News & Announcements
New Director Announced
March 13, 2012
Zane Pratt, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, recently announced the appointment of Dr. Jeff Walters, Assistant Professor of Christian Missions and Urban Ministry, as Director of the Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry Training. Walters has served for the last four years as Associate Director of the Center alongside his duties as administrator of Southern Seminary’s doctoral programs. Before coming to Southern, he worked as a church planter in Paris, France, with the International Mission Board, SBC.
According to Walters, one of the priorities for this transitional period will be refreshing the Dehoney Center website and developing a vision for connecting students and missions practitioners to global urban centers. In addition, he desires that the Dehoney Center would produce relevant and indepth scholarship related to engaging cities with the gospel.
Hispanics in the U. S. Metro Areas: A Great Commission Powerhouse
July 26, 2011
This week, Dr. J.D. Payne, Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at SBTS, contributes to the Dehoney Center blog on a most important topic. Dr. Payne blogs at www.jdpayne.org
Last month, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report titled, “U.S. Hispanic Country-of Origin Counts for Nation, Top 30 Metropolitian Areas.” You may obtain the full report HERE. Among many important findings in this report, the following are especially noteworthy:
- The 2010 Decennial Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics. Among them, there were 31.8 million Mexican-origin Hispanics–the largest Hispanic country-of-origin group. They are followed by Puerto Rican origin Hispanics, who number 4.6 million in the U.S. and make up 9.2% of all Hispanics. Next are Cubans at 1.8 million or 3.5%, Salvadorans at 1.6 million or 3.3% and Dominicans at 1.4 million or 2.8%. ( 3)
- Census 2010 revealed that there are now more than one million Guatemalan-origin Hispanics in the U.S. ( 3)
- Puerto Ricans are the largest Hispanic-origin group in the New York area. In the New York-Northeastern New Jersey metropolitan area, 29.4% of Hispanics are of Puerto Rican origin and 19.7% are of Dominican origin. (4)
- Cubans are the largest in the Miami area. Among the Miami metropolitan area’s 1.5 million Hispanics, half (50.9%) are Cuban. (4)
- In the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Salvadorans are the single largest Hispanic group, comprising 33.7% of the area’s more than 700,000 Hispanics. There is no other major metropolitan area in the U.S. in which the Salvadoran population exceeds 11%.(4)
- Hispanics of Salvadoran origin, the fourth largest country-of-origin group, grew by 152% since 2000. (2)
- Mexicans are not the dominant Hispanic-origin group in all metropolitan areas, despite their No. 1 status in the nation. (4)
- In Chicago, nearly eight-in-ten (79.2%) of the area’s Hispanics are of Mexican origin. (4)
- In the San Antonio, TX metropolitan area, Mexicans make up 91.3% of all Hispanics. (4)
- In Atlanta, GA, nearly six-in-ten (58.1%) Hispanics are of Mexican origin. (4)
One of the strategic components in reaching the cities of the United States is found among the Hispanic peoples living in these metro areas. Urban strategists who overlook Hispanics have a Great Commission Myopia. Many of those who have migrated to this country are already followers of Jesus. Others who come to be Kingdom Citizens have the potential to reach many other urban Hispanics in their social networks. On a global scale, many Hispanics can travel farther and faster with the gospel into contexts that are not as open to encounters with our majority Anglo missionaries. For example, imagine the possibilities of Mexican missionaries returning to Mexico to reach the 111 unreached people groups residing in our Southern neighbor.
Yet, with all of these Great Commission opportunities set before the predominately Anglo churches in the United States, I am concerned that many of us are not realizing that such Great Commission opportunities exist. Developing urban partnerships with Hispanic churches and missionaries, training/equipping those with limited resources, planting churches from the Hispanic harvest fields, and helping send others to the cities of this world are some of our present potentialities.
But do we see this Great Commission powerhouse, or are we short-sighted not realizing that the Lord of the nations has allowed over 50 million Hispanics to move into the United States for more than simply obtaining a quality education, finding a good job, and having a nice place to live?
Confusion in the City
June 2, 2011
This week, David Sills contributes a challenging post. Sills teaches missions and cultural anthropology in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary. He blogs at www.reachingandteaching.org.
