By Rev. Dr. Ron Morrison, Urban Ministries Associate & Church Planters Coach
As we travel to various places along the many highways and turnpikes in our country, we have grown accustomed to looking for signs that let us know we are traveling in the right direction and getting closer to our destination. Signs serve a purpose, but they are never the goal. As long as the sign says that the city I want to reach is still hundreds of miles away, I know that I have not yet arrived, and the journey must continue.
Pastors that serve in difficult urban environments often have to rely on signs of progress to stay encouraged in the ministry and not give up before biblical goals are achieved. Ministry can be very discouraging for those who have been seduced by the metrics that are used to indicate success in ministry. While the evidence of more “nickels and noses” is certainly desired by churches and leaders, financial resources and increased attendance are not the only signs of progress. If we effectively disciple the people that are already among us, so that they become disciples that reproduce and multiply, spiritual growth and numerical growth will soon be evident.
Every February, as Black History Month is observed, someone will ask for my opinion about matters relative to reconciliation among people groups in our churches. There are many encouraging signs of progress that are clearly observable. More church leaders are being intentional about establishing ongoing relationships with other leaders and churches, rather than being content with an occasional cross-cultural worship service. Missionary candidates are coming to the crowded urban areas to engage the people groups that they will serve among when they go overseas, rather than doing home assignments in church settings that do not offer significant cross-cultural experiences.
I am encouraged to see the urban and suburban church partnerships that have developed in the Central District. In partnership with Envision, our inner-city and inner ring suburb churches, we are enjoying meaningful multi-cultural ministry and work projects that are being noticed by the citizens of the community.
I long for the day when every church is a true reflection of the neighborhood it serves, with every people group in the community feeling at home in the church located in that community. I long for the day when the leadership of the church is as diverse as the church body and community, rather than leadership staying exclusively in the hands of a particular culture.
There are many signs of progress that are encouraging for us. Hopefully we will arrive soon, and instead of looking for signs, we will see the smile of the Savior that has brought us together and made us one in Him.