Here’s something they didn’t tell you at assessment: Urban church planting will tear you apart! This year alone I had friends quit, sink into depression, addiction, and one that has completely ruined his marriage.
Why? Because one of the hardest things you can do is start a church in a city. Here’s a twofold reason. (1) Cities are complex places and it takes a lot to figure them out. (2) Because cities are hard to figure out it makes it hard to figure yourself out as you live in the midst of the urban chaos.
I find that a lot of young guys that want to plant in cities are far more aware of the need to build a robust philosophy of ministry for their work in the city than of the toll that church planting and the city will take on their own personal lives.
So, what does church planting in the city demand of you as a planter? And, how can the gospel help speak into some of these faulty areas?
1. Spiritual constancy - City people are fast paced. They adapt to change without giving too much thought to it and that’s why life becomes chaotic and out of control in the first place. When city people end up pausing to think about their overwhelming state, it’s usually too late. Ministry in the city requires a lot of reflection, prayer and, Scriptural meditation. It’s much easier to be in sync with the pace of the city than the pace of God’s heart for the city.
The Gospel says: You are a child of the King. That’s your main identity. The city cannot be your primary identity shaper. Your status of sonship is to compose the rhythm of how your life is lived out in the city. It’s not about being busy but, resting on what Christ has done for you.
2. Emotional stability – Cities demand quality, often without compensation. Think of the talented 50 year old sax player in the subway. Get the point? Pastors in cities have to find a healthy way to deal with slow growth and even failure. Unless they do so, they will likely hit the bottle, the spoon, their wives and kids or, the x-rated sites.
The Gospel says: Before God you have performed to perfection because Christ performed for you. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your ultimate source of affirmation and joy should not come as a result of how well you are able to perform according to the city’s standard of success. God says to you in the Son: “you are my son of whom I am well pleased”. God could care less if you are able to build a mega church. He cares about your faithfulness to him.
3. Intellectual integrity – The city demands that you give a good reason for what you do and say. At the same time it’s always bargaining with you ideologically. It’s very hard not to compromise biblical doctrine in exchange for the approval of its inhabitants and even harder to find an honest, respectful, clear, and contextual way to communicate truth.
The Gospel says: Because your identity comes from who you are in Christ you can afford to be bold with people and not act like a coward. Pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Also, the Gospel is that important. It’s worth giving deep consideration and thought so that you learn and teach others how it relates to the totality of life.
4. Excellent time management – If you want to stay together you have to learn to give time to yourself, to your body, to your family, to your leaders, to your neighbors, to your study and, most of all to your God. Failure to do so in one of these areas will show in lack of personal evangelism, spiritual shallowness, bad preaching, overwhelming sense of responsibility, stress, and a variety of family crises including divorce.
The Gospel says: Because Christ gave more than his time (his life) to you, you are to give time to the things Christ has entrusted you with. A heart that believes in the Gospel is always reordering its passions and setting straight its priorities.
5. Deep level friendships – Life in the city is extremely individualistic. If you, your kids and especially your wife do not find friends you can share your lives with, forget about it. You can have all of the above but you will just not make it. This should probably be the first thing on your check list when you move into the city.
The Gospel says: Because Christ went out of his way to seek friendship with you and was vulnerable with you, you are to go out of your way to make friends for you and for your family.
Conclusion: The Gospel is the only power you will have available to reconstruct you as the forces of urbanity and church planting tear you apart. So, dig in deep into its reality.