It doesn’t take much exposure to my writing, teaching, or ministry to discern that I am passionate about intentional discipleship and leadership development. I served for years in a country outside of the 10/40 Window and beyond the requisite 2% Evangelical statistical determination of an area that is “reached.” I wholeheartedly agree with the emphasis to reach the unreached areas of spiritual darkness. And yet I am also burdened from first hand experience with the needs of “reached” areas that still sit in spiritual confusion.
Take, for instance, a situation I faced a few years ago in a large city of an African country. To appreciate the impact of the spiritual confusion in this densely populated urban environment, you need to know that in this city there were Baptist churches spread throughout the city, as well as many other Evangelical churches. This is a country where the statistics tell us that 51% of the population self-identifies as Christian. Additionally, 31% of the population specifically claims to be Evangelical, whereas the same research organization reports that the USA is only 29% Evangelical. So, between the statistics and the prevalence of Baptist churches, this would most definitely seem to be a country where its people are sufficiently equipped to continue the work of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. Yet, this does not represent the reality I witnessed. While there, I learned of unbelievable heresy running rampant and unchecked within the Church. The standard of Truth had been eroded.
As I sat with men who love the Lord and desire to serve Him faithfully, we discussed the Bible and ministry practices in the churches within their city. They were stunned when I began to explain why witchcraft, sacrifices, and worship to false gods in their Baptist churches were wrong according to biblical teachings. They desired to serve faithfully, but lacked the knowledge to do so. I learned that many of the men serving the churches throughout the city had come to the city from rural, tribal areas. Their churches were established during a time of great missions involvement and support from the Western missionaries. That had been a time of great growth and Kingdom expansion in previous generations.
Yet, we didn’t teach teachers and we didn’t train trainers. We had reached a generation, and even taught them in many instances, but we didn’t teach them to safeguard the truth and to pass it along in purity. A previous generation of leaders received the Truth we brought to many people groups within the country. Then we left, and the cities where we had established evangelicalism were flooded with immigrants from rural, tribal areas-and with them, their traditional religions. The newcomers had never been exposed to the Truth, and we did not train those we had reached to know how to deal with complicated issues of animism, voodoo, and syncretism. Little by little over the next generation, the foundation of Truth we had established began to erode.
This example is only one illustration of the reality that is unfortunately ubiquitous. For generations we have gone in great faithfulness to places of spiritual darkness, labored until we saw the fruit of a local church. We sometimes wisely focused on those areas of greatest influence and the largest people groups. At times, we established strong churches in capital cities and might have even established centers for theological education. However, as the missiological strategies shifted the preference and practice in deploying missionaries and financial resources to those lesser-reached places of greatest spiritual darkness, focusing on these places with established churches and theological education programs seemed poor stewardship. Funds for deployment of personnel diminished, and in most instances, we stepped away from theological education. What we did not realize was that at nearly the same time, the globalization and urbanization of the world brought massive movements of people groups whom we had not reached to the cities. We left and they moved in-and brought their traditional religions with them.
You can find many cities experiencing tremendous growth in the traditional mission fields of the world. We must recognize that the issue of urban missions does not focus on the 10/40 window only, nor on those areas that statistics deem as most spiritually dark. Instead, the missiological implications of urbanization have actually revealed that our work is far from complete in places where buildings have crosses on the top and evangelical names on their signs. Many areas where research, or a cursory drive-by glance, seems to indicate that they are “reached” and “done,” sit in spiritual confusion. Spiritual darkness and spiritual confusion are equally tragic and result in the same eternal destination. Of course, we must go to the unreached cities of the world, but we must also be faithful to our task and be obedient to all of the Great Commission, teaching those we reach to obey all that Christ has commanded and helping them to see their responsibility to teach others to do the same.
Grigory Potemkin, Beijing, Hollywood, and the Great Commission
May 17, 2011
Again this week, Dr. George Martin shares a post with urbanministrytraining.org
Historians disagree about the precise nature of the relationship between Russia’s Catherine the Great and her general Grigory Potemkin. It is clear, however, that aided by Potemkin and the powerful Russian military, Catherine was able to expand her eighteenth century empire significantly. Several years after conquering an area near the Black Sea, Catherine was taken on a tour of her newly acquired territory. In order to impress Catherine, Potemkin allegedly built, along the itinerary, orderly and neat village fronts, or facades, for her to view, facades that were meant to hide the desolation and emptiness of the land. In other words, what Catherine is reported to have viewed was not real.
