Last Thursday, about 70 people gathered at Soma Midtown for the Merciful Conference, a conference focused on seeking biblical justice and mercy in an urban context. Randy Nabors, Urban & Mercy Coordinator for the PCA’S Mission to North America, was keynote speaker; breakout speakers included Indianapolis community leaders like Charles Ware and Greg Strand.
Here are some things we learned from the conference:
“The number-one value that makes the middle class the middle class is delayed gratification." I found this nugget that Randy Nabors shared to be the most impactful of the conference. It shed light on how I was raised as a member of the middle class. I was taught that after eating my vegetables I would get a dessert; homework and chores come before going out to play; investing time and money in college would open up more opportunities for gratification for the rest of my life.
In contrast, Nabors shared that the lower class tend to replace the value of delayed gratification with survival. Generational poverty is sustained by a lens that views the world in “get what you can, when you can” without consideration for how delaying gratification can push someone out of survival to thriving. Putting language to this intuitive truth was helpful for understanding why those stuck in poverty make the decisions they make and fall into traps that the concept of delayed gratification make possible to avoid.
Jeremy Height, from Shepherd Community Center:
In my opinion, I received three to four times my investment to attend the Merciful Conference. With the cost of admission being $10 for the entire day, I easily received $10 worth of quality concepts and material from the main session and breakout workshop. And the networking connections I made with other churches and ministries - both new and old - will result in much more than my $10 investment. And, thirdly, I received breakfast and lunch (and lots of coffee!) that alone probably cost more than $10 to provide per person. Combined, my time and financial investment in being a part of this Merciful Conference was one of the best ways I could have used that Thursday.
My biggest takeaway from Merciful was the hopefulness of a goal in working with the poor. Often times, we fall into two ditches with mercy ministry: either exaggerating what we can accomplish (i.e., "we're going to end global poverty") or underestimating what we can accomplish in our cities. Randy gave us a hopeful realism rooted in the Scriptures that while we can't solve global poverty, we absolutely can and should disciple individuals and families out of poverty. That vision is good news for our church.
The merciful conference served as a conduit for urban ministries, social service organizations, and church leaders to gather around the cause of reaching the materially poor in the city context. The speakers passionately shared biblical principles and presented practical programs and curriculum for equipping pastors and lay-leaders in their efforts to serve and minister among the poor.
The conference was affordable and centrally located for individuals to attend during the mid morning and early afternoon time frame, with time left to focus on other responsibilities. By the grace of God, the conference was a success in that the churches and Soma and the Sojourn Network (as well as business partners like Chik-fil-a) were willing to combine efforts to equip the church to reach the materially poor for the glory of the Father.
We hope this was a blessing to everyone who attended; we’re grateful to partners like the Sojourn Network and Chik-fil-a for helping us pull it off; and we’d love to be able to host Merciful again in 2016.