Posted Thursday, September 10, 2015
Church planting has become more and more challenging over the last couple of years. Change in the culture, finding good leaders and building teams of like-minded people are some of the top challenges faced by most planters. The drive to plant more churches in the city-centers of Urban America has created a whole new set of challenges. Whether planting in the midst of a gentrified center or reaching out the to truly poor and impoverished centers of our cities, one primary issue finds its way into the conversation. Any guesses? If you said “Money” you would be correct.
Planting churches is expensive! Planting in Urban America raises the financial bar even higher. In fact, if you want to plant in these city-centers, you either need to change your model of planting or have a fat checkbook. Planting in city-center America is one of the toughest places to launch a new work. A planter is not only faced with financial price tag, they are also faced with prevailing attitudes of those living in these areas who have witnessed multiple attempts and experienced the wishful thinking and broken promises of those who have come an gone. These issues have stymied and delayed most attempts to reach urban America.
Let me suggest an option, with a primary focus on the poor and impoverished centers of our cities. Not that those living in gentrified areas don’t need Jesus, rather because we are called to serve the poor and marginalized. Why not think outside of the box. Why not start a needed business in the target area that will serve the community and offer opportunity for low cost goods as well as potential jobs? What kind of business? Glad you asked.
One of the greatest (real) needs in many of our city centers are low cost groceries. That may sound odd, but a little research will reveal that most grocery stores have either closed down due to crime, moved their operation several miles away, or closed because the cost of getting the goods into the city centers has become too expensive. What you often find in these situations is grocery dessert. A vacuum that has been filled by over-price convenient stores, or worse yet liquor stores as the only alternative for grocery. This exacerbates the problem for many. Leaving them little alternative but to pay for over-priced goods or make several trips a week, by bus, to the near store. What if a church plant were to start as a local discount grocery store and use the capital from this store as the economic engine to launch a church?
Think about it: Everybody eats. Usually three or more times a day. Secondly, buying discounted groceries is both easy and inexpensive. Finally, it offers those living in these impoverished areas of our city centers an opportunity and ability to buy low cost goods and save money for other family needs.You become an essential part of the community!!! The church….meeting a need… and changing the community!
Instead of simply planting a church, why not change a community in the midst of your planting? What can this do for a community? Over time, one simple store can begin to shift the economic culture. Less money on bus fair, less money at the liquor store or convenience store, less trips to the nearest Walmart. etc… The more extra capital a family has to invest in their children, the less they will be inclined to look for other, less desirable and illegal ways to produce the extra they need.
In essence, our investment in the community becomes more than a spiritual activity. We do more than hold services once a week. We are able to build relationships in the community, provide needed services and show those living in these pockets of poverty that the church cares enough to offer more than spiritual advice.
Is this kind of model being used? YES, we do it all the time across seas. Closer to home, we launched our first economic engine church plant in Brooklyn, NY. So far, the inroads made in that community are nothing short of miraculous. The store pays for the salary of the planter and relationships and trust are being built within the community.
What do you think?
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