Chicago pastor brings varied experience to new Send City role 

 By Tobin Perry  

Michael AllenMichael Allen

 CHICAGO—The North American Mission Board’s new city coordinator in Chicago is no stranger to the Windy City, the North American Mission Board—or Send North America.

NAMB recently tapped Chicago pastor Michael Allen as the next Send North America: Chicago city coordinator. Allen has served as the pastor of Chicago’s Uptown Baptist Church for the past eight years. He has served on the Send North America: Chicago team since its inception. He’s also a former NAMB missionary, who was formerly a featured missionary for the Week of Prayer for North American Missions.

“I’m a people person,” Allen said. “I’m a connector. Somehow God allows me to see both needs and resources and how to bring the two together and to be a problem-solver in that sense.”

NAMB has city coordinator positions in each of its 32 Send North America cities. City coordinators manage the process of developing a city plan and then recruit church planters and church partners—networking the two together in the process—to fulfill that plan.

Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to mobilize Southern Baptists to 32 large, influential and underserved cities throughout North America.

With 8.7 million people in the Send North America: Chicago focus area, the Windy City is one of the largest of NAMB’s 32 Send North America cities. Only New York City and Los Angeles among those cities have more residents in their metro areas. Metro Chicago (frequently referred to as Chicagoland) has only one SBC church for every 31,791 people in the city. Allen, who served on the Send North America: Chicago strategy team before becoming the city coordinator, says Southern Baptists plan to start 77 churches—one for every Chicagoland neighborhood—in the next five years through Send North America.

Allen was born in Jamaica but moved to the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., area with his family when he was 9. He first moved to Chicago to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also became the first African-American staff member of Chicago’s famous Moody Church, pastored by Erwin Lutzer.

He then served for three years on the staff of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, until coming to Uptown Baptist Church in the inner city of Chicago in 2005 as its pastor.

Since arriving at Uptown, Allen has led the church to re-engage in missions in a significant way. Allen believes that his ministry at Uptown, where he’ll continue to serve as senior pastor, has prepared him for the Send North America: Chicago city coordinator position.

“Uptown is situated in the confluence between rich, poor and middle class, white, black and Asian,” Allen said. “It’s just amazing. Our neighborhood is the most diverse in Chicago—in any way you want to measure diversity, whether it’s educated and uneducated, rich and poor and then the various ethnic groups—those who are living in multi-million dollar homes and those living on the streets. It’s right in the middle of all of that, and it gives me a great learning perspective.”

Allen believes Chicago is a critically important city to engage with the gospel.

“It’s like what politicians say about Iowa,” Allen said. “All roads to the White House go through Iowa. Chicago is like that when it comes to church planting. We’re such a key crossroads of our country and the world. Just about any ethnic group you want to reach with the gospel, you name it, they’re here.”

Allen notes that in the Uptown neighborhood alone there are close to 90 languages spoken in the public schools. He estimates that 20 to 25 of those languages are represented in his church most weeks.

For more information about Send North America: Chicago, including a map of places in Chicagoland in need of new churches, visit namb.net/Chicago. For more information about Uptown Church and its legacy of church planting in the city, read a recent article on the church at namb.net/uptown.

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Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.  

 

 

 

 

Date Created: 12/4/2013 2:30:30 PM

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Chicago church celebrates five years of renewed missions emphasis

 
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By Tobin Perry 

CHICAGO – Mary Ann Watts already knew North America needed Jesus before taking her first mission trip. But it wasn’t until her first trip to Seattle to help a Southern Baptist church planter in 2009—the first of four such trips—that she realized how vast the needs were in some parts of the continent.

“I saw the need for missionaries from a different perspective,” Watts said. “I already knew the harvest was great, but I had no idea there was such a spiritual void—so many spiritually starving people.”

Watts took the four trips through her church, Broadview Missionary Baptist Church, near Chicago. The experience, she says, has been life changing.

