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Chicago pastor brings varied experience to new Send
By Tobin Perry
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
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
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.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission
Date Created: 12/4/2013 2:30:30 PM
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
“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
“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.
Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
Date Created: 11/4/2013 12:34:31 PM
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.
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
“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
“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
Date Created: 6/28/2013 3:11:12 PM
View captions or download photos
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
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,”
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
Church of the Beloved started a worship service at a second
Chicago location on Palm Sunday. About 200 people attend the church’s two
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.
Date Created: 4/29/2013 5:04:06 PM
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
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
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
“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
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.
Learn more about Scott and Ashley Venable
Send North America : Chicago
Video: Hoop DreamThis 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
An interview with long-time pastors (Don Sharp and Charles Lyons) encouraged by a new move of God in the cityTogether 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.” At 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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