Category Archives: Dave Frenchak

Hope, Imagination and Prophetic Preaching

The Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban ContextHow can hope transform the lives of individuals and communities?

What does it mean to be prophetic?

Where is imagination essential in incarnating the gospel?

Paulo FreireIn the newest episode of the SCUPE Congress podcast we delve into the human spiritual need for hope and the role of imagination in conveying the Kingdom of God. We talk with SCUPE’s President Emeritus and Founding Director Dave Frenchak, on the bustling streets of Chicago, about fostering the rich tradition of prophetic preaching in our lives and in our current day and age.

Highlights include: a preached introduction by Yvonne Delk, excerpts of Dave and Otis Moss III teaching their preaching class, a look at the work of Brazilian educator and pedagogical theorist Paulo Freire, and a nice smattering of sirens and cars noises!

Also, learn about the various other opportunities SCUPE offers to those interested in urban ministry, seminary education, and a model of doing theology that goes beyond classical paradigms that focus solely on learning about theology.

Available here:SCUPE Podcast Library


Educating for Hope

What is an effective urban ministry leader?  To answer that question we must begin with a working definition of leadership.  The one outstanding characteristic that is found in all materials about leadership is that leadership is always about change.  At SCUPE we define effective urban ministry leadership as “when one assumes responsibility for transforming a reality to the glory of God”, emphasizing that leadership is always about change.

Such leadership requires three things:

  • a solid grasp of the existing reality with all of its political, social and cultural complexities and investments,
  • a vision of an alternative reality and three
  • a strategy of how to move from the existing reality to the alternative reality.

When all three things are present there is hope and hope is what education is all about.

Dave Frenchak

The first step in the process is often the hardest.  It means putting to one side all of our stereotypes, prejudices, opinions, attitudes and all those things we have learned from culture and school that reinforce negativity regarding those we do not know.  This is necessary because an important ingredient in contextual theological education is empathy and negative perceptions based on limited experience block empathy.  Here is the hard reality for those of us who planned and worked hard to be comfortable in life.  If we are serious about being effective leaders in ministry in the city we will need to leave are places of comfort, wherever that is, and willingly move to situations, circumstance and places where we will be not be recognized or acknowledged for who we are.  We will have to have sufficient faith to allow ourselves to be steeped in a culture where we are the minority. The incarnation is the model.

I repeatedly tell seminary students that they are first and foremost practicing theologians and their task is to do theology both from the pulpit and in the streets.  Theology cannot be done without the second aspect of transformative leadership, vision.

John Kinney

Foundational and essential to the challenge of doing theology in the city is the exercise of prophetic imagination. Imagination is a gift from God given to every human being.  It is one of the delightful things that separate us from the rest of creation.  We humans have the capacity to see a reality beyond the reality that is immediately before us. Unfortunately, however, for many, if not most, of us our imaginations have been sorely neglected and dulled.

Prophetic imagination is sanctified imagination, imagination that is set aside to see first and foremost, what a place would look like if it glorified God.  When one is captured by prophetic imagination you can be sure change is coming. When one is captured by a vision about what a place would look like if it glorified God the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against such a vision.

Jose D. Rodriguez

The third and critical practice of doing theology is developing a strategy and plan to move from the existing reality to the prophetic vision.  This is the ultimate task of the contextual theologian the unveiling of hope.  It is hope, not grounded in fantasy, but grounded in our understanding of God and God’s will for the city.  As theologians it requires us we to see a reality beyond the reality that is immediately visible, God’s reality.

Hope is our grounding place for urban ministry.  As theologians, it is hope that informs the way we look at communities.  At SCUPE, therefore, we do not focus on ministry based on meeting community needs but rather ministry based on the spiritual, material and personal resources existing in that community.  Only then are we fulfilling our calling to educate for hope.

– Dave Frenchak

SCUPE weekend


Peacemaking Insight #1 – Dave Frenchak

At the last meeting of the National Planning Committee we had the chance to talk individually with a few of the wonderful minds gathered around that table.  While these videos offer just a slice of the wisdom and experience being leveled at these meetings towards moving us away from a culture of violence through peacemaking, they pack quite a punch.

Dave Frenchak speaks in this video about the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry and the tools and equipping that the gathering will provide to those whose ministries will actively create peace.