“When you are a part of the body of Christ, missions is a life-and-death struggle,” Watts said. “If you’re in a church where the only thing going on is preaching to the congregation and no one is doing anything with it, then what’s the point?”

Broadview Baptist, an historically African-American church near Chicago, recently celebrated five years of increased missions involvement in North America and throughout the world. The increased emphasis began when Broadview’s Marvin Parker became senior pastor after his mentor, Clarence Hopson, retired. Parker said his mentor had a vision for “bringing them in, building them up and sending them out,” but most of the church’s attention had always been focused on the first two of those components.

Seattle is one of six North American cities—including Cleveland, Albany, N.Y., St. Louis, Chicago and Murfreesboro, Tenn.,—in which Broadview partners with church planters by sending volunteer teams, providing resources and prayer. The church is actively involved in both Send North America: Cleveland and Send North America: Chicago. Send North America is NAMB’s effort to mobilize Southern Baptists to 32 influential cities within North America.

Internationally, the church has also been involved in working in Gambia, Uganda and the West Indies.

Picking up on what he learned from Hopson, Parker has led the way into this emphasis on missions through his own example. He has served in every ministry context where he has sent his people.

Still, Parker admits, leading this charge didn’t come without resistance, some of which would be familiar to most churches that are increasing their missions involvement. Many in the congregation of 2,100 members thought the church shouldn’t travel around the world for missions until they had sufficiently reached their own community. Parker also notes that African-American churches have typically been less involved in mission work outside of their own local communities.

“People like to stay in their comfort zones,” Parker said. “I was preaching and encouraging our people to come out of their comfort zones and press the envelope. All we do is come to church and then go home. God is calling us to do more—much more—than that.”

While Parker admits that some in the church still struggle with the idea of missions, he is excited about the congregation’s progress. The church surpassed its goal of sending 10 percent of the congregation on mission trips in its first year of the renewed emphasis and has already made significant progress toward its goal of planting 32 churches throughout North America.

“We’ve learned over the past five years that healthy churches plant healthy churches,” said Robert Walker, the church’s missions pastor. “We’re a healthy church. We were a built-up church through the Word [of God]. That has helped as we help new church plants.”

Walker says the church has learned to expect more accountability from its church planters. Before partnering with a new church planter, Broadview requires him to complete a detailed financial plan and an evangelism plan. Walker believes by slowing the planter down and encouraging him to ask important questions about his plans the church helps the planter become more effective.

God has used Broadview mission trips to not just help new churches but to grow the church members who participate as well. For example, Darlynn Terry-Johnson spent her first-ever mission trip last fall serving through a clothing closet community outreach with the church’s Murfreesboro, Tenn., plant. Before the trip, she said, she wasn’t as consistent in making time to serve others inside and outside of the church as she should have been. Experiencing how God used her on the trip changed her perspective.

“I know I didn’t give as much of my time and talents to the Lord as I should,” Terry-Johnson said. “I went to church because I was raised in the church. Ever since this experience, I’ve just been willing to serve and have tried to say ‘yes’ to the Lord on whatever He has asked me to do. And He has tested me in that!”

Parker actively encourages other churches—particularly African-American churches—to get more involved in church planting and missions. When he does, he recommends partnering with Southern Baptists.

“I tell other pastors and potential missionaries two things when I talk to them about this,” Parker said. “First, God told us to do it. Second, as Southern Baptists, we have the means to get it done. The last thing Jesus told us was to ‘go into all the world.’ We’re able to help you do that [as Southern Baptists] through training, people and even finances. Take advantage of it.”

To get involved in similar Southern Baptist church planting efforts through Send North America, visit http://wwwnamb.net/mobilize-me.

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.  

Date Created: 11/4/2013 12:34:31 PM

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Uptown Baptist Church extends planting legacy into 21st Century

By Tobin Perry 

Uptown Church extends planting legacy into 21st Century 
Michael Allen

CHICAGO ­– Twenty-seven different colorful banners surround the sanctuary of Chicago’s Uptown Baptist Church. The name Jesus Christ is written on each of them in the native tongues of 27 people groups Uptown has planted churches among in Chicago.

