"Dallas needs this."
Those are the two statements Aaron Graham (Sojourners' Justice Revival Coordinator) and I heard over and over again as we visited pastors and other community leaders all over the city, lifting up the vision of a Dallas Justice Revival.
Those initial conversations happened nearly a year ago. In the interim, much has happened -- heartening and heart-rending -- to reinforce the deep truth in those first-blush responses.
It is time, and Dallas does need this.
The need is visible in the headlines: rising homelessness, stubborn dropout rates, racial resentments poisoning our city's governance.
The timeliness is visible in the upwelling of support for the Justice Revival. There are over 100 congregations, nonprofits, and other organizations from every corner of the city, every denomination, every age, race, and ethnic group that have embraced the proposition that spiritual renewal and social justice are not only compatible but inseparable.
The Justice Revival is not about one-time acts of charity (although there is a place for those). It's about building transformational relationships that bridge historic divides. As Aaron always says, it's about asking God to break our hearts for the suffering of others, that we might fully experience God's saving grace by finding our true brotherhood and sisterhood with them in Christ.
So what does that look like in the real world?
- Three nights of passionate worship, free to all, reflecting the full diversity of the church in Dallas.
- Two days of lifting up effective social justice ministries that already are transforming lives in our midst, for the purpose of equipping one another to do the work of justice.
- One day of service touching lives in every corner of the city.
- And, above all, an ongoing commitment and process for achieving greater justice in the crucial areas of educating our children and ending chronic homelessness.
The Justice Revival is a process, not an event. Welcoming thousands of people each night to Dallas Market Hall for three nights in November is not the goal. It is a step toward the goal: for churches of all stripes to adopt a "parish mentality," affirming that a vital part of their mission is to be in community with the neighborhoods in which they are located. In concrete terms, the goal is two-fold:
- To create at least 25 deep and lasting partnerships around struggling public schools, each partnership involving a church, a community-based business, and a neighborhood association or other civic group.
- To help the city of Dallas reach its target of creating 700 new units of permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people, both through advocacy and building supportive relationships with the residents.
Already, some churches are quietly going about the work. They are creating the models; they have loaves and fishes to bring forth. By collaborating, by acting in faith that God can and will work through us, however distrustful, weak, or halting we may've been in the past, we can feed multitudes.
Our city will change. That is the bold claim we stake in the name of Christ. Look at the Justice Revival logo. That symbol in the middle signifies more than the joining of two qualities -- justice and revival -- not commonly linked. It signifies the limitless power of transformation inherent in the cross. Which of us can say we are not in need of the salvation offered there?
It's time. Dallas needs this.