Under the title “A 21st-Century Potemkin,” in Newsweek magazine, one author has opined that Russia’s Vladimir Putin “is still building grand illusions.” Owen Matthews noted Moscow’s penchant for promoting façade over reality, falsehoods over truth. This inclination to distort the truth, Matthews reported, has resulted in “calls for using ‘Soviet methods’ of propaganda to convince foreigners to invest in Russia” and other such dangers. Let the reader decide whether or not Matthews’ charge is accurate. It remains true, however, that governments will often erect facades of statistics and reports in order to disguise and conceal problems.
Last fall, The Wall Street Journal reported on the most recent summer Olympics. The Journal charged that, in order to make the streets of Beijing more impressive and to highlight the supposed successes of Chinese communism, homeless Beijing residents were rounded up and sent to relief centers on the outskirts of the city.
Anyone who has toured the production lots of the Hollywood movie companies has been impressed with the amazing ability of Hollywood to create lifelike sets depicting real life settings. One glance behind the facades, though, is enough to establish that these sets are merely make believe facades.
Pretty, but vacant. Out of sight, but still there. Make believe, not real. Potemkin, Beijing, and Hollywood – each in its own way distorting reality, reporting as real that which is not real. But what does any of this have to do with the Great Commission?
As evangelicals, we often raise significant amounts of resources for the stated purposes of local church ministry and global evangelization. According to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, in the most recent full year reporting, the giving record of Southern Baptists through convention churches is reported to have been almost 11 billion dollars. We take that money and send considerable amounts to the mission fields of North America and the world.
Recently, from Mark 1, I preached on the gospel and our need, not only to receive the gospel ourselves, but to take that gospel to others. If I am not mistaken, I heard a few “Amen”s from the congregation.
Our concern mounts as we look around and, particularly as we look at our cities. We know the problems: crime, school dropout rates, single mothers still in their teens, deteriorating infrastructures, families in crisis, and the list goes on and on. I just completed an internet search for recent newspaper articles with the search words “city problems.” The total number of hits? Almost 18,000! Certainly, in a positive manner, a number of these articles will focus on the solution of problems. But most appear to spotlight the ongoing challenges for our cities under headlines such as: “What about Chicago’s tanking budget?” “Fire Dept. has faced years of problems.” “Detroiters discuss relocation.” “Officials Struggle to Unravel Tale of 5 Children Being Raised in Secrecy.” “Police chief warns of new era of unrest.” “Overcrowding tops lists of problems.” “Girl found dead at home.”
Is our alleged concern for our cities real? Are we actually engaged with our cities and their problems? Do we even know the name of anyone living in the city? Or, is our stated concern a mere charade similar to Grigory Potemkin’s villages, Beijing’s roundup of the homeless, and Hollywood’s movie sets?
A suggestion: Pick one city, any city. Read about that city. Learn about it. Contact someone in that city and begin to see it through his or her eyes. Pray for that city regularly. Only when we genuinely engage our cities will our concern be shown as real rather than merely alleged.
Social Networks: Six Mistakes Urban Churches and Ministries Should Avoid
May 9, 2011
Last week I discussed whether social networks are a friend or foe of urban churches. I believe SNS (social network sites) can be a significant asset to the church as it proclaims the gospel and grows disciples of Jesus Christ. Below are 6 mistakes churches should avoid if they are to use social networks effectively.
1. Make No Changes to the Church Website
Churches need to rethink their websites because SNS are changing the way people access websites. Churches should provide dozens of resources on their website that are designed specifically for people to link to them via their text messages, tweets, and Facebook postings. Short video clips, audio files, text documents, and graphics become powerful resources in the messages of Christians who know how to sprinkle them into their postings. Resource to introduce people to Jesus Christ as well as resources to grow disciples of Jesus should be available.
Increasingly, churches need to assume people will view and listen to these resources on smart phones and tablets. Instead of linking to the church’s main webpage, members can text a link to short story or post the link of a 60-second video, all of which are embedded into the church’s website. People will access them in the doctor’s waiting room and between meetings at the office. The time available will many times be only 2-10 minutes, so long resources should be broken down into shorter parts.
2. Fail to Instruct
Just because someone’s niece helped them set up a Facebook or Twitter account does not mean they know how to use it to proclaim the gospel. It also is no indication that the niece knows how to incorporate the gospel into her SNS. City churches need to be proactive when it comes to teaching their members how to use social networks to advance the gospel, and they should not think a general “Everyone should tweet about our Easter Service” announcement will have much of an effect.
