The Urban Church as Teacher - Efrem Smith
I am a product of the urban church. I am both a child of Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church; an African American Church and Park Avenue United Methodist Church; a Multi-ethnic Church both located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am a child of urban culture. I grew up in the soil of urban life and the sub-cultures of both Hip Hop and the unique artistry of the legendary Prince. I have such a high regard for urban life and the urban church that it has felt strange for me to live outside of the city for the last four years in the Outer East Bay of Northern California.
Living outside of the city has afforded me the unique opportunity to see how suburban areas and bedroom communities are rapidly changing. Gentrification, continued growing metropolitan development, and the economic crisis in the US has led to the suburbs developing urban issues and challenges. Gentrification has displaced the urban poor to suburban and rural rental communities. Light rail as one element of metropolitan growth as helped to the dismantling of the social walls between the haves and the have not's. The economic crisis has led to suburban people developing "urban problems." Well educated, upper-middle class people are now finding themselves unemployed and upside down on their homes. Places that were built for the well-resourced are now dealing with the social challenges that were seen as just going on in the hood. It's not all bad in the suburbs though (just as it's not been all bad in the city). There is the beauty of the continued increase in multi-ethnic diversity in the suburbs as an example.
One thing is true though, what the suburbs and bedroom communities are becoming is not what churches that were planted there 10 to 20 years ago were anticipating. Church growth, program-based, and multi-site strategies alone cannot deal with the present and future mission field of the suburbs. Many suburban churches were built around the people coming to the church being resourced, highly educated, with relatively stable families, and a surrounding community that offered very little ethnic diversity. What a prime mission field for a large, program-based, multi worship experience, and multi-site vision. Now please know that I'm not putting these strategies down. They work very well in a certain mission field, but more and more that mission field will no longer exist. If suburban churches aren't strong in areas of compassion, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, and Christian community development they will begin to soon struggle if they are not struggling already. Now there will be a few mega churches that will be able to ride out a soon outdated wave of privileged homogeneity, but many others will find that wave harder and harder to surf.
This is why I believe this is the perfect time for suburban churches to learn from urban churches. This will take insight, humility, and a stronger Kingdom mindset. Many resourced suburban churches only tend to see cities and urban churches from the perspective of how they can help them instead of the help they can receive from them. The way in which urban churches understand suffering, have stood the test of time as spiritual anchors, understand what happens during the week may be more important than what happens in worship on the weekend, and have had to stare more visible demonic forces in the face, could be a tremendous blessing to suburban churches. Will suburban churches be willing to become urban students?
The urban church though will have to decide if she is willing to strive to become a better missional teacher to suburban churches. If the urban church strives to become a teacher in this way, she must admit the ways in which she has been held captive to the things of this world such as the race matrix. The more the urban church becomes a Kingdom force of truth, transformation, reconciliation, and justice the better teacher she will become. The urban church must fight off the temptation of becoming such a commuter church that she loses her identity as a community transforming church. I praise God for all that I've learned from the urban church. I continue to learn more and more. What about you?
Taken from Efrem Smith's blog. To learn more about Efrem, click here.
SIAFU Leadership Homes - Paul Chan
We are launching our Richmond leadership home in just a few months! It's been an amazing journey as more and more pieces have fallen into place. At the same time, we are breaking ground on a fourth leadershp home. This home will serve our southern California Watts community. And since there's been a strong desire for more leadership homes in more cities, we've launched a leadership home partnership and World Impact's SIAFU Network. The SIAFU Network (pronounced See-AH-foo), is a relatively new creation, but one that will be very influential in the months and years to come. It's named after an East African ant, and the concept is that there's "power in unity."
A single ant is virtually harmless. Although it can bite, one ant is nothing more than a nuisance. But when many ants come together, they become a powerful force. One colony has an average of 5,000 to 18,500 ants. A single queen can lay anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 eggs. These tiny predators hide in the deep forest awaiting their next meal. Primarily carnivorous, Siafu ants have an amazing digestive system that allows them to dissolve almost any living creature. In fact, one colony can dissolve and eat an entire cow within hours.
The SIAFU Network is a national association of chapters designed to unite urban churches and city ministries. These chapters help identify, equip and release spiritually qualified servant leaders to reach and transform our neediest communities in urban America. In addition, urban Christian men and women can inspire each other, teach each other and work more effectively together. SIAFU assists urban pastors and leaders in taking more responsibility for their lives, family, community, church and personal well-being. It advances the Kingdom of Christ in the city, while simultaneously unifying urban leaders and teachers across the nation.
We believe the development of "SIAFU Leadership Homes" will also further strengthen the national identity of the SIAFU Network. Much like a college fraternity offers communal support and lasting friendship, the SIAFU Network provides a missions-based family for the urban worker. Anyone who's dedicated their life to ministry knows there can be times of deep loneliness and distraction. For post-incarceration leaders, this is especially true. Loneliness will often drive a person back to a familiar, yet unhealthy lifestyle such as a gang. But a national Christian organization like SIAFU will be the uniting force that's needed.
Exciting days are ahead! We look to accelerate church planting and leadership development by strengthening existing urban churches. We feel strongly that the future of urban church planting is connected to our TUMI students soon to be released from prison. World Impact West includes: San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno and the Bay Area. Please be praying for me as I try to make the right decisions in these cities and move forward with our leadership homes, missionaries and local staffers.
God Provides for Fresno Summer Staff
"Be a disciple to help make disciples" is a motto that Precious and Marisol are living by this summer. For the past few years, these young women have been involved with World Impact's Teen Club, discipleship groups, church plants, and camp ministries. They made a leap of faith this year by committing six weeks to serve as summer staff. As summer staff, Marisol and Precious were asked to fundraise and make connections with ministry partners. At the start of the summer, Marisol and Precious were struggling with funding and sought God's provision. God gave them a creative idea--use Facebook. They created an event on Facebook to ask people to support them! In less than a day, they were both fully funded, and then some. They were amazed by how quickly God provided through His people. Their faith in God as The Provider was stretched. The World Impact Fresno summer staff position has allowed Precious and Marisol to have deep quiet times in the Word and time talking with Jesus. They have been able to interact with new families during outreaches, learn about urban ministry, plan lessons for Bible club, share their testimonies and lead worship for teen activities. Marisol says, "This summer is preparing me so that when I go back home I can start a youth group at my church…now I know I can do this." The summer staff program is helping to empower and equip Marisol and Precious to be indigenous leaders who are beacons of God's hope in their neighborhoods and city. Please pray for these young women as they wrap up this amazing summer.
To learn more about World Impact Fresno click here.