Friday, January 6, 2012

Followers Into Leaders

We are beginning the leadership training program at Neighbors Together today. I am a little nervous about this new venture, as I am about starting anything without precedent. The staff community organizer and I will be the trainers for a group of about six of our members. This group may expand or change, but it will be no larger than ten.

These men and women know their neighborhood. They know the needs of their people. They know the problems they face. They are tired of waiting for the world to change. They are reaching out for change, and they are seizing the moments when a real contest for power appears -- and appears to be winnable. They have claimed their voice, and Neighbors Together has given them a platform for speaking out to the public and to the powers.

Up until now, the Neighbors Together staff has been doing the work of entering or forming coalitions with like-minded persons and groups to fight hunger and poverty and unstable housing situations. Our members, trusting the initiative of our staff, take advantage of the opportunities they are given to make a difference. Their participation in the struggle involves attending our Tuesday membership meetings; taking part in advocacy by writing letters, making phone calls, and visiting elected officials; and joining mass meetings, marches, and rallies for economic justice campaigns. As activists they have been dedicated constituents in our in-house and coalition campaigns for positive community change.

Now we want our activists to take the next step. We encourage them to become leaders in their own right, taking control of their own destiny. By learning community organizing skills, interpersonal skills, and the fundamentals of the political process, they will gain the tools they need to construct the kind of communities they want to live, communities of compassion and justice.

It is for me an honor and a privilege to engage in this kind of work, which I see as the faithful work of building a world ready to receive the reign of God. Christian disciples are not to wait passively for the city of God to arise or for the servant-leader Jesus Christ, its humble ruler, to return. To be a follower of Christ is to become a humble leader, led, like Jesus, by the Spirit of God. Therefore, they are to work earnestly and tirelessly, with all the faithful and all people of good will, and with the movement of the Holy Spirit, for the liberation of the world, even as they keep vigil for the kingdom, power, and the glory to come.

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