Take a step into this Southern Baptist church’s sanctuary and it’s clear—Uptown Baptist Church cares about the nations. But that care isn’t just written on colorful banners. It is demonstrated by a history of starting new churches to reach them.

Today, even after helping start at least 30 different Chicago church plants over the past 35 years, Uptown has six ethnic churches meeting in its building. The church also now partners with church planter Dave Choi and his Church of the Beloved, a 2-year-old multicultural church in the Windy City.

“Church planting is the best way for the gospel to be spread and Christ to be glorified,” said Michael Allen (@ubcreal), Uptown’s pastor since 2005. “I think more and more pastors are becoming aware of this fact: If we want to reach our cities, our state and our country for the gospel, there is no better way to do it.”

Chicago represents that need as well or better than most cities. The city has only one SBC church for every 31,791 people in the Chicago metro area. Evangelicals make up less than 10 percent of the area’s population.

Uptown’s planting legacy began with its own founding as a church plant in 1976 by Chicago native James Queen. “I had a burden for the people of Chicago,” said Queen, in a quote on the church’s website. “Early in my Christian life, I made a commitment to see the city won to Christ.”

In the 1980s, Allen says, Queen and other church leaders noticed the growing diversity of the church’s neighborhood. To help reach these different ethnic groups, the church started—or opened their building up for others to use—churches that spoke the people’s languages.

“Our church planting strategy diversified when our community diversified,” Allen said. “Long before the IMB (International Mission Board) strategy of adopting a people group overseas, we were adopting people groups right in the neighborhood because they just kept coming. God was bringing them to our doorstep.”

Related story and video on church planter David Choi >> 

The church now employs a new strategy to reach the nations in Chicago—partnership with an intentionally multicultural church plant.

“Today I think it’s important to blend more from the beginning and to start more multiculturally rather than segregating the churches in their different language and culture groups,” Allen said.

Even on the budget of an inner-city church with an attendance around 180, Uptown contributes what resources they can to Church of the Beloved. Maybe more importantly, the church supports the church plant through prayer, encouragement and people when needed.

For example, Choi, who is single, realized he needed help providing mentoring and counseling to his church’s couples. Allen and his wife offered to have interested couples from the Church of the Beloved into their home last summer for a time of mentoring and sharing.

“We have a lot of young people in our church,” Choi said. “To have that resource of a church with older couples who have kids has been great. It has been an encouraging partnership for us. We know we can lean on them whenever needed because they’ve shown such a willingness to serve us.”

The church has also remained consistent in its giving to cooperative Southern Baptist missions. The church contributes 12 percent of its budget to missions, which includes giving to the Cooperative Program and the Chicago Metro Baptist Association.

Allen sees his church’s involvement in church planting as part of a cycle that began when Southern Baptists helped start Uptown and played an important part in obtaining a building in the church’s early days. 

“Being a part of church planting shows that we’re bigger than just ourselves,” Allen said. “We’re bigger than what we’re doing in just our little corner of the world. So let’s dig in and facilitate what’s a national movement and the national direction of our denomination. Our church has been so blessed throughout the years by our own denomination that we want to be a team player and give back and serve.”

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. 

Date Created: 6/28/2013 3:11:12 PM

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SBC planter reaches world from Windy City

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CHICAGO—It’s a question God asks many in ministry at some point—“Is my presence enough?” Dave Choi pondered the question while he was sitting in a small chapel inside the Billy Graham museum at Wheaton College.

Between ministry assignments Choi was contemplating opportunities around the country. Yet, as he did, God kept bringing another thought to his mind. What if he started a new church in the city that had become his hometown—Chicago? Choi couldn’t shake the concerns. Could he support his family and plant a church? What if he failed? Taking an established ministry position seemed like the safer decision.

