FCS Urban Ministries: focused community strategies




Urban Perspectives

…reflections on faith, grace, and the city

Urban Perspectives is a collection of monthly reflections about life and faith in the city. Bob Lupton, founder of FCS Urban Ministries, offers us personal glimpses and poignant stories of a journey he began more than 30 years ago when he responded to a call of God to live and serve among the urban poor.

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FCS Resources

Toxic Charity

How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How To Reverse It)

By Robert D. Lupton

toxic charity barnes and noble
Buy Here

Churches and charities have fallen into the bad habit of creating programs to help the poor when in reality the only people they are helping are themselves, creating a toxic charity that needs to be reexamined and fixed. In this groundbreaking book, Lupton shows how good-intentioned people are actually hurting the very people they’re trying to help. The poor end up feeling judged, looked down upon, only worthy of charity and handouts that end up making them more dependent instead of learning skills to help themselves. Churches and charitable organizations, though good-intentioned, have missed the mark when it comes to serving the poor, creating a toxic form of charity. Lupton says that a better system would be to treat the poor as business partners, empowering them to start businesses, build houses, plan communities, etc. He offers specific organizations as examples of this healthier model of charity and gives practical ideas for how to get involved in service projects that truly help. Together, we can serve our world in a way that actually effects life-altering change.

Theirs Is The Kingdom

Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America

By Robert D. Lupton,
HarperSanFrancisco, ISBN: 006-065307-8

theirs is the kingdom barnes and noble
Buy Here

Robert Lupton – educated and middle class – moved into a high crime area of Atlanta with the intention of bringing Christ’s message into the ghetto. In this insightful and moving series of vignettes, he shows how his experiences there shattered many of his assumptions about himself and the nature of poverty in America. He soon found that his mission was as much about his own salvation as it was about that of the urban poor. He was surprised to learn that a spiritual life had already taken root in the urban soil, exposing his own patronizing attitudes, materialism, and biases.

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life

Rethinking Ministry to the Poor

By Robert D. Lupton,
Published by Regal Books

The urban landscape is changing and, as a result, urban ministries are at a crossroads. If the Church is to be an effective agent of compassion and justice, we must change our mission strategies. In this revised and expanded edition of And You Call Yourself A Christian, Bob Lupton, asks tough questions about service providing and community building to help us enhance our effectiveness. Among the questions: What dilemmas do caring people encounter to faithfully carry out the teaching of Scripture and become personally involved with “the least of these?” What are some possible alternatives to the ways we have traditionally attempted to care for the poor? How do people, programs, and neighborhoods move toward reciprocal, interdependent relationships? To effect these types of changes will require new skill sets and resources, but the possibilities for good are great.


Renewing the City

Reflections on Community Development and Urban Renewal

By Robert D. Lupton,
InterVarsity Press ISBN:0-8308-3326-9

When an expatriate bureaucrat toured a devastated city, he saw more than ashes and ruins. He envisioned a thriving metropolis where God’s people could find safety and community. Likewise, when we consider today’s urban challenges, we can be daunted by corruption and despair, or we can see opportunities for rejuvenation, restoration and rebirth.

Community developer and urban activist Robert Lupton looks to the Old Testament example of Nehemiah as a role model for community transformation and renewal. Lupton sees the book of Nehemiah as the memoirs of an urban developer who transformed a decaying city into a place of security and vitality. Placing Nehemiah’s story in juxtaposition with contemporary realities offers encouragement and concrete models for how our own metropolitan environments can be revitalized. Nehemiah’s example – and Lupton’s – offer guidance and hope for all who would seek the welfare of their cities.

Return Flight

Community Development Through Reneighboring Our Cities

By Robert D. Lupton

Return Flight is a handbook of practical insights and thought-provoking vignettes that portrays a strategy for reweaving the fabric of urban community. It offers a compelling case for re-neighboring deteriorated neighborhoods with “strategic neighbors” who join with indigenous leaders to bring new energy, vision and resources into low-hope environments.

The Poor Are Always With You

By Bob Lupton

“The poor you will always have with you,” a man in the audience quoted. He was reacting to a talk I had just given on the need for more effective charity. I had heard his argument before.


Since souls are eternal and our earthly bodies merely temporal, should we not be about saving souls rather than alleviating poverty? And besides, Jesus himself said that the poor will always be with us.



Image credit: Steven Depolo


The passage from Mark’s gospel (which the man was lifting a bit out of context) was Jesus’ defense of a woman who was being criticized for anointing Him with expensive balm. Such an extravagant offering should have been donated to help the poor, the woman’s critics grumbled.


“Let her alone; why do you trouble her?” Jesus defends her.  “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” The detractors in the crowd might well have faulted Him for supporting a misappropriation of valuable ointment. But there was certainly no hint in His response that caring for the needs of the poor was unimportant.


As a matter of fact, He was actually quoting from Torah a command which all Jews knew well:  “For the poor will never cease from being in the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and needy in your land.‘”


Caring for the needs of the poor was obviously a bedrock mandate for the faithful followers of Yahweh. The theme is dominant, woven throughout all of scripture. Where then did this idea originate that God’s primary interest is in disembodied souls rather than in whole people (body, mind, and spirit)? Or the whole of creation, for that matter?


I suppose the Gnostics had something to do with it – the group that believed that matter (the flesh) was of a lower, imperfect world whereas the realm of God (the spirit) was the upper world associated with the soul and perfection. This Greek infiltration into early Christian thinking convinced some that the realm of God is spiritual and not part of the physical.


Thus the material world is to be shunned and the spiritual world pursued. It’s not hard to see how such thinking could lead to the conclusion the man in my audience was making: God is primarily concerned about eternal souls rather than the temporal needs of people.


The God of scripture, however, seems to have a more holistic intention for humankind. Shalom. Peace, flourishing, wholeness. People rightly related to God and to each other. Shalom has a “here and now” orientation.


The Old Testament had little to say about the after-world. Mostly it concerned itself with how people were behaving in the present. When Christ appeared on the scene, He dramatically expanded “hereafter thinking.” His bodily resurrection opened an advent of understanding about the inseparability of soul and body.


His resurrected body would be the first-fruit of a theology His disciples, His Church, would embrace. “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” the Apostle’s Creed declares. The body is important. Feeding, clothing, healing were no insignificant issues to Christ. And the body – not just the soul – somehow has a connection with eternity.


Caring for those in need has eternal implications. Eternal rewards are conditioned upon it. Care for the hungry, the ill-clad, the alienated is synonymous with love for God, Jesus explained. It is worship in its purest form. Do this and we find ourselves aligned with Divine purposes. Ignore it and we are in danger of judgment.


“The poor you will always have with you.” Yes, there will always be those who need a helping hand. Which is to say: there will never be a time when our compassion, our generosity, our thoughtfulness is irrelevant. It is tied to eternity.


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