The Nonprofit and the Congregation: Building Bridges and Putting Worship to Work

December 3, 2019  |  by Matt Bridges

All humans, in their own way, sense the gaps in our social fabric, the places where people, even whole families, fall through the structure that societies build up to take care of those who live and work in a community. There are numerous powers and complex problems that lead to these gaps. Martin Buber said in 1930 that the person of faith “feels [these gaps] against his skin, he tastes it on his tongue, the burden of the unredeemed world lies on him.” This sensitivity to those being left behind has been a call to worshipping congregations and mission-minded organizations to fill in where society has lapsed. Congregations and nonprofits are guided by fundamentally different ways of thinking and working: one is driven by a vision of the world that comes out of faithful worship, and the other driven the idealism, efficiencies, practical needs, and virtues of a mission. Both of these engines, worship and mission, drive institutions into the community and sometimes into partnerships with one another. Indeed, the relationship between congregations and nonprofits is often assumed but not wholly considered. This article, then, is an attempt to take a fresh look at these relationships and how they come together on behalf of a community. Read more

Eighty-Nine Nos and Only One Yes: Faith Reflections on Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

August 20, 2019  |  by Matt Bridges

If you were to freeze in place and time a square mile of land or a city so that you could study it like a diorama of the real life living on that particular chunk of dirt, where would your eyes land first, on what would you spend your gaze? First you might see  the soaring and significant buildings, each one speaking with steel and stone the story this place would love to tell about itself. You might see people at work or play, bouncing from businesses to schools to jobs to homes. Some would traverse these stops with such ease that it would seem the land, buildings, and homes were made for them, aligned for their use. But who would you not see? Who would be missed in your first study of this place frozen in a moment? Would you see those laboring behind counters and mopping under stairs? Would you see the homes so poorly constructed that they could only be considered an after-thought—a construction subscript—meant to be in the shadow of those buildings with flashier glazing and ancient looking stones. Matthew Desmond, in his book Evicted, takes us to these places in American cities to display how a seemingly small legal mechanism like eviction pushes people far enough to the margins of cities and cultures that they live, work, survive mostly out of sight. American cities are built, quite literally, for some people and not others. Desmond’s argument is that the legal mechanisms of eviction are some of the general contractors of these hidden places in American cities. And it takes work to move your eyes past the things most towns want you to see, and take in full consideration those who are being actively hidden. Vision can be trained; it can also be fogged. Desmond writes, “the people I met in Milwaukee trained my vision by modeling how to see and showing me how to make sense of what I saw” (324). Read more