The movie “Straight Outta Compton” has been at the top of the box office since its release two weeks ago. Our media discernment ministry, Plugged In, gave the film a half “plug” (out of five) for family friendliness in its review.
It’s no wonder. Life in Compton, California is anything but family-friendly. I should know – I lived in Compton for part of my childhood. When I was only 8 years old, I was in my bedroom when a murder took place just 10 feet from the window.
Growing up in that environment is anything but easy. Drive-by shootings, crime, poverty, and vice were a way of life. Little boys grow up without male role models and girls are vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. My heart is tender to their plight because… that was me. And while many families in Compton are working toward a better city – and I applaud their efforts – trouble remains. I believe we’re called to do what we can to help.
Yesterday and today on the broadcast we’re featuring a roundtable discussion I had with six men who are making a difference in the inner cities where they live. In yesterday’s conversation, we focused on the harsh realities facing families living in that environment. We took a particular look at the challenges faced by the African-American community where more than 70 percent of babies are born without a dad in the home. (If you didn’t catch the program, you can listen to it online.) Many of the men on the panel shared their own stories – tales of enduring the murders of friends, drugs, jail time, growing up without male role models, and violence that seemed … normal.
Today we are shifting gears and focusing on what the church can do to help. The six men I talk to – Bob Woodson, Pastor Darryl Webster, Kurt Moore, James Miller, Tyrone Miller and Robert Bigsbee – can all attest to the life-changing power of a personal encounter with Christ. Their faith compelled them to go deeper into the inner city to bring hope and model the faith. In today’s broadcast we share practical ways churches can help bring life and truth to the inner city. I’ll briefly share three of the points we discussed:
1. Reach the men
Fatherlessness is a root cause of many of the ills plaguing the inner city, so we have to reach the men. The Church needs to teach them biblical principles. Help them be accountable. Programs like Pastor Darryl’s “Boot Camp” helps get men off the streets through a combination of spiritual instruction and practical help, like teaching job skills.
2. Unleash the Gospel
Jesus didn’t send His followers out to create “self-help” groups. “Education is not the salvation of man,” says Darryl. “Education informs us. Prison reforms. But the Gospel transforms.” The Church needs to recognize the power of the Gospel and the blood of Jesus Christ to reach into the darkest pit and save the lost.
3. Help residents of the inner city find jobs
Heart-change alone won’t help pay the bills. That’s why supporting groups like Bob Woodson’s “Center for Neighborhood Enterprise” is so important. The CNE helps community and faith-based organizations with training and technical assistance. It links them with sources of support. Churches would be wise to support groups like Bob’s and provide the practical help families need to overcome the daily obstacles that threaten their success.
These three items provide only a hint of the topics we discuss in today’s broadcast. It’s a program full of action items for the Church. I hope you’ll tune in today to part two of our broadcast, “Changing Lives in the Inner City,” and that you will be moved to pray and see how God can use you and your church to get involved in what He’s doing in the toughest cities in America.