Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What a church could do. . .

I sense growing frustration among increasing numbers of church members these days. Seems as if they are believing that their churches ought to make more of a difference in the community than they do at present.

When I was a local pastor, I often asked my congregation if anyone would miss us if we disappeared? Good question to ask of any group or life for that matter.

I believe strongly that churches could have a huge impact on the life of a community like Dallas. Over the next several days and weeks, I'll throw out a few ideas that may sound a bit unorthodox, but have great potential, at least as I see it.

For example, what if your church "hired" one of our attorneys as an urban missionary?

Attorney, as in lawyer?


Here's what our lawyers at Central Dallas Ministries' LAW Center do:

  • Represent abandoned, abused women in Dallas courts

  • Represent abandoned, neglected, sometimes abused children in the Dallas courts

  • Represent some of the weakest, poorest, most disabled of our citizens before the Social Security Administration

  • Represent marginalized, weak and poor neighbors in consumer, tenant and probate matters

  • Protect the health and integrity of poor families in Dallas courts

  • Represent very poor persons who need to argue cases in court, but who have no money to do so

A church who "hired" or who provided funding for one of our lawyers, would transform that attorney into a highly skilled urban missionary who on a daily basis is representing the voiceless in Dallas courtrooms.

At the same time, the church would have an open door from our public interest law practice directly into the lives of countless men, women and children who need the loving care and compassion that great churches are famous for providing.

If you are looking for your church to find real, concrete significance, I think we should talk.


Lee said...

What is the cost to fund the attorney of a year?

c hand said...

A marginalized poor man, his abused woman, and her neglected children come in to your law office. In what order do you take each case?

Larry James said...

lee--thanks for asking! The range goes from $42,500 up to $60,378 depending on experience and benefits. So a church could support a very unique urban missions person for between $3,500 and $5,000 per month. The impact would be amazing and the connection of so many people to a church would be effective.

c hand, you ask interesting questions. Generally, we take folks on a first-come, first-served basis, but our ultimate priorities tend to relate to level of need. This means that children and women usually get favored status due to the nature of their cases, but we do work with men who are weak and in need of help and protection.

SeriousSummer said...

As an attorney who helped found and practiced with Legal Action Works for more than five years, let me add a little bit to Larry's answer about whom we represent.

The ethical rule for attorneys is that once you talk to one party to a potential lawsuit, then you can't represent the other party, even if you have declined to represent the first party. In something like English, that means if the husband asks you to represent him, then you're barred from representing the wife in a domestic case--even if she's a victim of domestic violence.

While this seems like a problem, it's actually one of the most important reasons to have a privately funded public interest law firm like Legal Action Works. When I practiced there, we often got referrals from Northwest Texas Legal Aid--the publicly funded legal services corporation in our area.

Northwest Texas Legal Aid couldn't help the wife, because it had talked to the husband--but we could.

This is just one more reason why it's important to have an alternative to the legal services programs. Without Legal Action Works, nobody at all would be able to help those women--LAW is the only other pro bono law firm that accepts charity cases in all of North Texas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Larry, fyi, recently my brother who's a pastor in Shreveport asked what clergy could do as a "missional" response to violent crime, and I offered these suggestions that may interest you.

Keep up the great work!

Larry James said...

gritsforbreakfast, thanks! Appreciate your thinking a great deal.