Thirty years ago, I walked into a meeting that changed my life and my thinking. I was attending the first conference held by Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). The first speaker was the CCDA founder, Dr. John Perkins, who spoke about reconciliation in the context of wholistic community development. The second man I heard speak was Wayne Gordon, the pastor of Lawndale Community Church in Chicago. This church was doing more than just holding Sunday services- it was creating change for the whole family.

At that time, I was living just a few miles from Lawndale and witnessing who that church community that was actually living out what Dr. Perkins was talking about. For four years I worked with Inner City Impact living in the Humboldt Park community, known as the most violent community in Chicago in the 1980s. We served and discipled hundreds of kids but were not working with the local church or the whole family. We were exclusively focused on student ministry.

Noel Castellanos thanking Tracy for 30 years
of involvement with the CCDA

During the second annual CCDA conference, Tom Skinner spoke for 6 hours about systems in the United States and how we are divided rather than united. He went through scripture and illustrated how far we have gone astray from the Word of God. That was when my world view as “the great white hope” was shaken. It was 1989 and I realized that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the hope for lasting change in our inner cities with the Word of God – the Living Gospel – instructing and guiding us. What Skinner, Perkins, and Gordon talked about was a biblical, holistic approach to discipleship. That year the conference was held at Circle Urban Ministries and The Rock church. Both pastors spoke, one black and one white, how to do this Living Gospel together. I left a changed man on a life pursuit of the Living Gospel that changes lives in our broken cities.

Those four years at ICI taught me so much about youth discipleship as I lead the Jr. High Ministry working with more than 150 kids from the community teaching them about Jesus. I knew that a more wholistic model was needed to help these students with their environment and their educational needs. I could see the desperate need their families were experiencing and I felt there was nothing I could do. The staff at ICI began to discuss how to engage the church and serve families. This was the beginning of the vision God grew in my heart for resourcing the local church for community development in order to see the Gospel make an impact in people’s lives. This vision became the foundation for why I am focused so heavily at Christian Service Mission on working with, alongside and through the local church and Body of Christ instead of as an independent entity.

That was when my world view as “the great white hope” was shaken.

That story began 30 years ago, and God has taught me so much since then. Fast forward to last week when we hosted a meeting with Noel Castellanos, the President of CCDA. It was great to connect with Noel because we were both in those first meetings 30 years ago. Over the years, Dr. John Perkins has been one of my greatest mentors. The last few years I have had the privilege to visit with John and expose pastors to this anointed man of God. Dr. Perkins is on a forever mission of reconciliation with God and man. John Perkins has written a dozen books and has just released his last book at 87 years old. (“One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race”) It is a textbook of how the Living Gospel has changed his life and how we can be guided down this same path of biblical reconciliation.

CSM is a member of the CCDA, and today, operates as a resource to the local church to bring lasting change and wholistic community development to their neighborhoods. Through CCDA, I have found brothers and sisters around the country who are on the same journey of living out the Gospel of Christ in a comprehensive way to see the disparities of our cities changed for Christ. The Living Gospel is walking in community everyday in everyway to see lives changed inside, changed outside, and then multiplying this to all the future generations. True biblical reconciliation is living for God and with man.

Tracy Hipps

Executive Director