It's official. The "back to the city" movement seems to be winding down, at least for the foreseeable future. For years now in North American ministry circles, much discussion has occurred over the rise of city populations. However, trends seem to be shifting once again toward the suburbs. While the particulars of strategy are most often confined to the specific local context, there are at least three high-level insights that merit a mention.
For churches that find themselves in the suburbs, the rapidly changing demographics of these neighborhoods matter. It is no secret that the majority of evangelical churches are located in the suburbs of metropolitan areas. We must ask ourselves, however, if our churches are prepared to minister to new territory. Churches located on the same plot of ground where they started 3 or 4 decades ago may not have moved, but the communities around them have shifted.
This season of my life has been particularly straining. All good things, but good things still take their emotional toll. Ministry requires pastors who truly love their congregation, feel what they feel, hurt when they hurt, and grow weary when they grow weary.
My point here is not to commiserate. The spiritual oversight of souls is tough work, and those of us in ministry aspire to that work. Instead, I simply want to issue a plea: Pastor, seek respite. Use the resources available to you for the good of your ministry, your family, and your soul.
“We need more planters.”
I can remember, only a few years ago, speaking with representatives at some of our national church planting agencies and hearing they were at capacity. At the time, the conversation was centered on increased efficiency in equipping. Processes needed to be streamlined in order to run through more planters. Capacity was the issue back then. Now, it's scarcity.
With both of these sending problems, the answer lies in the way we think—and more importantly act—as sending churches. How do we move past mere rhetoric to actually become sending churches?
In my role in ministry, I have a lot of people confide in me that they feel they are failing with personal evangelism. You may be one of those people. Honestly, I feel I am at times. Truth is, I am afraid too many believers (here in the US that is) are struggling in this area. That’s one reason why I'm so excited about a new initiative by the Southern Baptist Convention called “Who's Your One?”
If you pay attention to ministry conversations on the internet, there's a good chance you've heard the term "replanting." In the last couple of years, this idea has really gained traction, and I think with good reason. Today, you can find podcasts, books, and a growing pile of online articles that take up the task of church replanting. What is the difference between church planting and replanting and how might they make the difference in spiritual vitality of a community?
If we are honest, most of us American Christians think of our country as the home of Christianity. That, however, is not the case. Each time we hit one of these seams of history, the cultural center, the gravity of the religion, shifted and moved. Today, it is shifting again. Now, the question is, why does that matter?
Though I recently posted an article cautioning against being a missionary too quickly, I believe it is also as important to cast a vision for the joy that is found in following God to the ends of the earth.
My time overseas as a missionary in West Africa were some of the most formative years of my life. You do not have to serve in a foreign country to be close to the Lord or obedient to his call. However, I do know that missionary service has some unique joys. Here are two:
If you are thinking about going overseas, you need to consider a few things in discerning your call. Pastor, if you have people who want to go (and you should), you need to be looking for these things in their hearts. We need many more people to serve overseas as missionaries, but the truth is, not everyone should. Not everyone is ready, and not everyone has the right motivation.