by Pastor Mike Middaugh
In last week’s email I presented the idea of praying for those who are not yet here, and how this is a faithful practice for believers. The prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament, and the apostles in the New, prayed for the people, especially those far from God. So it is good for us as well to pray for the many who do not know Him, some of whom he may even use us to reach.
I think this is especially important today in America’s great cities. Never before in history have so many people, from so many places, been gathered together. Never before could one individual or one church reach as many as it is possible to today.
You may be aware that cities in this country are experiencing a great resurgence. There was a period of time in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when people, especially Caucasians with means, were moving from the city to the suburbs in what has been termed “white flight.” This left many cities with a run-down inner core, and urban neighborhoods that were termed “dangerous” or “violent.” But now we are seeing this change. For the last 20 years American cities have seen an amazing renaissance. Urban population declines have reversed in many places, and some cities are seeing tremendous growth. D.C. is one such city that has boomed, adding 5.1% to its population in a 27 month period as illustrated in this article. Close-in suburbs such as Silver Spring have mirrored this urban trend, as evidenced by the many new apartments and condos we see around us.
As these cities grow they are also becoming increasingly diverse. People from around the world now live next door. Language, cultural customs and traditions are finding ways to coexist or, at times, clash. I will admit that as Sandi and I experience life in the city there are days that this challenges me. The busyness, the noise, and the unpredictability of a city in flux can make one’s patience grow thin. But most days, I am thankful to get to experience the spectrum of life in a big place. Restaurants, cultural activities and my own perspective on the world are all improved by this urban renewal.
As Christians we must be aware of how our cities and neighborhoods are changing and be prepared to act. By some estimates I have heard, 1 church for every 500 people is about right to actually reach and influence an area. If this is true then we should be planting many new churches in our cities and finding ways to hold more services in our existing buildings. In no way do I underestimate the challenges that come with this task, but I do believe we are called to trust that it is possible. We must continue to pray for those who are not yet here – our neighbor who may be from Tanzania, our co-worker who is El Salvadorian, and someone we pass in the store who may have lived here her whole life, but never had a friend tell her about Christ and the story of the cross.
God may have great plans for His Church in this city and others. Are we ready?