The human story began in a garden. We are moving to a city with a garden at its centre (New Jerusalem). God is a city builder.
Let me tell you about my foray into city ministry. In 1993, I moved to the motor city ‘Windsor’ to plant New Song Church. In the 23 years of operation, our little church has been an incubator for ministry development and casting vision far beyond our city.
We moved into a notorious old bar and began reaching out. We now have a mature congregation who love Jesus and will feed 50,000 servings of food this year, give away tons of fresh produce and bread, do Alpha programs in high rises and high risk neighbourhoods, advocate for the most vulnerable and provide affordable housing to 15 people who serve with the church.
In an area once known for its violence, prostitution and substance abuse, it is now recognized for its low crime rates, community partnerships and as a place to find helpful, loving people.
When people steal from our church, the neighbours find out who did it and we get our stuff back. I have seen 3rd world conditions as people in poverty live without heat, running water, electricity or a single friend that can help.
I have been physically assaulted, broken up street fights, been questioned in murder investigations, done funerals for overdoses, murdered children and suicides and have seen former drug dealers come to faith and walk with Jesus.
I have never feared for my life or regretted the decision to serve God in the urban core. I am here to boldly call you to God’s view of your city. Do you love your city? Do you know that God loves your city? Downtown, suburban, bedroom community… it doesn’t matter where you live. He so loved your city that He gave Jesus. You are not trapped in the city, but are here to love and serve in Jesus’ Name.
Did you know that over 80% of Canadians live in urban centres and metropolitan areas? Not every city dweller lives in poverty or dangerous areas, but Canada is truly an urban country. I work for PAOC’s Mission Canada as the urban ministries consultant. I come alongside our districts to help encourage and develop ministries in our urban centres.
I am intrigued by where our churches most often exist. PAOC is largely a suburban and town movement. Like other denominations, the city core with the densest population and greatest need has a great lack of churches. Take the city limits of Toronto as an example--- 1.1 million people and we have 6 PAOC churches in that area. As you move to the suburbs the numbers increase. Most North American cities are like a donut with a hole in the centre. Where are the downtown churches?
Just as city culture endured a mass exodus of people moving to the suburbs, today downtown areas are being revitalized and the trend is reversing. It is now a growing trend to move back into the city in search of stronger community connections and a more interesting pedestrian life.
Because four out of five Canadians live in a metropolitan area, Mission Canada needs more workers in Canada’s cities. We need fresh expressions of the gospel. Jesus always found Himself among the people, and so must we, integrating daily life with ministry and mission.
Let me tell you about five things I’ve learned from urban ministry.
(You can watch the full message athttp://wearegateway.ca/sermon/community-what-weve-learned-part-2/ )