In that chapel God led Choi to Exodus 33 when He promised His presence to Moses.

“I felt God tell me, ‘I’m going to lead you to a place to plant,’” Choi said. “You’re not going to be alone because I’m going to be with you. Is my presence enough?”

After reading Exodus 33 again, Choi decided he had only one legitimate answer—yes. That night, when Choi returned home, he had an email from a man whom he had never asked for money and barely knew who offered significant support for his ministry.

“It was God’s way of confirming that He was in this and His presence was going to be with us,” Choi said. “He would provide what we needed.”

A year and a half later, the Southern Baptist church planter is reaching one of the most multi-cultural cities in North America through Church of the Beloved in Chicago. Choi, born in America to two immigrant parents, has gone out of his way to plant a uniquely international church. Even in the early days of the church, at least 25 people not born in the United States regularly attended. Many come from countries like Algeria, Indonesia and China that are relatively closed to evangelical Christianity. Choi believes many heard the gospel for the first time at Church of the Beloved.

“These are highly influential people because they have financial resources and the academic background to study in the United States,” Choi said.

With less than 10 percent of the population affiliated with an evangelical church and only one SBC church for every 31,791 people in metro Chicago, local Southern Baptists—including Choi—have been making plans to start more churches in Chicagoland through Send North America: Chicago.

Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.

Choi believes the building where Church of the Beloved meets is a great illustration as to why church plants are so critical to reaching Chicagoland. Three churches meet in the building—each reaching completely different people even though they share a meeting location.

“It’s been proven that new churches are the most effective way to reach the lost and the unchurched,” Choi said.

He points to one couple that has become regulars at Church of the Beloved as an example. Even though the husband was a Buddhist, he had been attending churches sporadically with his Christian wife. But the two failed to find a fit anywhere. Attending Church of the Beloved changed that.

“He told me he was tired of going to churches where it felt like everybody was a clique and everyone was exclusive and knew each other,” Choi said. “Churches he attended had been very insular. He figured if they attended a brand new church, there's no way there will be cliques. He wanted to feel like he could get to know people and be welcomed. Just that little reason brought him to church.”

After about five weeks of hearing the gospel, the man accepted Christ and was baptized last summer.

Partners—from nearby in Chicago and as far away as Arkansas and Washington state—have been critical to the early success of the new church plant. First Baptist Church of Fort Smith, Ark., has been active in sending volunteer teams and resources to help the Church of the Beloved. During Vacation Bible School last summer, the church’s children raised $1,000 to help the young church plant.

“They have been incredibly generous with their resources to support us financially,” Choi said. “But they’ve also been incredible prayer resources to us. They pray for us regularly. They also have been a relational resource because they fly up here from Arkansas to encourage us from time to time.”

Church of the Beloved started a worship service at a second Chicago location on Palm Sunday. About 200 people attend the church’s two services.

For more information about Church of the Beloved, visit thebelovedchurch.org. For more information about Send North America: Chicago, visit namb.net/Chicago. To see a video about Dave Choi’s ministry, visit namb.net/videos.

 Tobin Perry is a writer with the North American Mission Board. 

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Date Created: 4/29/2013 5:04:06 PM

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Unlikely pastor starts church for the broken

 
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By Tobin Perry 

 
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CHICAGO – Marcus Randle didn’t plan to be a pastor. He never dreamed he’d start a church. A lifelong Chicagoan, Randle was happy as a social worker.

God had another idea.

After their kids had moved out of the house, Randle and his wife, Mattie, opened their home to women who needed help recovering from addictions, launching Resurrection House in 2005. As committed followers of Jesus, the Randles used biblical principles to help and disciple the women.

“I oftentimes say, if you really want to see God laugh, tell Him your plans,” Randle said. “So the women began to ask us more about spiritual things. They began asking us if they could go to church with us.”

