Today, we want to provide you with a vision for the future of missions in your neighborhood. Love Thy Neighborhood is an urban ministry for young adults that seeks to make an impact for Christ in the areas of homelessness, the sex industry, crisis pregnancy, orphan care, healthcare, neighborhood renewal, and nonprofit leadership. Their goal is to equip and to mobilize the next generation of Christian leaders to work with the poor, the suffering, and the marginalized.
One of the most beautiful aspects of urban ministry is its diversity. Ethnic diversity! Racial diversity! Socioeconomic diversity! But this diversity can also be a challenge when it comes to evangelism and discipleship. The gospel and the Word of God are the tools that God uses to transform people’s lives, no matter what their background may be. And yet, the ways that we make these truths understandable change depending on our context.
If you have a passion for seeing people’s lives transformed in urban contexts, this episode of the Urban Ministry Podcast is for you.
There is in the New Testament a trajectory toward diversity. Jesus begins by calling together a group of Jewish males and then his circle of disciples expands to include women and Samaritans and then the risen Christ commissions his disciples to make disciples of all the nations. Throughout the book of Acts, people from an increasingly diverse range of colors and cultures gather together in local communities of faith in the name of Jesus Christ. And yet, despite this trajectory in Scripture, churches in the United States today are not diverse. According to recent research from LifeWay, 86 percent of pastors say that their churches are not racially diverse at all. So what is it that keeps churches from becoming racially diverse?
Urbanization! It’s happening all around us. In 2010, for the first time in human history, more than half of the people on this planet lived in urban contexts. In the past, many churches have taken a “rescue mission” approach to lower-income urban areas, providing charity for people in need. But there are other ways that believers in Jesus Christ can be present in urban areas! One of these ways is to teach in urban schools.
God did not create us as disembodied or decontextualized creatures. He created us as physical beings who live in particular places. And, in the beginning, he called Adam and Eve to cultivate their physical space and to create culture in the context where he had placed them. If you’re called to serve God in the city, how can you learn to love the context where God has placed you?
What you do for God beyond your home will never typically be greater than what you practice with God within your home. Whether you’re single or married, with children or without, your family has a profound impact on your ministry. That’s why one of the qualifications that Paul gave for pastors was “to manage his own household well.” So how can you as a pastor or a church planter care for your family well?
Suppose God has called you to plant a church in the city. You’re struggling simply to gather a core group. When someone asks you about small groups, you wonder, “Do I really need to think about small groups? Why isn’t enough simply to have an outstanding Sunday morning worship experience and deal with groups later, after the church is growing?”
Ministry is filled with surprises—but the types of surprises you face in ministry will be different, depending on your context. Paul urged Timothy against “myths and endless genealogies” in Ephesus—but the warning he gave to Titus in Crete was against “empty talkers and deceivers.” This week, our goal is to help you to pay attention to the unique challenges of the context where God has placed you.