I like the video Follow from the people at Ingniter Media. It’s a gospel-centered video that creatively illustrates ways followers of Jesus can use SNS to spread the gospel and display Jesus’ work in their lives.
Churches also need to instruct their members on the pitfalls of SNS. In last week’s post, I illustrated two danger areas as examples. I have three teenagers and have taught them about dangers associated with driving a vehicle, and in spite of the dangers, I let them drive. Social networks pose some danger, and churches that intentionally disciple their people will instruct them how to avoid these dangers. I too have instructed my teens about social networks and let them use them.
3. Stop Learning
Twitter users broke the rules. Since Jack Dorsey sent the first Twitter message at 9:50 PM (PST) on March 21, 2006, Twitter usage has been on an unending journey of development, often resulting in ways to use Twitter no one expected. Originally developed for the purpose of communicating with a small group via SMS, users are constantly finding new ways to use the service.
Twitter messages have been part of revolutionary protests in Egypt and Tunisia. The use of hastags such as #urbanministry allows users to group Twitter messages together making it possible for any user to follow along. On the horizon is social television, and Twitter is already playing a leading role in this emerging technology. Ministry opportunities using SNS are developing daily. Urban churches need to stay informed about social technology and ways people are using it.
4. Ignore Social Networks
It is true that not everyone is connected to the Internet and using social networks, but this group is moving toward extinction. According to a 2010 Pew Internet & American Life Project study, 79 percent of adults in the US use the Internet, and 95 percent of adults aged 18-29 are Internet users. Still, many churches are not using social networks as part of their ministry. Maybe if they realized almost two-thirds (61%) of adults using the Internet participate in a social network, they wouldn’t make this mistake.
5. Assume Everyone Uses Social Networks in the Same Way
While ignoring social networks is a mistake, assuming SNS usage is the same across all demographics is also a mistake. A recent study finds that blacks and English-speaking Latinos are more likely to have mobile phones than whites, and they use a wider range of their phones’ capabilities than do whites, including accessing SNS from their phones. The same is true for texting. While just over 50 percent of whites send text messages, 70 percent of African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos use text messaging.
Other differences emerge in the way various groups use social networks. Minorities are more likely to use social networks to support their political candidates and to respond positively to government outreach than do whites. While teens actively use SNS, less than 10 percent of teens aged 12-17 are using Twitter. Churches need to use social networks intentionally and thoughtfully, considering who is using them and how.
6. Think of Social Networks as Electronic Billboards
Social networks function more like virtual cafés than they do electronic billboards. Churches that simply post information and disseminate announcements will soon learn their audiences have stopped paying attention to them. SNS are communities and communities thrive on relationships not information.
SNS audiences also want dialogue, even if the communication is through text messaging. Too many churches use SNS as a one-way communication channel. In a café, not everyone speaks continually, but when they do speak, they expect someone to listen. One test of churches using Twitter accounts shows that only one out of 11 churches is replying to Twitter messages they receive. To them, SNS are simply electronic billboards on which they display information.
Social networks are relatively new forms of technology, communication, and community. It is certain we have only just begun this journey into this realm of social-technological relationships. It is also certain that urban ministry can utilize these resources to extend ministry in ways the previous generation never imagined.
Social Networks: Friend or Foe of Urban Ministry?
May 2, 2011
In November 2010, Pastor Cedric Miller gained national attention when he ordered about 50 married staff of his church to delete their Facebook accounts or resign. The married father of six also committed to delete his own Facebook account, expressing concern that Facebook contributed to the break up of marriages.
Miller seems to be on to something. A survey of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers shows an 81 percent increase in the use of compromising evidence from social network sites (SNS). Facebook is the clear leader with 66 percent of divorce lawyers citing it as a primary source for this type of evidence. MySpace is second at 15 percent, and Twitter comes in at 5 percent. All other social networks total 14 percent.
A Girl Scout Research Institute study reveals SNS may not be a girl’s best friend either. Three-fourths (74%) of girls say most girls use SNS to portray a “cooler” image of themselves than they really are, and 41 percent of girls admit such of their own profiles. Girls also tend to downplay some honorable characteristics in their online profiles.
Most Frequent Words Girls
Use to Portray Themselves
SNS Online Profile
For whom are these girls creating their enhanced profiles? They may not even know. The average girl has 351 friends, and 54 percent admit they have SNS “friends” whom they have never met in person.
