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Posts Tagged ‘Church Planting’

There has been quite an uproar over a recent post written by Bill Streger called, “Uncool People Need Jesus Too.”  Streger is involved with the Acts 29 Network and is responsible for assessing applicants for church planting.  In this post, he notes that every church plant vision sounds the same and targets the same group of people.  I’ll let him tell it:

Not only is the language the same, but so is the target group. It’s amazing how many young pastors feel that they are distinctly called to reach the upwardly-mobile, young, culture-shaping professionals and artists. Can we just be honest? Young, upper-middle-class urban professionals have become the new “Saddleback Sam”.

Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.

He has since written another post in attempt to clarify his statements, as he has apparently offended some of those involved with Acts 29.  I personally don’t think he needs to apologize for anything, as I thought he articulated a legitimate problem, but I don’t run in his circles, and thus I have no reason for offense. 

I thought of two things as I read his post.  First, I recalled Mack Ave Community Church in Detroit, a church I have previously mentioned.  Here is a church plant led by young and relatively “cool” men, who have opted to head straight into a more destitute community rather than a more upwardly mobile community. 

Second, I found myself ruminating on Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity.  While it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at Stark’s book, I remember part of the reason he accounts for the rise of Christianity in the hostile culture of the Roman Empire is the willingness of Christians to stick it out during difficult times.  For instance, when a plague would hit a city, many would flee in hopes to protect themselves.  Some Christians, however, would often stay and help their neighbors who were in need.  In essence, when the going got tough, the Christians stayed put.  Because of this, there were opportunities for the faith to be shared, in word and in deed, and the church grew.

I can’t help but wonder if Streger is hitting on this issue.  There has always been a temptation for churches to focus on those who are most like them.  Since most pastors tend to be reasonably well-educated, middle class folks, they naturally gravitate toward that demographic.  I want to be very clear: I’m not throwing stones at Acts 29.  I know very little about them, and most of what I know comes from listening to the occasional Matt Chandler or Mark Driscoll sermon.  In fact, I find myself looking at my own church and church planting organization and see some of the same temptations at work.  Streger is talking just as much about me and my circle as he is about his own.

The question is, who is going to walk through life with the man who just lost his job at Ford?  Who is going to follow the example of the early Christians and help their sick neighbor while everyone else has fled to a bigger, better city?  Can we envision the rapid growth of the church through helping the most desperate in addition to targeting the next wave of “movers and shakers” in our country?  For the health of the church and for the sake of those in need, someone has to go.

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Gordon-Conwell grads in Detroit

Things are a little slow here at BBG.  Sorry about that; I guess that’s what happens during the holidays (maybe I could blame the snow, but I’m in Florida).  I did want to direct you to an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding Mack Avenue Community Church in Detroit (HT: Kevin DeYoung, a Gordon-Conwell man).  It’s a relatively new church plant seeking to spread the gospel of Jesus in the midst of a horrible economic time for that city.  The church is headed up by a team of Gordon-Conwellians: Eric Russ, Eric Nielson, and Leon Stevenson.  I recognize Nielson and Stevenson, but I had a preaching class with Eric Russ.  I remember him being such a genuine guy with a passion for the Lord; he was one of the most respected men on campus.  If you take a minute and read the article, I think you’ll see why.

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