Wednesday, June 21, 2006

High Crime, Low Income, & Mixed Races

Here's a re-post from February. A snap-shot of our desire to see God work in the city for His glory.

Some have asked, "Why would you want to plant a new church in an area notorious for crime, well below the national average for household income, and on top of it all, an area where we would be a racial minority?" Seriously, have we lost our minds? To some, like Festus, the answer will have to be "yes" (Acts 26:24-25).

There are two ways this question could be approached; the surface, and what lies beneath.

On the surface, there are obvoius implications behind the question. Those who have been submurged in suburban living, nice fenced yards, two-car garages, remote controlled window blinds, nice countertops, homogenous skin-tones, and all of the other ammenities that many Westerners have come to view as "normal life," will have immense difficulty with the notion that God would lead someone to forsake these "necessities." At this level, the question of "Why" we would desire to plant in urban Memphis is hard to answer because we are speaking a different language than the who is inquiring.

At a deeper level, there is something being revealed about the heart of the inquirer, right? Christ said, "But what comes out the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:18). Is it wrong to live in the burbs? No! Unless, of course, the suburbs are a way to fortify oneself in the pride of one’s own culture. There is nothing wrong with culture. God created diversity. There is, however, something terribly un-Christian about lacking an intential cross-cultural love (John 13:35). Christ came from heaven to earth to reach sinners – of whom I am chief. There is no greater culture-cross than that. We are often duped into thinking that there are many noble reasons for operating in monocultural spheres of life. The key problem is that this wars against the gospel of Christ, Who has in His own flesh, "torn down the barrier of all diving walls" (Ephesians 2:14).

To believe in Christ, who effectively accomplished God's atoning work on the cross, defeated-death, and secured salvation by His glorious resurrection, is of paramount importance during one's lifetime! The effect of this type of saving faith in Christ flows out of the true believer in a stream of redemptive love towards all people.

I'd like to hear how several saints from history would answer the question that has been posed to me. Peter, who was crucified upside down. I wonder what he'd say about the "risk" of the inner-city? Paul, decapitated for his inner-city embracing love for Christ, I wonder what he'd say? Christ Himself, mangled, mutilated, and martyred without just cause (Humanly speaking). I wonder how He would answer the question?

How could it be more rational to stay in the burbs with strong evangelical churches on nearly every street corner instead of taking a risk for the gospel in the city where there are few strong evangelical churches? So, in Gospel fashion, I would like to pose a question instead of answering the question. Could it be that God has "many sheep that are not of the suburban fold that must come to Him also?" (John 10:16). We pray that the answer is "Yes!" Please pray with us. Our faith is small, we are easily discouraged by doubters, and we tend to drift toward comfort just like everyone else. "For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything" (I John 3:20)!

1 comment:

iamchief said...

First, I'll admit that I attend a church located in the growing West side of Little Rock, Arkansas, where the houses sell for averages of $200k-$300 and commercial property sells for upwards of $1 million an acre.

However, I live in the South West area, where the standard of living isn't quite that high. Let's just say that in six years, I've lived in two houses in the same neighborhood - one under $60k & the other under $90k.

Admittedly, this is not because we are super spiritual and have a heart for the lost people of the inner city. I wish it were so. It's more practical - we can afford to live there!

Now that I've said that, I wanted to comment on this:

I can think of at least 3 churches (all being in the same "missions focused" denomination) - two in South West Little Rock and one in an equally "low income" area in North Little Rock, who have sold their church property and relocated to other areas - nicer areas, suburban-esque areas.

It would be sinful for me to try to judge their motives for moving, but in light of what Jordan is trying to do here, and the model they have at Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, I've asked myself- especially in a time where churches are debating what it means to reach the "culture" around them - why these churches would move out of a low income area into a more affluent area.

I'm encouraged to see that some (i.e., Grace Church, among others) are challenging this by example, not just in theory.