Urban Contexts as a Church Planting FocusBy Jon Kelly
May 19, 2021
Urban contexts are mission fields to be reached. A recent study found that between 2011 and 2017—a span of only six years—a study found that there were roughly 220 church plants in the greater Baltimore–Washington D.C. metro area. If you were in the US, in the Washington D.C. area, Washington, Baltimore area, there were about 220 church plants during a six-year period, praise God. Anyone who cares about churches being planted and the gospel, going forward for the glory of God would say “Yes and amen” for 220 churches planted.
Yet only three of them were located in black and brown communities. Only three planted in urban contexts. Praise God there were 220 churches planted. In my neighborhood, three. Across the country, we’re good at planting churches. That’s not the problem. Churches are sprouting up and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t great gospel-believing churches, disciple-making churches in black and brown communities. There are.
Still, when we talk about a steady wave of fresh church plants coming into minority communities, there’s a deficiency.
I’m reminded of Nathaniel’s question to Philip regarding Jesus, the Messiah. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The question for us as is: are ethnic minority neighborhoods also a mission field? And I know we say, “Yeah, of course it is. Of course, it’s a mission field. Ethnic minority neighborhoods where black and brown people are. Yes, yes, amen.” The question is, do we really believe that? If you don’t believe it, you won’t plant there. If you don’t believe it, you won’t invest there. And my question is, no matter where you are is, “Where is your Nazareth?”
Does your church’s vision for church planting include contexts that are not like yours? Not just somewhere “over there,” but locally? And, are you willing to see ethnic minorities reached for the glory of God? Think about this: What does it communicate about how we view some contexts when we just don’t plant churches there? It’s easy for us to stick with what we know and avoid different contexts; but I want to appeal to you that God has called all of us to go farther.
The urban church is God’s design for reaching ethnic minorities and urban centers are mission fields to be reached. More than that, urban centers are hubs for developing future leaders. Don’t believe everything you see in the news or read in a blog about ethnic minority neighborhoods. There are many leaders in ethnic minority neighborhoods who are devoted to Jesus, who are biblically orthodox, who are skilled in biblical counseling, and how to care for those with addictions, and those battling trauma. Many who can write Christ-saturated curriculum for children’s ministry and robust materials for leadership development. There are many who are currently developing leaders to be sent out; many writing much-needed books for the global church. There are many right now who are leading prayer gatherings and investing in the next wave of young men and women who will serve the bride of Christ and reach the lost. God has much to do in these contexts. He wants to see his glory declared and displayed there.
Paul was a Jew–a former Pharisee. Still, Paul was commissioned for church planting in a context that was ethnically different from his. Could it be that some of the revival that we’re praying for, some of the things that you desire to see in your own church and context, find God’s answer laying in another context unlike yours?
It’s time to flip this script. Urban centers are ripe for Great Commission ministry. If we are to follow the mandate of our Lord and Paul’s example, we cannot be afraid to invest our time, talents, and energy into church planting and discipleship in urban contexts across the US and around the world.
If you are an aspiring church planter, find out if GCC is your right network partner.