Though they were part of a great church, Randle realized that Chicago needed more churches—many more churches. Southern Baptists currently have 275 SBC congregations in a Chicago metro area of 8.7 million. That’s one SBC church for every 31, 791 people in Chicagoland. Only a little more than 9 percent of the population is affiliated with an evangelical church.

Randle had a particular group of people in mind for this new church. It would be specifically for the broken and hurting people he was accustomed to seeing as a social worker. While their ministry to broken women continued, Resurrection House Baptist Church was born.

“Coming out of the Resurrection House and social services, I’ve seen a lot of people who have been addicted to drugs and alcohol and maybe been to prison or were HIV positive,” Randle said. “They don’t know how to fit in. They’ve had some knowledge of God, but couldn’t really fit into mainstream church life.”

The Randles love the city that has been their lifelong home.

“It’s a melting pot; it has what we call nowadays a ‘glocal’ feeling to it,” Randle said. “It’s global but local at the same time. I don’t have to get on a long plane and go to Indonesia to do ministry or missionary work. All I have to do is go to one of the universities here or go to any corner.

His love for the city has opened Randle’s eyes to its great needs, too. Though the city has churches, many with long histories in the city, the Windy City’s desperate need for Christ can be seen in all its corners. Randle believes new evangelical churches are needed to break down walls of skepticism toward organized religion.

“We’re primarily seeing in the city of Chicago that a lot of people are skeptical,” Randle said. “They understand the gospel, but the institutionalized church keeps them away. I believe part of our mission is to break down some of the barriers. I think that sometimes we make it much too hard for people to enter into our churches.

People like Deidre Davis often get left out. Davis came to the Resurrection House before the Randles started the church. At rock bottom and near desperation, she longed for deliverance from alcohol and drug addictions. While she was at the Resurrection House, the Randles frequently invited her to their nearby church. Occasionally she’d accept.

After she left the Resurrection House and the program was complete, she would be tempted—like many other recovering addicts—to cut ties with those who had helped. But she never did. God kept drawing her back to the house and the Randles. When she found out the couple was starting a church at the house, she came for the very first service. She accepted Christ and was never the same again.

While she appreciated Alcoholics Anonymous and other programs that helped her on her journey, she believes God did what no program could have done—He rescued her from her addiction.

“I believe it was a stepping stone to something far more greater,” Davis said. “And I know it was only the power of God. No human power could have alleviated this addiction.

After Davis began a relationship with Christ through the ministry of the Randles, Mattie began to teach her what it means to have a relationship with Christ. Today, Davis teaches a class on prayer at the Resurrection House.

“I believe that the one thing that Deidre offers to the world is to say that faithfulness pays off,” Randle said. “It doesn’t mean it is going to automatically turn around. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is going to get dramatically better, but if you stick to it, if you just don’t give up, if you don’t throw in the towel, it will be worth it all.”

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. 

Date Created: 4/2/2013 9:06:58 AM

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When the world comes to Wicker Park

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This article and video are part of a series on missionaries featured during the 2013 North American Missions Emphasis. 

You may meet Charlie the drifter, the homeless man who wanders through the neighborhood warning people of government conspiracies. You could run into the young highly educated, well-dressed couple who come to the park to walk their dog and let their young son play. There’s also the senior citizen couple that sit at the park to get some fresh air before heading back to the nearby assisted living center.

And thanks to the generosity of Southern Baptists, there’s a North American Mission Board church planter there, too.  

“It’s the most eclectic place you can imagine,” says NAMB church planter Scott Venable. “It has drug dealers and businesspeople. When we prayerwalked as we were looking for a place to start the church and we got to Wicker Park, we just knew it was it.”

Wicker Park is both a large park off of Chicago’s North Damen Ave. and one of the most famous neighborhoods in the Windy City. Called by Forbes the fourth coolest neighborhood in the United States, it’s the kind of place where million dollar homes are just a few blocks down from government housing.

