The concepts of Asset-Based Community Development has been effectively used by churches and faith communities to engage their congregations, explore new outreach opportunities and transform communities. While the approach is primarily practical, there are some key biblical concepts that corroborate ABCD principles. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m going to provide some of these connections to aid others in bringing ABCD into faith communities.
Pivotal to asset-based principles is the assumption that every person has not only value but also assets beneficial to the community. So use them. There are two biblical areas that I’d like to highlight. 1) Jesus spends a great deal of time calling us to see value where it was, and is, traditionally ignored. 2) The process of community throughout the Bible, and particularly the early church, gave rise to natural solutions through engagement. When finished, I believe we’ll see that not only are ABCD principles valuable to health and life of the church, but they are actually core Christian values found first in the life and teachings of Jesus and the early church.
On multiple occasions, Paul likens the church to a body, giving readers a vision for both the value of the individual and a vision for working within the community. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 reads:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
This illustration highlights both the individual and the community aspects of ABCD. We must identify the unique gifts of every individual if we are going to be faithful to the call of community. As Paul continues, he clearly notes that the body of Christ can only function in this way. Even those who appear to be weak or of lesser value, he writes are to be lifted up with even more value than the others. We cannot deny anyone in our community of their gifts and talents.
If we understand this as properly restoring dignity to those in our community who are often left behind, then the function of the body must also be one of engaging the parts of the body. Just as ABCD calls for the engagement from the unique gifts of the community, so does Paul’s body illustration. What good does it do to identify the value and skills of an individual if we fail to engage them and provide a space for those gifts to be used? A body must engage all of its parts to function in the most fruitful and impactful ways.
The greatest struggle for the church in engaging these people might not be in finding value but in releasing control. It is certainly difficult to look beyond our social structures that relegates certain people in our communities, but once we do it is even more difficult to relinquish some of our control to allow these individuals to have a true stake in the community. Only through a sense of ownership can someone have a stake in the community, and that requires church leadership to let go of some of the power and allow more involvement as individuals (especially those relegated into the background) shape the identity and direction of the church.
This is asset-based ministry, and it is not simply a practical method for growth and engagement, it is a core value of Christianity and a central theme throughout the Bible.