My journey into urban ministry was not immediate. I was raised in a religious home in which regular church attendance was the norm. However, it was not made clear to me that salvation was a gift of God that I received rather than worked for until I was a college freshman.
The fall of 1993 is when I was adopted into the family of God and within a year I sensed a desire (calling) to teach and preach. In 1996 I headed to Bible College. This was followed by Seminary. During these years my understanding of ministry was greatly expanded and I began to be burdened for the need to start new churches and then to start new churches in urban areas as it seemed the need was greater and most people wanted to go start churches in the suburbs.
At each stage of my transformation I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me that I knew nothing about. So, I did what I’ve always done – I read – and bought books – and read some more.
By the time I finished my M.Div in 2005 I was convinced that I should plant churches in urban contexts but I had also become convinced I should not do this alone. So with my degree finished I moved to Orlando to teach at a Christian school. I was able to help with a satellite church plant there.
A few years later I transitioned to a different school which resulted in the opportunity to begin an urban church plant in western Orlando. And that’s when the real education began.
The understanding that urban ministry was different than suburban ministry became evident in the manner in which my time was spent. Just recently for instance I stood in for a parent at a parent-teacher conference for a second grader. This was a first for the teacher and myself. I’ve been called to bring students to school that missed the bus. I’ve picked up kids that I happened to see at the gas station and brought them to school because they missed the bus. I’ve brought parents and children to doctor’s appointments, the ER on many occasions, helped people move, find jobs, tutor, been interrupted from a discipleship meeting by the arrival of DCF and the police, visited people in jail, written letters of recommendation for defendants in court, helped people attempt to get reprieve from back taxes that piled up due to a series of crazy circumstances, listened to elementary school kids tell me all the drug dealing details of the ‘hood and the stories of gun battles they’ve seen, called 911 as we attempted to keep two teens we knew from fighting (as a crowd of 20+ people gathered) following one of our Church in the Park services, and more.
But I think what I’ve come to realize is that while I know very little about urban ministry other than that where you have more people you have more brokenness, the thing about urban ministry is that while it is different than many other types of ministry, in reality I think it’s just contextualized discipleship.
Yes, it’s different. Yes, solutions take longer (more on that in another post maybe). Yes, it’s more difficult (in some respects). But at the end of the day it’s still bringing the message of reconciliation to broken situations while building relational bridges with us and God.
Contextualized Discipleship…or just plain discipleship the way it’s meant to be – life on life.