by Noel Castellanos
Intervarsity Press, 2015.
—Review by Tim Baldwin, adjunct professor, Educational Ministries, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
When Noel Castellanos and his wife moved to San Jose, they purchased a house one block from the infamous King & Story intersection where tattooed “low riders” encountered gangsters-turned-evangelists. What Castellanos observed at that intersection led him to question how “the cross and street” might meet more fruitfully. In this compelling book, he explores that question and shares rich, poignant reflections on the intersection of faith and action, compassion and justice, center and margins.
Castellanos, the CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, embeds his reflections in a story that chronicles the intersection of God’s story with his own and that of God’s Familia. Beginning with a touching tribute to his grandmother, he tells of teachers who loved him well, a shock at Young Life Camp, disequilibriating experiences at a Christian
College and more. Then, he describes his experiences in ministry with a host of well-known evangelical organizations, providing a much-needed and critical perspective on white evangelical culture. He speaks hard truth graciously, noting some of the particular difficulties that he has faced in trying to reconcile the perspectives and experiences of Latino Christians with those of dominant culture believers.
Castellanos also documents an important shift in his understanding of the gospel’s relevance for marginalized people of color linked to his own identification with Jesus the Galilean Savior. Castellano’s reflections on Jesus’ incarnation as a Galilean raise a number of provocative questions, but his discussion of the relationship between the gospel and several features of his cultural heritage would benefit from further explanation (i.e. Our Lady of Guadalupe). In addition, a more thorough, critical exploration of some of the knotty biblical and theological questions regarding the place of the marginalized poor in God’s economy would add to the value of this book.
Castellanos’ description of the process through which his own grasp of “where the cross meets the street” deepened— and of the holistic ministry model that subsequently unfolded— is arguably the book’s most important contribution. Embedding the model’s development within the narrative further strengthens Castellano’s assertion that incarnation is the “lynchpin” for all effective ministry. Moreover, the integrity and power of Castellano’s model are the sweet fruit of years spent tilling often neglected soil.
Where the Cross Meets the Street deserves a wide readership for a number of reasons. First, Castellanos’ narrative will challenge dominant culture evangelical readers to examine their culture through the lens of scripture and the location of the marginalized. Second, his exploration of the gospel’s universal reach is especially likely to encourage marginalized readers. Last and most significantly, Castellanos’ invitation to engage wholeheartedly in incarnational ministry, his holistic ministry model, and his personal example should stir and equip all who read this book. In the end, this book validates Elizondo’s claim that “it is consistently in the frontier regions of human belonging that God begins the new creation. Established centers seek stability; frontier regions can risk to be pioneers” (p. 101).
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1 pp. 111-112. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.