbors and biblical justice as found in scripture.
- The power of community. // People suffering and in poverty need help reconnecting with healthy community, and the community needs to accept them back in. That is how the church needs to look at those who have gone through hard times in life. People wrestling with addiction or those who have felonies or misdemeanors are still made in the image of God, just like us. Above all else, realize that we all need healing. Not everyone has had a community to come around them and walk with them when they’ve experienced suffering or trauma, like we may have.
You can learn more about Project Connect Nashville visit their website www.projectconnectnashville.org.
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