iMonk: Why Are Evangelicals Disengaged from Urban Church Planting?

You need to read this post... AND the comments (especially the comments).

This is a subject that lights my fire like few others. It is my passion... my mission... to see evangelicals launch a massive offensive on the urban front of America. The issues are big, they are costly, and they are complex. But they cannot remain ignored. We as evangelicals have to take a hard, honest look at the reasons we are abandoning the urban context in favor of following the suburban (white) sprawl. Here are my top four reasons for this phenomenon. Let me know yours.

1. Evangelicals are results driven. They judge faithfulness on the basis of “fruitfulness”, and the fact is that trees only grow in good soil. The urban context is uncultivated soil (anyone read Tim Downs, Finding Common Ground?), and so not ready to grow trees, much less bear fruit. Evangelicals are not willing (often times hiding behind hyperCalvinistic theology) to invest in soil cultivation when they could go elsewhere and get quick “results.”

2. Evangelicals are scared to death of postmodernity—and utterly disoriented by it. The myriad problems posed by postmodernity are nauseatingly deep-rooted and complex (the exponentially growing rich-poor divide, the growing disconnectedness/independence of people, the superficial over-connectedness and busyness of people, deep-seated suspicion of absolutes and metanarratives). All the cards are stacked against evangelicals in the urban context. Several leaders have recognized the need to do something, they’ve tried, and failed, and given up.

3. Evangelicals are unwilling to give up the American dream, which is an absolute necessity if one is going to successfully plant and nurture an urban missional church. Building community is necessary for survival, but it can only happen if people surrender their isolationist lifestyle in exchange for an interdependent, covenanted one.

4. Evangelicals don’t see the big picture vision of why reaching cities is strategic to the advancement of the Kingdom. The apostles got the vision. We don’t. Evangelicals are following the boomers wherever they happen to migrate, because the boomers and older function on a Christendom paradigm. The young, urban professionals as well as ghetto dwellers do not. Cities are hostile territories for the gospel, not to mention evangelicals. So the risk is really high (not just financially).

I am holding out hope that there emerges from among the new wave of “younger evangelicals” (if not too many of them get sucked into the “neoReformed” vortex) a concerted, committed vision for and devotion to reaching cities for Christ. Count me among them.

On a related note, I'm leaving in 1 minute to attend a "huddle" in Chicago with Darrin Patrick on missional urban church planting. I'll fill you in on how it goes.

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