Recently Madison Square Church and Calvin Theological Seminary partnered to host a CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) Café — an introduction to principles of community development with the CEO of the organization, Noel Castellanos. As part of the café, President of the seminary, Rev. Jul Medenblik and Director of Outreach for Madison Square Church, Ricardo Tavárez agreed to read and dialogue on Castellanos’ new book, Where the Cross Meets the Street.
How would you describe the book?
Medenblik: This book is a combination of spiritual memoir and theological overview. The spiritual memoir comes from the biography that Noel Castellanos shares from his own life and the identification of main themes in the CCDA way of ministering in the neighborhoods. I think the strength of the book comes from the passion expressed and the stories that are shared that highlight the journey of CCDA. The subtitle of the book is “What happens to the neighborhood when God is at the center?” and the book illustrates what it means to have an incarnational ministry.
Tavarez: Castellanos writes his treatise through the Latin-American art of storytelling. He begins with his ancestry and with the narrative of Jesus, the Messiah who comes to dwell among us. Where the Cross Meets the Street is as much about transformational development in under-resourced communities as it is about a barrio boy who experiences transformation through a deep and personal calling through God’s grace. That Castellanos writes in a way that the reader learns as he learns is one of the greatest strengths of the book. We are not bombarded with a mass of theological data. Rather, as his story unfolds, we are able to enter into his theological reflections as a minister living in a cross-cultural world and serving on the margins of our society.
What can this book teach leaders about church planting?
Medenblik: My family arrived in New Lenox, Illinois, on August 15, 1995, and we did not start holding weekly worship services until September 29, 1996. Those thirteen months were a deliberate time of listening to and learning from the community. What my family did during this “dwelling” experience in the community parallels what you will find in CCDA literature. A key question for church planting conversations is: “If your church closed her doors, would the community notice?” This question helps church planters have a vision for the church that is community oriented and missionally focused.
Tavarez: This book wakens the consciousness of future church planters. Church planters should not waltz into a community assuming they know the needs of that community. And if they assume that the only need is a “spiritual” one, then they are taking a short-sighted perspective. If we are called to serve a geographic community, we must be willing to dwell in that community, sharing in its burdens and its blessings. Castellanos admits that, even as a Mexican-American, he missed some of the needs in his Latino community and congregation. There are only some things we can learn as ministers by dwelling together. a