“Incarnational” is more than a buzzword

The vision of Restore Church is to be a gospel-centered, missional-oriented, incarnational-structured ministry.

The gospel is that which saves sinners & transforms saints. This is the message of Restore.

The church exists for God to be glorified through faith filled obedience to the great commission. This is the mission of Restore.

The church is to live in & become part of a community. This is the incarnational means to accomplishing the mission of Restore of making the gospel known to those who live in the 48202 & 48206 zip codes of Detroit.

Admittedly, like the term missional, the term incarnational has become a a buzzword. In reality there is nothing new or innovative to this concept. It was both modeled (John 1:14) & taught by Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16; John 17:15, 18; Acts 1:8). Likewise, Paul taught & practiced incarnational ministry (I Cor 9:19-23, Acts 13-28).

A week ago I shared a very informative interview on urban church planting by Ian McConnell of Grace Bible Church in Philadelphia. Today I want to share his thoughts on incarnational ministry from part 2 of the interview with Dave Harvey of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

I have learned that incarnational ministry is not an option.

OK, I know that “incarnational” is a buzzword these days, and it can mean a lot of things depending on who you talk to. So let me define it the way I’m talking about it. It simply means that when planting an urban church, dwelling among the people we serve is, in my opinion, a serious “must.” Now ideally, a church could be planted with believers who already live in the urban context. But often urban church planting is pioneering work—bringing a gospel-preaching church to an area where there are few, if any gospel-believing people. Church planters should not be commuters, especially in urban areas. Before we moved, we only lived 15 minutes away from the planting neighborhood, but it might as well have been 50 miles, or even Pluto, because the demographic differences were so significant. Living and indentifying “in the flesh” with those whom you are serving is vital. Here are a few reasons why:

• It removes the “us” and “them” barrier that divides so many people in the city.
• It moves us into close proximity to those who need to see the gospel lived out in “dual communities” (church and neighborhood).
• It provides an opportunity for our homes to be places for ministry rather than places to escape from ministry.
• It reflects the Savior’s approach to be among the people he ministered to in word and deed.
• It models pastoral approachability in a radical way.

Incarnational ministry is not just a “must” for urban ministry, it is a necessity for all ministry. What steps might God be calling you to take in your zip code?

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