Bottom line, most teen girls say SNS help them feel closer and more connected to their friends. Most also say they have engaged a cause they care about through a SNS. On the other hand, 69 percent of girls say they have had a negative experience such as being bullied on a SNS, and almost half (46%) say SNS create jealousy among friends. While 91 percent of girls aged 14-17 using SNS say they use Facebook, most say they prefer face-to-face communication.
It’s difficult to give a simple answer to the question, “Are social networks a friend or foe of urban ministry?” SNS offer many new opportunities for ministry. See my article, “Social Media and Urban Ministry: From Billboards to Cafés” where I discuss how social media is changing the way we connect with one another and provide a number of practical ways urban churches can effectively use texting, Facebook, and Twitter.
Yet for all the ministry opportunities available through SNS, there are some downsides as I have indicated with the two examples above. Further, this growing world of communication offers churches the opportunity to make a number of errors. I compiled a few common mistakes churches make with social media and will post them next week. Churches will find that social networks can be a friend to their ministries if they avoid these mistakes.
Watching the Peoples on the Move
April 11, 2011
J.D. Payne, Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, writes today about one of the most significant trends in 21st century missions. Payne is also Director of the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting and a missionary with the North American Mission Board, SBC. He blogs at www.jdpayne.org.
Today, 214 million international migrants live outside of their countries of birth — 3% of the world’s population. If these peoples from diverse backgrounds represented one single country, they would comprise the fifth largest nation in the world.
The history of humankind is a history of migration. But contemporary migrations are somewhat different.
Globalization, rapid and inexpensive international travel, and telecommunications have helped shape a world in which the velocity and size of today’s global migrations dwarf those of yesteryear.
As a member of the North American Diaspora Educators Network, I was given a video last week and asked to post it on-line. In this eight minute clip that was originally shown at Cape Town 2010, we get a glimpse into the migrations that are occurring across our globe. I want to encourage you to check it out at the link below.
As you watch, keep in mind the following thoughts:
God is sovereign over peoples’ histories and habitations that they may come to know Him.
In his Mars Hill address, Paul provides us with an important insight:
” And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).
In the divine outworking of salvation history, here we get a glimpse into the “why” behind the location of peoples across the world. While there are numerous push-pull factors at work as to why peoples migrate (e.g., war, famine, need for employment, education), ultimately such movements are directly related to the making disciples of all nations.
Many of these peoples are moving to the urban contexts across the globe.
While there are exceptions, many of those peoples on the move are landing and settling in the metropolitan areas of the world. Cities are experiencing great growth from the movement of peoples in search of better ways of life.
The United States and Canada receive a large number of the world’s international migrants.
The United States is the largest international migrant receiving nation in the world. Twenty percent of the annual international migrant population comes to the United States. While Canada only receives about 3.4%, it is a much smaller country, thus resulting in a greater ethnic diversity among its population.
Many of the peoples on the move represent or are closely connected to the world’s unreached people groups.
While a large amount of international migration is presently taking place in countries representing the Majority World, many of the peoples of the world are migrating to the traditional Western countries (United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand). Of those who are migrating, many are from unreached people groups, or have a close connection with unreached people groups in their nations of birth.
Many of the peoples on the move are already followers of Jesus.
The Church is growing the fastest in the Majority World. As Kingdom Citizens migrate, they often bring with them a zeal for missions. Many need training and partnership to carry out the Great Commission. For example, many peoples moving out of Africa to Western Europe and the United States understand themselves to be missionaries to these Western countries, even if they are coming as tentmakers. Other Kingdom Citizens who migrate need to be taught to obey the commands of Jesus and have the vision for missions cast before them.
Now, watch the video. You may find it on my blog HERE. How does this information on our present global realities affect the way you will minister through your local church to the nations? Do you see the Great Commission potential among the Diasporas moving to the cities of the world? How does reaching the unreached peoples “here” influence reaching them “over seas”? What can you do to partner with international migrants to plant churches in your cities and throughout the world?
Plates full of spaghetti
April 4, 2011
Today’s post was written by Dr. George Martin, M. Theron Rankin Professor of Missions and Associate Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary.
I have to be honest. I spend little time thinking about South America. This admission will probably come as a shock, certainly a great disappointment, to my colleague, Dr. David Sills, who has so faithfully ministered there for so long. I was struck by this realization when, recently in a Ph.D. seminar, a student presented a paper on Buenos Aires, Argentina. (I must make another confession: I was not even sure how to spell the city’s name; I looked it up!)
