Growing up, I was led to believe this passage was to be understood only on a personal level. That is, I was to seek God’s kingdom on an individual level and not worry about much else. What I failed to see is that this passage also speaks to us as the people of God. In other words, not only am I to pursue God in my own life, but I am to seek God’s kingdom in our city, in partnership with all followers of Christ in that pursuit. There’s a personal and a corporate reality to this endeavor.
We launched the Memphis Leadership Foundation twenty-seven years ago with this pursuit in mind. We set out to empower urban leaders who in turn would seek to build God’s kingdom throughout broken communities. On the next pages you will see a thumbnail sketch of how that has played out.
John Perkins, the “father of Christian Community Development,” and I had a conversation about starting MLF when we were both doing ministry in southern California. We noticed that there were many passionate men and women with great ideas about ministry to gang members, ex-offenders, the homeless, “at-risk” youth, the unemployed, the medically under-served, and the list goes on…yet were often unable to gather necessary resources or partners to get off the ground, much less become sustainable over time.
We’ve been able to help launch a number of ministries since 1987. Sometimes, it’s simply hearing an idea, shaping it and providing an “umbrella” for the ministry to operate until they are able to get their own tax exempt status, form a board of directors and increase their fundraising capacity. Sometimes, it took some “seed money” from MLF to launch. And at other times, it meant collaborating with other organizations to pull off an idea, like the Memphis Center For Urban Theological Studies (MCUTS) which was a collaborative effort involving MLF, Hope Christian Community Foundation, Second Presbyterian and Hope Presbyterian Churches and the Neighborhood Christian Centers.
But however we helped, the “cause” was always the same: seeking God’s kingdom in Memphis. God has used the MLF platform to transform countless lives in Memphis and we are humbled that he has used us in his agenda.
Over the last several months, the MLF Board of Directors has approved expanding the administrative services we provide to other ministries in the city. What many fail to realize is that “back office” support for urban ministries is absolutely crucial if they are to succeed long-term. Again, John Perkins and I realized that the need for fiscal integrity, good financial accounting and reporting, audits, etc. were crucial if a ministry was to attract board members, donors or foundation grants. The business/accounting staff of MLF is second to none in providing these services and we are now offering these services to more ministries in the city. We believe that with the economies of scale we enjoy, we can reduce administrative overhead for many of these ministry leaders.
We will continue, with your financial help and partnership, to seek His Kingdom in our city, equipping leaders to incarnate the Gospel in communities of need throughout Memphis.
In His Service,