It’s also a place that needs churches. Chicagoland—the 10 Illinois counties that surround the city—has one Southern Baptist church for every 31,791 people. Evangelicals make up just 10 percent of the population. The Wicker Park neighborhood itself had just four small evangelical churches for about 23,000 people before Venable’s arrival.

And it was just the right place for him. The inner city had long been within his sights. He remembers serving in the Dallas inner city as a young person—and feeling a kinship to the culture, music and speed of urban life.

With a vision for starting a church that would change its city, Venable and his then fiancé, Ashley, began praying about where God might want to use them before they even married.

When the couple visited Chicago around Easter 2009—and Wicker Park specifically—God spoke clearly to both of them. Before the two said “I do” that May, they decided Chicago would be their new home.

After arriving in Chicago, the Venables went first to a local school in the Wicker Park area and offered to serve. The offer first took the principal by surprise. She was accustomed to having church plants want to use their facility to host church services—not offer free help.

“We’re a new church here and really small,” Venable told the principal. “We want to help this school become what you want it to be. We want to invest in the community. I like your vision. I like your dream. We want to help pour into the life of these kids.”

The flabbergasted principal took him up on the offer. Every day in the beginning, Venable showed up at the school to help—everything from tutoring to coaching sports to providing playground patrol.

Through its engagement with the school, Venable started a “Kidz Club” and “Friday Night Live” for children and youth on Friday evenings. Instead of roaming the streets, teens come for free food, basketball and a short Bible story. On average 50 youth and 20 elementary students attend.  

And the community has taken notice. A local reporter discovered the young church plant was cleaning the toilets of businesses near Wicker Park. Soon Mosaic Chicago became known as “the toilet-cleaning church” —a nickname welcomed by Venable because it demonstrates the community involvement and ministry he desires.

“Our measurement—instead of asking how is our church doing—is how is our city doing?” Venable said.

Yet most important, Venable wants to see people come to faith in Christ. He points to one particular local grandma as an example. Venable first met her grandson—one of the most troublesome kids in school—in the principal’s office. The boy started coming to Mosaic Chicago’s Friday evening Kidz Club after seeing Venable carrying a stack of pizzas out of a carryout restaurant the day of the event. Through her grandson’s involvement, the grandmother began attending regularly and has even gotten involved in a small group and mission projects through the church.

“That’s what we want to see in all these people’s lives—to go from not knowing Jesus to fully following Jesus and carrying out the kingdom-disciple-society DNA in their lives,” Venable says.

Venable realizes that kind of ministry has only happened because of Southern Baptists’ faithful giving through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO) for North American Missions.

“During these first three years of our church plant, Annie has been the biggest part of our support,” Venable says. “It’s allowed me to live here and support my family. Without NAMB and Annie, we wouldn’t be here.”

The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, 2013, and the AAEO, provide support for Venable and other missionaries like him who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes – Reaching the One.”

For more information about Scott Venable and Mosaic Chicago, visit anniearmstrong.com/scottvenableor mosaicchicago.org. For more information about how you can get involved in reaching Chicago with the gospel, visit namb.net/Chicago. 

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.

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Learn more about Scott and Ashley Venable 

Send North America : Chicago 

Video: Hoop Dream
This extended version of Scott Venable's story on video is part of the children's mission study for the 2013 North American Missions Emphasis.

Date Created: 2/11/2013 3:39:10 PM

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A 'Chicago Moment'  

An interview with long-time pastors (Don Sharp and Charles Lyons) encouraged by a new move of God in the city

Together they have served more than 80 years in Chicago. Standing on the platform at Armitage Baptist Church, the pastors – one from the city’s north side and one from the south side – each shared a vision for the city that includes leaders from neighborhoods across Chicagoland coming together to plant new churches.

And it all starts with prayer.

“We know that what we are dreaming of to happen will require nothing less than supernatural work of God,” said Charles Lyons, pastor of Armitage Baptist Church. That work has been building over the years toward what he describes as a “Chicago moment.” 

