Nate Ledbetter: Neighbor and Leader

Nate Ledbetter: Neighbor and Leader

A self-described explorer, storyteller, and urban minister, Nate Ledbetter (99) has made a difference in a range of ministries. His desire to serve in the city began with the game of basketball. Since then, mentors throughout his life, including people at BBC, have helped steer him to this point of his journey.

Nate LedbetterNate is pastor of Church on the Block in Chicago. He has just recently published a book, "Thriving City Blocks." He has been a pastor and leader for over 15 years, first in West Michigan, then Atlanta, GA, where he served with FCS Urban Ministries. He is also a member of the national board of directors of the Christian Community Development Association and is a certified trainer for the organization.

I was born in Southfield, MI. "Motown" is the hometown. I still have a love for the Detroit area and the broad landscape there. I grew up in a suburban area 15 minutes west of the city line. It was really through playing basketball in local parks and gyms in the Detroit area that God captured my heart for people who are different from me and come from different walks of life. That round ball - I had no idea that God would use the game that I love so much to capture my heart for the cities.

My mother led me to Christ by her bedside when I was six years old and my life has never been the same since. There have been all sorts of mentors that God has brought into my life through the ups and downs in my life story. We went through some hard times in some churches we were involved in, and I got to see the underbelly of what the church should not always look like. Although it was a painful time, it did not cause me to turn away from God. Instead God used that to increase my love and passion for the living church.

My inner city pastor really impacted my life and recommended BBC to me and told me about the kind of heart beat that was here. Then I met Coach Mike Show, who really made an impact on my life, along with Mr. Ted Boykin and so many other people. I enjoyed playing ball here and learning from my teammates.

A lot of things come to mind when think of how BBC has impacted me. One is spiritual formation, really communing with God and practicing the presence of God. I really experienced that here. There's something about the space here that is a real gift and a gift to me as a student. Having mentors teaching me issues of discipline, fortitude, and character-building lessons really shaped my heart, giving me a strong foundation for life's craziest moments. I also enjoyed having fun here at BBC, the environment here gave me the freedom to be who I was and people here affirmed that in me.

I am a pastor of a church in the western part of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood, one of the city's most vulnerable neighborhoods. We are essentially restarting church that has been in existence for six years, we are linked with a 109-year-old suburban church and we are attempting to create a healthy exchange, partnership, and friendship. The two churches, urban and suburban, might as well be completely different worlds, but we are trying to bring them together slowly in unity. We are trying to move this church to being independent and its own entity as a church. The new name of the church is"Church on the Block," loving God and loving people block by block.

I just started pastoring at Church on the Block in 2013. They were without a pastor and I joined in using the CCDA system which stands for Christian Community Development Association that consists of eight biblical principles. I am hitting the reset button for the church and using these eight principles to guide our direction. One is living in the community; Christ came to the people and lived among the people he ministered to.

In "Thriving on City Blocks," I wanted to encourage Christ's followers and people of all stripes to reflect the love that we want to live out and feel called to live out - not to go about it blindly, but to really think how we are approaching our neighborhoods. That is two-fold with "neighbor"as a verb. God is calling us to re-neighbor our communities in all of its different forms, I wrote in the context of where I lived (in the city), but we are to re-neighbor wherever we live or find ourselves.

Then, I listed 10 characteristics of a thriving city block, looking at a holistic approach. Years back in the ministry I wrestled with knowing when we are fulfilling our mission. There isn't really always a clear answer on that, but we needed some framework to work with. That was when I wrestled with these 10 characteristics for the first time; taking these biblical methods to life such as living in community. Then looking at the results of using these principles would be eternal change with ourselves, connecting with neighbors, thriving youth and family, quality of live, integrity of all of life, and meaningful work. With these characteristics beginning to surface at some level, our communities can begin to thrive.

Contact Information
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Posted on: 3/11/2014 9:43:14 AM

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