Taking a City One Neighborhood at a Time

One of the formative influences in the development of my theology & practice has been Sovereign Grace Ministries.  To my great benefit & delight I recently came across an excellent article on urban church planting by an old friend who now serves as a pastor at a church in the Sovereign Grace family, Ian McConnell of Grace Bible Church in Philadelphia.

Ian notes the tendency to lump urban church planting into a “one size fits all” category. This is a wrong approach simply because cities are composed of different kinds of people & multitudes of neighborhoods. So instead of looking for the characteristics of a city we should do neighborhood demographic exegesis.

Anybody who has lived in a city for any time knows that neighborhoods are well defined, and everybody knows the definitions. Everybody knows the folks on that side of the tracks are different than the folks on this side of the tracks. You know how far to go down a street before it goes from safe to not so safe. As an old East Coast city, Philadelphia was populated through immigration over the past 200 years. Different ethnic groups and nationalities came and dug into sections of the city, importing and planting their cultures side by side—coexisting, but rarely blending together. You tell a Philadelphia native what neighborhood you live in, he can guess your religion, your favorite food, and probably the last syllable of your name. Any big city, whether it is Sunbelt, Midwest, or West Coast, will be a city of neighborhoods. If you’re going to take the city for Jesus, it’s likely going to happen a neighborhood at a time.

This is a big deal to me as we approach reaching our city. I think that the neighborhood planting approach, over time, will be the most effective way to reach our cities. Our core theological values will be the same, and our Gospel message is absolutely unchangeable. But how it plays out methodologically will have to vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. This challenge requires what I like to call demographic exegesis. We need to study and understand the characteristics of the particular urban setting we are exploring and know what we may be getting into. We need to know who the people are in the neighborhoods we are considering for the church plant.

You can read the article in full here.

Pray for us as we continue our exegesis of the 48202 & 48206 zip codes as we prepare to plant Restore Church in the neighborhoods of Detroit!

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