Tony and Bart Campolo lead first
5 Talent Academy teaching session  

Click here to watch videos of Tony and Bart Campolo presentations

Dr. Tony Campolo, (pictured below right) noted author and speaker, said he and his son, Bart, rarely get to do things together these days. But on Oct. 1 they formed an effective tag-team as the leaders for the first 5 Talent Academy teaching event.

The 5 Talent Academy grew out of the All Things New strategy to help existing churches revive their ministries. Moved to a large Richmond hotel ballroom because of the huge response, the first teaching session brought together leaders from 108 conference churches to get both barrels of the Campolos, with Tony talking about the spiritual side of reaching out to the poor in the morning and Bart dealing more with the practical side after lunch. With Cokesbury and many vendors on hand, plus music, worship and communion, the day had all the feel of a mini-Annual Conference session.

Tony Campolo pulled no punches in convicting the attendees whose churches are not serving the poor.

“All of you know what (John) Wesley taught, so shame on you for not living it,” he said. “Your church must decide if it will change its lifestyle. Our churches must live simply so others can simply live.”

Campolo also challenged the 5 Talent Academy goal of devoting 10% of each church’s operating budget to the poor. “Ten percent? … Geeze!” He then began singing a familiar hymn with a slight alteration of the lyrics: “I surrender ten percent, I surrender ten percent. Ten percent to Jesus I surrender…”

“Ten percent is a good place to start, he continued. “Unfortunately it’s a major step up for most churches. Some churches say ‘can we afford it?’ I say there are so few churches who are helping the poor, that God will never let you go out of business.”

Dr. Compolo said we “have a responsibility to take care of the poor as a church and as a nation.”

He related a story of being fully embraced by a smelly “bum” in downtown Philadelphia. “Jesus was there waiting to be loved in my arms. So much of our ‘charity’ diminishes the dignity of the recipient. It changes everything once you see Christ in the other person. And that comes through deep and incredible prayer.”

The only way to truly end poverty is job creation, he said. “I don’t care if you’re a right-wing Republican or a left-wing Democrat, the question is ‘how do we create jobs?’  … Campaign contributions have ruined America. Congress is serving the needs of special interests rather than the needs of the people, and particularly the needs of the poor. The American middle class lifestyle is collapsing because so many people are losing their jobs. The church ought to act like a family; if one member suffers we all suffer.”

Bart Campolo (pictured at left) talked about purposely moving into a ghetto area of Cincinnati without a real plan in mind. “Our friends in Cincinnati said ‘you want to live with poor people? There’s an abandoned house right next to ours and you can have it!'”

He admitted that he gets so discouraged that he often wonders if there is a God.

Bart Campolo said he thought about starting a thrift store, then about starting a laundromat. Neither idea took off, he said, but his family settled into a unique ministry: hosting a weekly meal for about 50 poor people in their home.

“One of the things we underestimate is how hungry people are,” Bart said, “and not just spiritually.”

Interesting ideas for ministry were peppered in throughout the day. Tony Campolo mentioned prison ministry as an important area in need of more participation, and urged Cabinet members to get their district churches involved in local schools. He talked about microenterprise consulting, helping people start their own sustainable businesses. Bart Campolo told conference leaders that churches need to find ways to help the poor within five miles of their facilities, otherwise partnerships will feel “unnatural.” He also said that ministry to the poor should not take place in the context of 11 a.m. Sunday worship.

“Your place of connection will be outside the church. You are not likely to attract poor people to worship, and if you do, they won’t get much out of it and you won’t like the results.”

Now 5 Talent Academy participants move into small peer groups meetings. The second large teaching event is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2010, on meaningful worship.

-Neill Caldwell


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