Dave Frenchak - Peacemaking Insight I

Dave Frenchak - Peacemaking Insight I

“My best hope is that this event is going to be a disruptive event.  That we will be able, through this event, to disrupt the routines in the culture that cause violence… That we will be able to disrupt the roles that different people play in this culture of violence… the roles that we ourselves play, unwittingly, that promotes a culture of violence… And that we will be able to disrupt the rules, both spoken and unspoken, known and unknown, that all of us obey which actually feed the culture of violence.

So that we can begin thinking out of a different framework: not a culture of violence but a culture of making peace.”


Lore and Forgetting: the Congress on Urban Ministry

Dr. Cornel West speaking at 1994 Congress

Dr. Cornel West speaking at 1994 Congress

Whenever I have the chance I burn through a quick hour in the file cabinet room here at SCUPE.  It’s amazing what one learns from the artifacts someone, at some point, decided should be saved.

Lately, I have been rifling through old files and photo albums over the course of the past few months uncovering a history of the Congress that has been, it seems, all but forgotten.  Over 34 years and (once March of 2011 is here) 16 gatherings is a lot of time to form your own lore.  SCUPE’s Congress on Urban Ministry certainly has compiled its fair share of lore but, for a large national event, I am also surprised about how well of a kept-secret it is.  Well, I think that should change.  It is time that this collaborative, inter-denominational, prophetic gathering gets its just dues.

1994 SCUPE Congress on Urban Ministry

Jim Forbes, Yvonne Delk, unknown, Dave Frenchak, Cecil Williams, And Mary Nelson at 1994 Congress

Over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll share some of the lore I’ve been able to uncover and perhaps we’ll get insight into how the 2011 Congress can continue to be an impact-full gathering as we address the violence in our cities, in the way we live together, and in the way we think.

Just today I stumbled across these goals that had been lifted up at past Congress gatherings.  Even though I haven’t seen this list before today it is my guess that I would have been able to guess some of these just from being involved in the visioning here at SCUPE and with the Co-chairs and through the collaborative planning process with the National Planning Committee.

Mission for SCUPE Congress on Urban MinistryThe Mission of the Congress on Urban Ministry:

  1. To inspire both new and experienced Urban Ministry practitioners, to celebrate their calls and accomplishments, and to challenge them spiritually and professionally.
  2. To teach and learn we will seek ways to create redemptive communities, release prophetic imagination, and engage in justice, reconciliation and restoration
  3. To teach and learn best Urban Ministry practices, to collaborate and envision breakthrough initiatives, and to study and dialogue about the deeper issues affecting communities.
  4. To network practitioners and national leaders for information exchange, for fellowship, and to sharpen the skills needed to transform communities.

Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban Context

Dave Frenchak

“Don’t preach to me”!  Which one of us have not heard that expression or perhaps said those words.  What does this plea tell us about the image of preaching?  Certainly it is not a positive image, and while it may be based on a stereotype image of preaching my fear is that stereotype is, all too often, lived out from pulpits every Sunday.

When I was in high school I won a regional speech contest by memorizing Jonathan Edwards’ fiery sermon, preached during the Great Awakening, entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.  I was so proud with myself for winning but now I am aghast at the destructiveness such a presentation has on the image of preaching.

What is that image?  Preaching is seen and understood as someone in authority telling them others what they should or should not be doing related to a particular issue or agenda.  Even worse, preaching is telling others what they are now doing or have done in the past is bad and wrong and not only do they need to stop, if they do not stop they are damned.  No one, I repeat no one, likes to be preached at in this way.

The image of preaching needs an overhaul and those of us who preach need to assume responsibility for transforming the image.  While we are all sinners in the hands of God, we are not in the hands of an angry God but a loving God.  That is good news!  That is preaching.  If our sermons are not grounded in good news not only are they not good sermons it is not preaching; call it something else.  Preaching is the proclamation of good news!

– Dave Frenchak

Dave Frenchak introducing the Art of Prophetic Preaching

Each April, Dave Frenchak teaches a graduate level SCUPE class on the Art of Prophetic Preaching in the Urban Context.  The class focuses on freeing up the prophetic imagination from within the preacher by releasing inhibitions in favor of creating space for the Holy Spirit, by celebrating the unique gifts of each individual, and by connecting with vital skills and perspectives that bring social context and biblical Word together in the preached moment.

In resent years the class has been co-taught by the Rev. Otis Moss III from Trinity UCC in Chicago.

Otis Moss III teaching on the opening weekend

You can hear an excerpt of Otis Moss III teaching on the opening weekend of the class: the Priest and the Prophet.