02 October, 2010

Hide it Under a Bushel: Where Are the Reformed Urban Churches?

We all remember the little song from when we were kids: "This little light of mine... I'm gonna let it shine..."

I am afraid that most Reformed Churches have decided to hide their light under a bushel. Recently, in a lunch meeting with a retired urban pastor, the description of Reformed churches "hiding under the covers" was used in regards to city ministry. Why is this so? Does not the Apostle Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4 that when the Gospel is hid it is hid to them that are lost? Do we really want to hide the Gospel from those who are lost? Isn't our calling to bring the Gospel to those who are lost?

Thomas Chalmers, the famous urban pastor of 19th century Scotland recorded that "during a period of 100 years while the population of Glasgow had more than quadrupled, only two new Church of Scotland city churches had been built."

Friends, we are no better in this country. Where are the city churches? Where are the church planters? Where are the men who will bring the Gospel to urban America? Are we a city on a hill, or are we content with hiding under the covers sharing the Gospel by flashlight?

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine.


Danny Hyde said...

I can only speak of my experience in the URCNA, but most of our recent church planting has been in actual downtowns or in large urban settings. My first interns, Mike Brown and Jody Lucero, are in Santee (east of San Diego) and downtown Des Moines. Recently I ordained another of my intern, Brian Cochran, who is a couple of blocks from in Province capital in Regina, Saskatchewan. And these are just my guys. We have other church plants as well (D.C., NYC, Sioux Falls).

So I'd say it's being down, although not fast enough. One major problem is money and bodies. Unless someone is going to give me $100,000+ a year for several years to send one of my guys to downtown San Diego to start from scratch, we need to go where people are forming and desiring what we have to offer. To send a guy to downtown San Diego with no core group, with no meeting place, etc. is costly and will take years and years...unless of course you're talking about starting up some entertainment-driven, phony soul-patched yuppie church.

NPE said...


Being a member of the RPCNA Home Mission Board, I understand the HIGH cost in dollars of church planting, especially in the city.

I also understand that we plant where core groups develop- and usually these are not in the sin stained cities, but in suburbia, where it is more comfortable. WIthout judgements on suburban living, we are missing out on the blessing of working in an urban setting. The history of my own denomination in this country (which is much older than this country), we have seen the escaping from the urban centers instead of building there. Example- we used to have a New York City Presbytery- now we have ZERO churches in NYC! Why is that? Because we fled instead ministering to the people that were there. There are countless examples of this in the cities of our country as well: Chicago, Portland, Denver, etc.

I will continue to pray that God would raise up core groups as well as men with a heart for the city. And thanks for sending your interns into the cities as well. :D

Mission Lawrence said...

Great point Nathan, the song brought back memories too!

It's difficult to plant a church that is God centered, where the worship is focused on honoring God and not just to entertain people!

As Rev. Hyde suggested, it does take money, lots of money, to get going. Even if the planter is "bivocational" (which allows for much less time for ministry), cost of rent/utilities for basic meeting place once one moves beyond the ability to meet in a home can still be considerable!