Darrin Patrick – lead pastor of The Journey in Saint Louis, MO, and Vice President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network – and Matt Carter – lead pastor at Austin Stone Community Church, which he planted in 2002 – lead an outstanding workshop session at Exponential 2010 entitled “Church for the City.” Apparently, this material is drawn from a forthcoming book that they co-authored. I cannot wait to read the book. This was a very good session with some helpful Q&A at the end. Here are my notes from that session.
Christians are people who are cut to the heart because of their sins and respond to the grace found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christians do…they join a church; a community on mission
“A city is density plus diversity.”
- Density: OT cities were only about 3,000 people, but were dense because of walled cities
- Outside the city – justice dealt with by family and tribe; Outside the city – justice dealt with by government
- Outside the city – generalist for provision of needs; Inside the city – specialist for provision of needs (clothier; food preparation)
- Outside the city – no next door neighbors; inside the city – you have close neighbors
- Twice as many people living close together in OT cities than in New York city
- Tim Keller: a city is a “mixed-use walk-able human settlement”
- Cities create civilization
- If you can walk to multiple types of businesses and activities within 10 minutes, then you are in a city
What is a church?
- We need a working definition of what the church is; we desperately need a working ecclesiology!
- See definition in Vintage Church
- See Acts 2:42-46
- Need to go back to the Scripture to think through our authority
- “Everything rises and falls on leadership” – John Maxwell
- Leadership/authority in the church (2:42)
- Elders: serve the church by leading – overseers; teachers; inspecting; they work on the church; people know that there are leaders; BUT need a lead visionary – first among equals
- Deacons: lead the church by serving – caring for practical needs
- Taught the Scripture (2:42) with a view of Jesus (Luke 24) – how is Jesus the hero of every problem; how do you make
- Fellowship (2:42) – take meals together; a theology of meals; connecting & relationship
- Fervent prayer (2:42)
- Supernatural activity is happening (2:43) – converts; physical healing; emotional healing
- Had favor in the city as a result of the rest (2:47)
People of God in exile in Babylon
Jeremiah 29:4-7 – “seek the welfare of the city”
‘welfare’ = shalom = peace; ‘universal flourishing’
Go in to Babylon and seek the universal flourishing of this pagan city
- Economic flourishing
- Educational flourishing
- Artistic flourishing
“Because if it prospers, you too will prosper”
- Our flourishing is tied to the flourishing of the city
A lot of churches are just IN the city…we gather, we do programs for the city…we’re not really impacting the city
Some churches are AGAINST the city…we’re good, the city is bad…God’s people are good, the city people are bad…don’t be with them, don’t go with them…us against them
Some churches are WITH the city…being cultural relevant without being salt and light…so bent toward the culture that you are not making an impact or difference at all (cf. Nicolaitans in Rev. 2:4-6)
What we should be are churches who are FOR the city
Example: Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in the 1850s; Charles Spurgeon
- 15 alms houses started – places for the poor to meet and be cared for; only 1 existed in London prior to this
- Started orphanage that helped 500 orphans
- Started business (business as missions)
- Their influence began to grow…the poor loved the church…the rich saw that this was a church who was about more than themselves…the city became so dependent upon them that if the church would have folded, the city would have grieved
If we closed our doors tomorrow, would our city even care?!
Jesus is the center of our church, but for the sake of the gospel and Jesus, we care for the city
The definition of the gospel is “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”, but the implication from that is caring for the poor
Abraham Kuyper: institutional church (preaching, sacraments, etc.) vs. the organic church (going out into the world); be BOTH/AND
What is the Journey doing:
- Caring for 60+ languages within reach of the city
- Gathering place for artists
- Providing free counseling
- These are becoming independent non-profits in the area; we help them with start-up costs, help them develop their own board, and push them out independently
Fire in apartment complex where a lot of refugees were at
- Rallied church through Twitter
- People gathered resources
- Helped them find temporary housing
- FOX News: “If you want to know how to help this community, don’t call the Red Cross…call Austin Stone Community Church.”
Q: What about places where there isn’t a clear culture or great opportunity…one restaurant
A-Darrin: Going in and helping to start businesses in places like that. Creating culture. What are your dreams for this city? Listening. Takes time. It’s not sexy or easy.
A-Matt: help the people who are already there. I guarantee that there are already people there who have been working for 30+ years.
Q: What do you do when you’re trying to go in and not be the ‘great, white hope’ but the existing organizations are not effective or organized?
A-Darrin: Start with those places and then see the people within your church begin to get a bigger vision and clarity on how this can happen more effectively. Just keep plugging away and getting vision. Start with one thing. Do one thing well. Partner with other groups.
Q: How do you go about forming independent non-profits from the church?
A-Darrin: Give them start-up costs (year-end offerings) and offices and provide administration. Eventually, they need to get their
A-Matt: The non-profit independence opens the doors for people. Many people don’t want to come to a church. The non-profit is less threatening and helps you love on those who you most want to reach.
Q: Do you go in and meet the need by planting the church there or planting a ministry that will meet the specific need?
A-Matt: be okay with releasing people from your church. Release people from your church to get invested in your community.
Q: What about relationships with governmental officials
A-Darrin: you have to cultivate this. Ask the alderman
A-Matt: whenever there’s a meeting with the government officials, we try to be there
A-Matt: you need to preach against the myth that Christianity isn’t safe
A-Darrin: at the same time, just because people are in the suburbs, you need to hear some of their input; ex: provide ways that people can connect, such as children’s ministry
Q: how do you engage with this when you live in a non-dense area?
A-Darrin: find out contextual ways to connect with people; community events, ball games, etc.; are there poor people and ways for people to engage with those needs
[This is part of a series of note-posts from the Exponential 2010 conference.]