Urban Ministry Strategies (part 1 of 3)

June 15, 2012

Today is part 1 of 3 blog posts sharing some “Urban Ministry Strategies” which are somewhat related to leadership. Most of these thoughts are related to how Christian leaders make a positive change in the community they live and work in. Enjoy!

Urban Ministry Strategies

When reading Mark R. Gornik’s book, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City, I found what I believe to be the underlying purpose of the work he completed in Sandtown when he writes, “Annunciating the kingdom will mean that instead of accepting the inner city as it is and offering words of future consolation, Christians will work to reverse the misery, suffering, and injustice that too often grip it.”[1] This statement reflects what the true call to Christians should be when we enter into an inner city to serve.

Annunciating God’s kingdom means we seek to reverse the progress of most inner cities having more vacant homes, more crime, fewer job opportunities, and poorer education. I agree with Gornik that our response as Christians is to point toward God and the promise He gives to us. We are to find cutting edge ways and fresh solutions (not cookie cutter models) to serve communities and help them transform into a productive and enjoyable place to live.

Gornik goes further in explaining his point of seeking to reverse misery, suffering, and injustice when he talks about the biblical theme and necessity for “shalom.” In seeking peace for their town, New Song Community Church’s “concern was not the delivery of social services. At best, that would address some of the consequences of exclusion; at worst, it would develop dependency. Instead, our goal was to strengthen both families and the community so that they could address their own needs in dignity and in mutuality.”[2] Gornik has a great perspective upon entering Sandtown because he knows New Song Community Church is there to provide help that will develop the families and the community in ways so they may address their own needs. This quote reminds me of Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life[3] by Robert D. Lupton who believes in only helping communities who are active in the process because it preserves the human dignity of the people being served. Lupton would agree with Gornik that social service programs only develop dependency; they do not strengthen the community. Gornik did not have the false assumption that to help the community his church needed to provide services that would save the people from their misery, suffering, and injustice. Instead, he knew that his church needed to help the community develop systems that would allow change to take place.

Reading Gornik’s book has inspired and encouraged me by seeing how much deep theological understanding and reflection he has on the necessity and biblical methods of serving inner cities. A question I have for him is, did you have this theological understanding before moving to Sandtown? Knowing what he knows seems to have helped him determine what New Song needed to focus on and dedicate its time and resources to. I would like to know how much of what Gornik writes in his book he actually knew before entering the community and what he had to learn along the way.

Another question I have for Gornik relates to his commentary on the book of Nehemiah in the chapter, “Out of the Ruins” when he observes, “Once this task of rebuilding the wall and the city has been clearly articulated, a challenging yet achievable project, it created its own energy, enabling people to do more than they thought they could. It would be the catalytic event of their new story.”[4] My question is, how do you create that “energy” the Israelites had after Nehemiah cast vision for the rebuilding of the wall? As inner city leaders we must not develop dependency in the neighborhoods we serve, but instead do things that help the people create their own energy.

[1] Mark R. Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 29.

[2] Ibid., 181.

[3] Robert D. Lupton, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007).

[4] Mark R. Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 137.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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