It’s not that I never think about South America. Nor do I fail to pray for South America, at least occasionally. Probably, my failure to think and to pray more in regard to South America is due largely to the fact that I so often focus on Asia and Africa. To put the matter another way, my plate is already so full with concern for Asia and Africa that I struggle to heap up onto that plate additional continents – sort of like a plate of spaghetti already so full that no more noodles can be put there.
I recall once reading an anecdote from the ministry of Charles Spurgeon. (I cannot remember the source. In fact, if anyone can provide the source, I would very much like to hear from you.) As I remember the story, Spurgeon, wearied under the heavy load of ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, confided in a friend that he sometimes just wanted to board a ship, cross the Atlantic, and shepherd a small mission somewhere out on the frontier of America.
All of us involved in ministry, I suppose, can empathize. Sometimes the plate becomes so full with personal, family, and ministry responsibilities! And, then, in the midst of all this, someone comes along and reminds us: “Oh, yeah, you are also responsible for the world.”
I struggle to juggle and balance it all; how about you? With regularity, I pray for some cities. But there are those for which I never pray specifically. So big a world! So many cities! They’re just sort of out of sight and out of mind. After all, my plate is already so full!
The aforementioned student had so passionately pleaded for Buenos Aires. Previously, I had thought little about Buenos Aires, let alone pray for the city. And what about the “100 Gateway Cities in the 10/40 Window?” Cities such as Kabul and Algiers and Dhaka and Cairo and Calcutta and Jakarta and Tokyo and Karachi . . . well, you get the point.
The world’s population is moving to the cities. In the year 1800, according to the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., three percent of the world’s population resided in urban contexts. In 2008, for the first time, the world’s population was split evenly between rural and urban. I have seen projections stating, at the end of the present century, that 95% of the global population will be urban, a reversal of the numbers from only three hundred years previously!
What is the significance of these numbers? At the very least, we had better be clearing our plates, for if we do not reach the cities with the gospel, we will not reach the world.
A New Kind of Big
March 31, 2011
Can a church be head and heart healthy (theology and passion for missions & worship), while the hands are “conspicuously missing?” Randy Pope, senior pastor of Perimeter Church, Atlanta, GA, says it can and that Perimeter was once just such a church.
In his new book, A New Kind of Big: How Churches of Any Size Can Partner to Transform Communities, Chip Sweney, Perimeter’s Next Gen and Community Transformation Pastor, tells how Perimeter transformed from a “heart and head” church to become fully engaged in their community. In the foreword, Pope identifies two characteristics of a healthy church:
- The church must be committed to “influence” rather than “success.”
- To be a church of influence, the church must have a strong head, heart, and hand.
The heart (or should I say hands?) of this book is serving your community, especially your urban community. In 2001, Randy shared with the church that a healthy church paradigm is:
head (theology) + heart (passion) + hand (external ministry) = health
The problem was that Perimeter had a strong head and heart but was missing hands. The journey to extend hands out of their theology and passion led not only to direct engagement in the city, but it also led them to join with 125 other churches and launch UNITE!. UNITE! is a collaborative effort of churches to “transform our community by reaching the least and the lost.”
I am privileged to be part of the UNITE! leadership team for Gwinnett County. I admire the labor, humility, and love for Christ displayed by these men and women. One of the beauties of UNITE! is that it mobilizes and networks churches in a way that allows them to maintain their identities and theological convictions.
This dynamic of UNITE! reflects the heart of Perimeter’s approach to community transformation. It is local church focused. Therefore, A New Kind of Big is a good primer for local churches, big and small, on how to engage the physical and social needs in their cities.
As Perimeter extended its ministry out into the community, criteria by which they would establish partnerships with churches and ministries became necessary. I found Chip’s (Perimeter’s) list helpful, so here they are:
- We will initially focus on partnerships within the twelve-mile radius.
- We will focus on relational partnerships. We will not give money until a key leader and a number of our people are involved with the partner (people before money).
- We will focus on partners who are addressing needs within our four major areas of focus [education, poverty, justice, women & families].
- We will give preference to partners who allow both word and deed ministry.
- We will give preference to partners who focus on restoration and development of people as opposed to relief (but we will do both).
- We will assess the return on our investment with partners-consistent with biblical parables of the soils and talents-as a way to select partners.
