Featured Reviews, VOLUME 8

Noel Castellanos -Where the Cross Meets the Street [Feature Review]


[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0830836918″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61ovlPLkbPL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”107″]Page 2: Noel Castellanos – Where the Cross Meets the Street



During these years of urban ministry and his increasing work with CCDA, Castellanos began to develop a Biblical framework for work among the urban poor. One of the surprises of this book is how the author manages to weave a thoughtful theology of justice through the personal experiences – highs and lows – of his life and ministry. At the center of his framework is the incarnation: “I marveled at the reality that the neighborhood of Jesus’ day was very similar to the barrio of La Villita I had moved into.” Here we glimpse a distinction of Castellanos’ framework: with every theological part the ministry implications cannot be missed. For example, from incarnation the reader is shown the importance of proximity, relationships, solidarity, and humility for those seeking lasting and flourishing urban ministry.


From this incarnational center, Castellanos goes on to articulate four ministry practices. The observant reader will notice two things about these practices. First, though the author’s context is among the urban poor, the practices he suggests are applicable across contexts. Second, the practices themselves are not novel and this is a good thing. The language and organization of Castellanos’ Biblical framework is fresh and especially relevant to the American church now, but the underlying assumptions and commitments are familiar and trustworthy. Castellanos is inviting the Christian reader to consider more closely the theological resources we’ve overlooked, resources that, when utilized faithfully, will seek justice for our marginalized neighbors.


I serve a church in Chicago that shares many of the ministry commitments and theological practices Castellanos’ describes in Where the Cross Meets the Street so I found much in these pages to be especially helpful. The book’s biographical style ensures that readers from different contexts will also enjoy and benefit from it. Yet it wasn’t the theological insight or ministry practices that were most helpful to me. Toward the end of the book Castellanos writes about the hurt and brokenness that so often comes with ministry. “We are all broken and wounded in our own ways, and without a doubt, God has powerfully used my failures to mold me into the leader I am today.” This is the good and important news that holds up Castellanos’ story, and it’s reason enough to convert, again.

David Swanson is the pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. He blogs regularly at davidswanson.wordpress.com.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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