Misssional in Urban Centers

Is there something about hands-on church planting and/or living and serving in urban areas which makes you think missionally in a different way? In other words, does context in some sense determine content, direct outreach and effect  outcomes? I'm wondering out loud as I hear debates on the missional church or on missional church planting. Am I wrong or do pastors of established churches more quickly dismiss or criticize missional concepts than do church planters? In some of my exchanges with pastor friends it seems that we are often speaking a different language. They appear to be concerned about ideas or practices associated with being missional that I haven't seen nor would embrace although the concepts might be found in a book if you have time to do enough research.


I have heard ad nauseum that missional churches advocate or lead to a social gospel. I scratch my bald head and ask myself what they are talking about. Perhaps it is true that when you are surrounded by in your face need – poverty, crime, addictions – and you are convinced that the gospel addresses all areas of life, that you engage your context with the gospel differently. We're not social activists. We want the claims of King Jesus to be made known. And to do that you need to have contact with sinners. Many churches will simply start another program catering to church members and ask members to invite their friends and neighbors rather than minister outside the church building in the community where they can be salt and light.


The other night our church served about 70 people at a homeless outreach  The meal is prepared by a church family and paid for by the church. One of the men serving with us was among those being fed a few months ago. He is now off the streets, working, attending services regularly, and planning to be baptized on October 31. There was also a couple new to our church serving for the first time. Afterwards the wife gave a testimony how she and her husband never had the opportunity to do this in their former Midwestern suburban church. A homeless man who this couple met at the homeless outreach attended our worship service Sunday and shared a meal with this couple during our fellowship meal. That is one face of missional for us in the city. Look at the photo – these are faces of what it means to be missional. To give you a better idea of what takes place at these outreaches read this post from John Leone,  elder of Mercy Ministries at Grace Church, of a message he preached at an earlier outreach.

One Response to “Misssional in Urban Centers”

  1. Steve,
    I think location does play a part.  For instance,  the church/seminary  putting on the preaching conference which will be critiquing the the missional movement (of course there are aspects that need critiquing) has the option of not addressing the social needs of the community because poverty is low (3% -at least it was in 2007-2008) violence and crime is low, schools are operating at a B level (the composite grade given by the Michigan Department of Education)…well you get the picture. 
    Compare that with my neighborhood of Grand Rapids (zip code 49503) where the poverty rate is ten times higher (30%), violence and crime is high, schools are terrible (all of the Grand Rapids public high schools have been labeled drop-out factories by a study done by John Hopkins university……. our ministry and church don't have the luxury of making social ministry an option because it is affecting such a large # in our community and our church.   
    In order to communicate with these type of churches, I have to stress over and over that we make the proclamation of the gospel the central activity of our ministry.  Yet we have to do so much re-education of the church (explaining why we are holistic in our discipleship, or teaching how churches can redemptively help the poor) because of  the disconnection to poor people, the history of the social gospel movement and liberal churches, or even some of the emergent left wing that somehow has gained a huge voice within evangelical Christianity despite their overwhelmingly small numbers.  Anyway, I do hope that our voices can demonstrate that one can be missional and be faithful to the scriptures and the gospel.

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