- Partners must have a proven track record at the leadership level.
- Partners must not violate biblical ethics.
- Partners must be open to financial accountability.
- Our preferred strategy will be to partner with an existing ministry/organization, but we may start teams that focus on needs that are not being addressed by ministries.
I know Chip’s heart and passion for transforming communities. It is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and displayed through local churches. A New Kind of Big will be worth your time and will provide a wealth of insight about how your church can bring kingdom influence to your city.
Panta ta Ethne
March 21, 2011
Christ has called us to make disciples of “all nations,” right? That’s what the Great Commission says. But who exactly does this mean we are to reach and teach? This has been the matter of much discussion from the foundation of the church until the present day. Initially there was question over whether or not the apostles were to reach out to the Gentiles. At the time of Christ it could be said that there were two “nations:” the nation of Israel and everyone else, Jews and pagans.
The debate and discussion concerning the focus of our evangelistic and discipleship efforts did not stop with the apostles or even the church fathers. For much of the church’s history, we focused our missions efforts on the targets of what is literally understood by the expression of “nations”-geopolitical entities or countries of the world. We sought to reach Ecuador and Nigeria and China and Indonesia and so forth, large pieces of real estate with heavy black lines around them on a world map. We understood the Great Commission of Christ to compel us to do so, thinking that if we could evangelize all the countries of the earth, we would fulfill Christ’s command.
Then, in 1974 as part of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization meeting, Ralph Winter delivered a presentation that brought to light what was one of the most significant missiological perspectives of the 20th century. Dr. Winter highlighted the reality that while the English translation of the Great Commission sends us to the “nations,” the original Greek text is actually to panta ta ethne, or all the people groups of the world. The impact of this missiological shift has been game changing for missions. Missionaries, missions agencies, and missiologists now focus almost exclusively on methodology informed by the people group perspective. Think-tanks, books, papers, and strategies have all been developed to mobilize the church to more effectively identify, reach, and teach the thousands of distinct ethnolinguistic groups in the world. Our missiological assumptions and realities are now defined and governed by a people group perspective, driven by the “panta ta ethne” in Matthew 28:18-20.
We have an idiom in English that someone who cannot see the big picture “cannot see the forest for the trees.” Seeing the big picture in missions is realizing that we are in a new era. This new century brings new global challenges and opportunities such as globalization, principles of acceleration, terrorism, orality issues, and urbanization. While each of these changes presents both challenges and opportunities, none does more so than the reality of urbanization. With a significant movement of people from ethnocentric rural areas to ethnically diverse urban areas, we are entering a new missions reality.
As we recognize the global reality of burgeoning urbanization, the pragmatic benefits that result from urban missions become obvious, such as “missions meets city living.” Missions does not have to require living in the Amazon and eating grub worms. Additionally, the concentration of peoples in one geographic area facilitates reaching them. However, we should not become so enamored and intrigued by urban missions that we allow the new contexts and challenges to detract from our biblical responsibility to reach and teach all people groups. This can be done within urban environments, but many of the world’s people will never live in the cities. Additionally, traditional people group strategies will find greater success in the rural areas.
With the 20th century’s emphasis on panta ta ethne, many missionaries are taking their people group strategies and reaching out to urban people groups wherever they are found, using the same methodologies that were successful in the rural areas. For instance, methodologies and strategies that worked among Quichua people in the Andes were employed among Quichuas in New York. However, urban sociologists and missiologists hold that densely populated urban areas with diverse ethnolinguistic groups often share more in common with their city neighbors than with their country cousins. The threat of crime, a need for community a center, or petitioning the city to board up a gang-ridden abandoned building often binds a city block’s residents more closely together than a cultural connection they knew prior to immigrating.
Although we live in a dizzying whirlwind of missiological changes, as God’s people, we have been redeemed, restored, and called to service. The Lord has commissioned us to go to the peoples of the world with the Gospel, and expects from us only obedience to the task. Obedience means going to the people groups of the world with the Gospel, evangelizing them and discipling them to follow Christ by obeying His teachings. This can be done in jungles, deserts, or cities. And when we go to the city, we find the peoples and places of the world in concentrated form. The city is there, but it is made up of peoples. They are not the same as they were in the countryside, but they are not urban veterans yet either. As we look to the fields that are ripe for harvest our challenge will be to not miss the trees for at the forest.