Americans overall are losing interests in the church. Millennials are especially aloof from the church. The Barna Group reports that only 16% of all practicing Christians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are millennials. Inner-city residents are another group that has dismissed the church. This troubling trend should concern American church leaders.
We must develop new methods to reconcile these people to Christ. This blog offers a few suggestions to do so. We’re using these techniques to plant Saltmakers Church in Dallas’ poorest inner-city.
Taking the Kingdom of God to the inner-city has been my great passion for many years. My heart breaks when I hear of the poverty, crime, fatherlessness and much more that plague inner cities. The Kingdom of God is the only hope for inner-cities. Yet, most black churches are missing in action (MIA).
Enough lamenting the problem. The question is how can black churches take the Kingdom of God to inner-cities? Here are my suggestions.
Adopt a missional mindset
A missional mindset is a post-modern approach to ministry that views churches as the agents that God “sends” to the world. Send is the operative word. Repeatedly in the New Testament Jesus “sent” His church to reach unbelievers. Likewise, the Holy Spirit sent out the church in the Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles. Sending the church to reach unbelievers is important to the cause of Christ. We cannot reach unbelievers unless we exit our church buildings and go after them. As we enter their world, Jesus will confirm His word with signs, wonders, healings, and revival.
Develop a Kingdom Agenda
A kingdom agenda is a set of priorities that focus on taking the Kingdom of God to unbelievers, rather than building our personal agendas. Black ministers are notoriously obsessed with fancy titles, which I believe is counterproductive. Fancy titles mean nothing to unbelievers and might isolate them. They will respond, however, to churches with a kingdom agenda.
Preach relevant life-giving sermons
Our sermons must be relevant and applicable to inner-city issues. Irrelevant and inapplicable sermons will cause inner-city residents to look elsewhere for solutions. Our sermons must produce life, love, and liberty. Our sermons should speak truth to power prophetically and seek justice whenever injustice prevails. The Nation of Islam has built credibility in inner-cities because churches are silent about inner-city issues. I declare, not anymore.
Update our methods
The average black church desperately must update its methods such as its worship service, outreach, messaging, and so forth. Our methods are based on a fifty-year-old model. Black churches are either very boring or too emotional. Most are wedded to traditions because old-school church members are selfish and fail to understand that new methods are needed to reach the youth. They forget secular artists like Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars will lead their families to hell unless churches update their methods. We can change our methods without compromising our message.
Jesus and Paul set an example of servanthood. In contrast, many ministers want to be served like celebrities. They lack the heart of a servant. They consider it beneath them to enter a dirty, filthy, blighted inner-city neighborhood and pick up trash, feed the homeless, hug a smelly person or ride a filthy person in their Benz, BMW, Cadillac or Bentley. They differ greatly from the Good Samaritan that Jesus celebrated in the Scriptures. Let’s become as Paul who said:
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever.” 1 Corinthians 9:19
In closing, let me briefly share the story of the Timex watch company. It was once a great American success story. It created the watch industry and dominated it for decades. Timex watches were the envy of the industry. However, Timex lost huge market share because it failed to innovate or redesign its watches. It failed to adapt to changing times.
The black church could learn from Timex. We too face becoming a relic of the past. Our old church models have lost appeal with the future generation. It is time for massive innovation and redesign of the black church from top to bottom. Church leaders act now before time expires for another lost soul.