Chicago Prayer GatheringAt a city-wide prayer and vision night October 7, Lyons and Don Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church, shared the stage with other pastors and church planters that spoke of their desire to see the city transformed by the Gospel. After each one shared about a different element of ministry or church planting, small groups prayed across the sanctuary; some gathered around church planters to pray specifically for ministry in their neighborhood.

Sharp and Lyons both were moved by the hundreds of leaders that gathered to kick off the Send North America: Chicago effort. But they agree it’s only the beginning. Right after the Send launch, they spoke with a reporter from the Illinois Baptist (statewide newspaper provided by the Illinois Baptist State Association) about what it will take to reach Chicagoland.

Charles Lyons: “For decades, people have prayed all over the city, have wept and asked God to do a work, and what I see looking out my window is nothing short of supernatural, and it is not just Southern Baptist. What I see with Send Chicago is a divine work that is merging into a moment that has already been created and is unfolding. I really think we’re looking at a Chicago moment here, where God is at work in astounding ways across the city.” 

Illinois Baptist: You’ve both mentioned you’d like to see multiple people groups represented at gatherings like the prayer night at Armitage. Do you see it as your responsibility to communicate the vision of Send Chicago to churches other than your own?

Lyons: Oh yes, that is a huge piece of this. And a huge challenge, quite frankly.

IB: What makes it a challenge?

Lyons: There are people out there [leaders] who feel isolated, disconnected, but their heart is for the city. Their heart is for the advance of God’s word. But for one reason or another, it’s been difficult for them to be connected to something.

Don Sharp: If you understand the nature of the city itself, it’s a city of neighborhoods. And that is very significant; that’s a positive and a negative.

When you’re talking about “urban,” you’re not talking about a monolithic group. You’re talking about a mosaic, different pieces that come together that make up the whole urban environment and landscape. So you can’t do McDonalds franchising when it comes to church planting. You can’t come in with a simplistic blueprint and say this is how it should be done.

IB: Do you think a strategy with 184 potential church planting sites, a strategy that specific, gets at the Chicago dynamic? At how many people groups are in the city?

Lyons: Something that extensive does begin to face the right direction in that it recognizes a vast need, and a varied need. And those two things are impossible to get around.

IB: Do you have a sense of God working in this?

Sharp: There’s no question in my mind that the Holy Spirit is at work in our churches in Chicago. There’s no question in my mind that we’re on the cusp of something great taking place. I’m excited and challenged by the possibility, and also laying the groundwork for the future of work here in Chicago.

Lyons: I never could have imagined the influx of guys showing up on the north side, northwest side, saying, ‘God called me here and I’m here to plant a church. You didn’t see that for 30 years.

Sharp: I agree with Pastor Lyons on that piece. The guys I’ve been meeting with [younger leaders]…they’re adventurous, and I don’t say this in a negative way or a cavalier way. It used to be in the past that God would call Anglo pastors everywhere except for in the city. And now there are some guys here who don’t look like those guys in the past, for example, Pastor Q [Qusai Mahmud, who’s planting Pilsen Community Church]. That excites me because guys like him…can move very freely in the city and blend in.

Lyons: And he is home grown, he grew up here.

Sharp: Yeah, yeah. And that’s what it’s going to take. And I’m not saying everybody’s got to come up like that, but I just think there’s a new generation that I see of guys coming in. God’s calling them to the city.

IB: What do we need to remember about the effort it takes to minister effectively in the city?

Lyons: Everything in the city takes more time, more money, more manpower, for less proof than you would have expected. And we must think long term. We’re building a high rise, not a garage. And that means you gotta dig way, way down and drive those pile-ons down to the bedrock. And it’s dirty, it’s not beautiful, there’s not much to see. What are they doing down in that hole? And how long is that going to take? But you gotta do that if you’re going to rise. That’s the mindset we’re bringing to this.  

Date Created: 12/17/2012 11:30:45 AM

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