Friday, May 6, 2011

Engaging the Urban Context With the Gospel

I recently gave a talk at a break out session for the Plant Conference, hosted by Sovereign Grace Ministries. In the talk, I addressed some of the challenges that may come with planting a church cross culturally from a suburban to an urban setting. I also deal with issues regarding ethnicity, majority-minority culture tension and contextualization. Here's the link. If you listen, feel free to comment.

grace and peace,


Steven Wayne Howard said...

I heard this awhile back. It was really insightful and encouraging, Shai. I think it will definitely help when witnessing and thinking of ways to serve here in San Francisco. Thanks for the encouraging words, bro and I look forward to the release of your next project!

Robert Marshall Murphy said...

Oh man! That was a great talk! I listened to it, made my wife listen to it and now I'm working on my supporters. It is so nice to have some labels for myself: White and Urban. When you had the example of the white urban guy and his rural wife, I thought you were about to say my name! Thank you so much for laying it out there, for the good of the body. This is going to be one of my defining "texts" for a long time.

eve said...

hey shai ... thanks for sharing this. it's really insightful stuff. you already know how i feel about the false assumptions and generalizations people have about the word "urban" and notions of "Black" so i have to say i like the way you clarified what YOU mean when you say "urban" ... which is actually correct. (smh at cats who love to change definitions).

* i'm loving the acts-modeled disciple-making and gospel-preaching emphasis. as someone who "grew up" in an urban church where culture and good works and everything was preached except the gospel, i know how critical such a foundation is.

* the transience of cities is really eye-opening. being an urbanite, i never even thought about that. but you're right. the innate influence of cities illuminates how, yes, it makes sense to plant in cities. things tend to trickle out of cities to other areas because of the natural transience of cities.

* contextualization: removing hindrances to the gospel. bangin. people have language, culture, presuppositions ... they're three-dimensional humans! precisely. they're not mere gospel-receptors. so contextualization is critical, as you emphasized, to basic communication. for someone who wants to be effective, that is. which also makes it critical that folks NOT assume (again, the all-too-common practice of making people two-dimensional stereotype-supporters) that a person's skin tone, gender, or economic status tells us even half the story. just because most poor whites live in rural areas doesn't mean that a well-dressed white guy in a city is wealthy. he could certainly be struggling economically, living with nine roommates, and nearly ready to quit his career pursuits! same thing with "gentrification." in DC, where we live, the majority of gentrifyers are upper and middle class blacks. so it would be misguided for an urban church-planter to assume that the blacks in the congregation are poverty-stricken just because the majority of the black poor live in cites as opposed to rural areas.

* "strategic about your team" ... bangin concept. making sure the people on the team have the economic/cultural/intellectual diversity that cities have ... as well as folks who don't have that for other illustrative purposes.

* indigenous leaders is another of many good points. ideally, discipleship will breed this. interesting how what's being said to foreign missionaries is relevant to domestic missionaries.

* i love when i see cats embedding IN communities. that "evangelism through the home" stuff, from what i hear, really works with deliberate believers who actually live in the communities they serve.

again, this was a blessing to hear. even though i'm not a "church planter" i'm thinking of ways to apply this stuff to my own life.

Jeremy and Marjorie said...


Really well done talk. I liked it a lot. One question:

You bagged on guitars and Indelible Grace in the urban context. I'm with you for the most part. You said that dudes don't get into SG music because it has no beat. Fine. Anthony Bradley told me the same thing. I'm still left hanging. I feel it is a bald critique without help to move forward. So here it is:

Do you have examples of theologically sound, urban appropriate worship music? Give it to me. We are revitalizing a church that is in a pocket of ridiculous diversity on Nashville's west side, desiring to play music for as many people as possible and finding nothing.

I dig The Commissioned and stuff like it, but the lyrics make me want to die. Anywhere you can point me? Thank you for all that you do. If you are still at CHBC in September I'd love to talk when I come out for the Weekender.