Economic Discipleship in Boston

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
TLC Correspondent

Christians in the Boston area and beyond are learning how to turn small lifestyle adjustments into big donations with help from an ecumenical nonprofit agency with strong Episcopal ties.

Boston Faith & Justice Network strives to empower Christians to give generously by living simply. The group’s Lazarus at the Gate curriculum has taught more than 400 Christians about “economic discipleship.”

These Lazarus participants have donated more than $500,000 to fight hunger, poverty and injustice. They’ve done so by meeting weekly for eight or twelve weeks in small groups. They follow steps that include studying relevant passages of Scripture, prayerfully examining personal budgets, cutting spending on non-necessities and pooling resultant savings for charitable distribution.

Executive director Ryan Scott McDonnell, an Episcopalian, has leveraged his church ties to build participation in and support for BFJN’s ministries. Episcopal City Mission, a Boston-based foundation, funds BFJN and helps disseminate the Lazarus curriculum around eastern Massachusetts, McDonnell said via email. The program has now been used in Episcopal parishes from Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham, located in an affluent suburb, to Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, a low-income Boston neighborhood.

“The Episcopal Church, its churches and parishioners are leading social and economic change within many parts of our common life,” McDonnell said. “BFJN is particularly excited to be able to offer resources … that invite Christians to examine how their personal spending choices can reflect God’s heart for justice.”

Now BFJN is teaming up with the Diocese of Massachusetts to help its Micah Fellows spread understandings and habits of economic discipleship throughout the diocese. Linking consumer spending habits with discipleship strikes a chord, McDonnell said, especially among young adults and college students, who have been among the most passionate users of the Lazarus curriculum.

“People are looking for a framework for social justice, and they have a hunger for it in their heart, and they don’t know how to articulate it or interpret it,” said Mako Nagasawa, coauthor of the curriculum and an adviser to Boston College’s Asian Christian Fellowship. “We want to say it comes from being made in the image of God and being redeemed by Jesus.”

Photo courtesy of Boston Faith & Justice Network


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