In 2009 my husband and I planted August Gate Church in the urban core of St. Louis. For the last five years we have not only been leading a church but also raising three children in the same area we planted. And as crazy as it might sound, I have never felt unsafe living in one of the most dangerous cities in America.
Normally, hearing statistics like this creates a lot of fear. But I believe that God was gracious and prepared us for what we would face. And if we are going to continue to plant churches to penetrate lostness in North America, hundreds of churches will need to be planted in dangerous cities. Here is a little humble advice that we’ve learned from our own experience.
Sacrifice is Necessary
“When God calls, God provides.” But that doesn’t mean He won’t call us to sacrifice our ideal picture of how life is “supposed” to look; white picket fence and all. For example, if you live in a dangerous city, public schools might not be an option and on a church planter’s salary private school is probably out of the question. Instead of owning a big house with a big back yard, you may have to make trips to a local park. But whether it is ideal schools, big back yards or the small-town community feel, planting in a city will probably mean sacrificing something for the sake of the Gospel.
Don’t Sacrifice Everything
While sacrifice will probably be necessary to plant in a dangerous city, not everything has to be sacrificed. We found out very quickly that there are simple ways to not sacrifice safety in a dangerous city. We’ve always made sure to live in an apartment with secure parking or in a house with a garage and to keep our home protected with an alarm system. Community is something else that shouldn’t be sacrificed. If you are like us and not from the city, finding true community may take time and a little hard work. But with a little effort and creativity you will find that God has made all people with the same need for relationships, you just may have to take the first step.
What we originally considered sacrifice in moving to the city has brought amazing rewards. Our children’s friends represent greater diversity and they encounter a broader range of life experiences. We are constantly exposed to beauty, history, taste and cultural arts all around us. City living means experience in the best of the best and, often, the worst of the worst. This exposure to both the good and the bad allows us to have open and honest gospel-centered conversations both with our children and those whom we lead in our church. Seeing God’s fingerprints amidst all the brokenness is a beautiful sign of a His redemption. Plus, we’ve learned that the light shines brightest in the darkest places.
Published February 3, 2014