Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ministry in the City

So, I have this weird feeling sometimes like I shouldn't blog about a subject that is too deep or heavy after not posting for a long time. (Phil, you noticed. How sweet.) But I've got nothing else and this has been on my mind a lot lately. I guess I haven't blogged a lot about life in the Kroc world. If you don't know anything about Salvation Army Kroc Centers go here. Who am I kidding? No strangers read this blog.

Anyway, I've been dragging this article home in my bag every night intending to read it after everyone goes to bed or something. It's by Tim Keller, pastor of the vibrant Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the City. In my estimation, he is one of the most important voices on the church today in urban areas worldwide. In a presentation at the Redeemer Global Network Conference, Tim presented on ministry along five fronts necessary in major city-centers. You can read the whole thing here.

This is what he recommends: "City-center churches should have as equal as possible emphases on: a) welcoming, attracting, and engaging secular/non-Christian people; b) character change through deep community and small groups; c) holistically serving the city (and especially the poor) in both word and deed; d) producing cultural leaders who integrate faith and work in society; and e) routinely multiplying itself into new churches with the same vision." He then goes on to say that many churches do one or two of these things with a high level of effectiveness, but fall short, outright fail or completely ignore others. His argument is that we need to be doing all five in a balanced way.

As I contemplate the opportunity in front of us with the Kroc Centers, and specifically ours in Uphams Corner, I know there's a lot to talk about and many have. Many have spoken about
the gift and whether we should have accepted it, the changes it will bring about in the larger Army world, whether it's possible to keep the Salvation in The Salvation Army (the argument about where the C went in YMCA), about whether it's right or wrong to lure people closer to Christ by attracting them to a pool with a waterslide.

For me, I guess, I feel like we're building a new corps in the city. We're building CHRUCH AND, not "swim and gym and oh, by the way, a little Jesus", not Gold's Gym with a cross or shield on it. If the Kroc Center we're building truly is and will be church first and everything else second, yes, it will look different from the churches we grew up in, but hey, no corps I ever attended had a coffee bar either and we all want to be like Willow Creek. If the Kroc really is church first, then I feel like we are ideally placed to succeed in almost all of these areas, perhaps going five for five.

a) welcoming, attracting, and engaging secular/non-Christian people -- Hello! If we can't attract people to this incredible place, we're in big trouble. The big challenge I see here is the engaging of non-Christian people. The question everyone asks is whether they truly will come to swim or dance or get tutoring and cross over to the chapel. I don't get the fear here. It seems like we do this with all kind of Army programming (and generally the Church does this too). In the past, it seems like we felt comfortable that the ceramics class was nice, but it was easy to get people away from the kiln and move them toward the altar? Is the fear that the "fun elements" of a Kroc center will be too much fun and people won't want to move to the quieter side of the bulding where the chapel is? Begs the question, why can't they get saved in the pool or the computer room. Overall, though, we've got this one well pegged.

b) character change through deep community and small groups -- can only speak for Kroc Boston, but we have a deep community already on Vernon Street (Roxbury Corps which will move in to Krocsbury) and a deep community, though secular in its organization, on Dudley Street. It's there waiting. All we need to do is layer the small groups over the top and do them well. The big question here is can we put the Kingdom over the Congregation, Salvation over Statistics?

c) holistically serving the city (and especially the poor) in both word and deed -- be The Salvation Army. Perhaps the simplest of all of them for us as a movement.

d) producing cultural leaders who integrate faith and work in society -- the challenge for all churches. Kroc has a unique advantage though in that we hope those who come through our doors are spending a lot of time there--kids in daycare and afterschool programs, seniors in a daily program, sports leagues, cultural clubs, workforce development programs. The theory is that we will be touching many aspects of people's lives so that we should be able to have a large impact in those multiple areas, helping people to learn to "think Christianly" (Keller's words)

e) routinely multiplying itself into new churches with the same vision -- at once the biggest and not the biggest challenge. The Army makes people jump through too many hoops to plant a corps and yet doesn't provide adequate structure to sustain plants, ironic. That's why this is a challenge. We're not going to plant more corps in cities with Kroc centers because of resources we're already pouring into those cities for Kroc. But, what if new fellowship groups started to spring up within and around the area where Kroc centers are going? What if people understood that they could come to Kroc as a primary gathering point and for life enrichment activities, but could get tied in to the existing corps down the street from them as their worshipping community. Kroc should not steal soldiers from area corps, but should serve as a conduit for new contacts at South End, Jubilee House, Dorchester Hispanic, etc. Again, provided we can have a larger view than we usually possess.

This is way too long for a blog. But I guess I've just spilled out lots of stuff I've been wrestling with. I think my observations are over-simplified and optimistic, but how else can I be when I'm working on the most complicated thing I've ever been a part of and the one that holds the greatest opportunity for the Kingdom? Keeping it simple is a survival tactic. Being hopeful that God will accomplish what He wants to do there is exactly what I want to do.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I know this is a bit of a lame way to rejoin the ranks of the bloggers, but hey, it's something, right? I don't know if you've heard of GoodSearch. It works just like any other search engine you use, but you can set it up to help a non-profit. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is our partner on the Kroc Project, so I've set them up to benefit every time I use GoodSearch. For every search I do, they get a penny. I know it doesn't sound like much and at present, it's only raising a minimal amount for them (you can check how much they've raised right on the search page by clicking on "Amount Raised"). But if more people use it, they'll make more money.

So if you're inclined, set GoodSearch as your home page and select Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to support or choose your own non-profit to support. Doesn't cost you anything and it's helping someone else. That's a pretty easy commitment.