Why you ought to read The Wealth of the Poor by Larry M. James

Wealth of the Poor Cover Image

You should read Larry M. JamesThe Wealth of the Poor because you need to be inspired to lead like Larry leads. You need to be inspired to do something in your city like Larry is doing in his city. You need to read his story because it’s a powerful story of life change in central Dallas, starting with his own.

Larry is a leader unlike I’ve never seen: part prophet, part businessman, part advocate for government grants/tax credits. Lots of people talk about business as mission. Larry does business as mission. I’ve been following Larry for about twenty years, since he left his church for the inner city, and he is the first leader I’ve truly seen live out “business as mission” in an urban context like Dallas.

Along with many others a few years ago, I suggested Larry write a book. He’d already thought of that, but I gave him a deadline, though I had no authority to do so! The result was that Larry took several months and presented nearly 500 pages of manuscript, telling his own and the City Square story.

I was honored to edit the book for Leafwood Publishers, and I’m proud of how it turned out, because it tells not only Larry’s story but the true and powerful transformational stories of people in central Dallas.

The Wealth of the Poor is about Larry James leaving his suburban church for a “demotion” to work in the poorest neighborhood in Dallas. There he learned to see “the poor” as valuable in communities rather than approaching them for their “needs.”

Many church leaders have read Corbett’s and Fikkert’s very good book, When Helping Hurts. Whereas When Helping Hurts is more academic and theoretical and approaches from a negative title, The Wealth of the Poor tells stories and makes important concrete applications using real examples of operational ministries going on in Dallas. One of the best stories of the book is a chapter where he invites “the poor” not just into a “conversation” but into action as volunteers and on staff.

This is an organizational success story you expect to see in the Wall Street Journal, and yet it is like no other. The author’s own journey provides the platform from which he provides a practical, theological, market-savvy manual written for others who find themselves serving and investing in the work of urban transformation. Using the foundation of Jesus’ teaching and love for the poor, the book shows practical and visionary ways Christ’s teaching can be made real.

“Simply put, this is the best, the most readable, and the most powerful book on the social implications of the Christian religion that I have read,” says Richard T. Hughes, author of Myths America Lives By. Couched as a compelling and vibrant memoir, James has written a revolutionary—but immensely practical—text for people concerned with battling hunger, poverty, and homelessness in America’s cities. If you care about your ‘neighbors,’ this is the one book you must read.”

Chapters include:  “Josefina and the Wealth of the Poor,” “Hunger is Every Body’s Business,” “Health of One Impacts the Health of All,” “Housing First: A Key in Every Pocket,” “Can We Package Hope?” and “So, Where’s The Ministry?”

Larry James has provided executive leadership for CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) since August 1994. CitySquare, a faith-based, human and community development corporation, serves several inner-city neighborhoods in Dallas, Texas, as well as in San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, and Houston. James has developed and implemented holistic, justice-focused approaches to community service and outreach throughout his career. CitySquare attacks poverty through its work in four focus areas: housing, hunger relief, health, and the creation of hope. A native of Richardson, Texas, James is married to the former Brenda Erwin and they have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. Since 1999, Larry and Brenda have lived in inner-city Dallas.

Learn more about the mission of CitySquare at www.citysquare.org

Father-Son @ Cowboys-Eagles

My son, Jacob, and I went with our good friends, Chris and Eli King, to the Dallas vs. Philly MNF game.

My son, Jacob, and I went with our good friends, Chris and Eli King, to the Dallas vs. Philly MNF game.

My good friend Chris King said he was thinking about going to the MNF Cowboys vs. Eagles game. We were standing around before our sons started their flag football game Saturday.

We left promising each other we’d look at tickets online and report back. I forgot the promise. Chris, on the other hand, scoured online, found tickets at the Cowboys season ticket holder exchange.

We drove down in the afternoon, sat down around kickoff time, were in the wrong seats, so we moved, found our seats and had a blast. The game had it all: Romo fumble in the end zone, T.O. revving up the manic crowd, Jackson’s drop on the 1, huge plays, McNabb playing lights out, big turnovers–well, I guess it almost didn’t have any defense but Eagles and Cowboys defenses both came through in the fourth quarter. The hook and ladder by the Eagles couldn’t close the gap. We were cheering for the Eagles in the Cowboy’s wild west house. Jacob kept asking why they’d want another stadium, why they’d want to tear this one down (I don’t know if they are tearing it down, do you?)

I told Jacob “You’ll never forget this one because it was your first, and an incredible one to start with!” Maybe he’ll see some better defensive games in the future, but for all the excitement of MNF, that was a rare treasure and great memory for all of us.

Thanks, Kristen, for letting us drive the Tahoe and thanks, Chris, for arranging everything. Chris is a great friend, brother in Christ, and fellow minister. He is youth pastor at Liberty Church in Broken Arrow.