It was 19 years ago in the East Bronx, but it’s a moment seared into my memory. “There is a need. There is a need here.” He repeated it, encouraging me to plant a church essentially walking distance from where his own church assembled. I was looking into other neighborhoods, but he encouraged me to clearly see the community before me, even though it was near his own church. As I reflected on our conversation later that day, I was struck by how rare and how right his encouragement was. There was no territory. Jesus alone is Lord of the city. There was no anxiety. Just a pastor’s heart to see people redeemed & communities transformed.
There is little doubt that we live in a moment of real challenges. One of the fastest growing religious demographics in the U.S. are the non-religious, and church participation nationwide has been experiencing a net loss for years. The important question for each pastor, ministry leader, or missionary is, “Whose mission is it?” And living out that question in our own individual ministries has implications.
It will mean inviting others to work on what, at least from a worldly perspective, would be our “turf.” It will mean celebrating different initiatives and different models, both those that mirror our own strategy and those radically different from our own expressions. With humility, we will recognize that God has a diverse portfolio representing myriad of shapes & sizes. It will mean partnering together, sharing credit, or getting no credit. The church is her best self when we work for Jesus’ Kingdom and submit all of our own kingdoms to his mission.