URBAN OUTREACH & An Enthusiast.life means following Wesley into burgeoning urban areas with 3 things: good works, Good News & groups that foster goodness.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., February 6 2019.

Recent forecasts predict these 10 cities’ urban communities will grow exponentially in the next 15 years. John Wesley witnessed similar exponential growth in urban England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. He sought to help the displaced people of these communities have a faith community of their own. And, he sensed that such church planting began with meeting physical needs without asking anything in return. Simply by providing medical clinics, financial assistance, recovery programs, etc. he sought to demonstrate the Good News. As a result, people of faith could share how faith in Christ motivates and strengthens one to be sacrificial and charitable.

Read more in the book http://www.Enthusiast.life about Wesley’s radical approach to meeting needs as an introduction to an even better Good News. More information at http://www.enthusiast.life.

Then take a look at this forecast of worldwide urban growth. Then ask, “What is God calling you and your ministry to do to meet their needs?”

Image: Statista

CHURCH PLANTING & Least livable: 50 worst US cities to reside in. Time For #ChurchPlanters to step up to the challenge?

by Samuel Stebbens and Evan Comen, USA Today, 6/13/18.

…Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.

24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.

Read the list here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/06/13/50-worst-cities-to-live-in/35909271/

SOCIO-ECONOMICS & Research shows churches have grown weakest in communities that need them most: poor & working-class

Commentary by Professor B. In my books I advocate that growing and healthy churches will participate in the “3Rs of reconciliation” as put forth by John Perkins:

  • R-1 Reconciliation both spiritual and physical,
  • R-2 Relocation and as Robert Putnam points out in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,”
  • R-3 Redistribution of wealth should be on the agenda of healthy churches.

See my chapters/articles/interviews on this:

Still, I have grown tired and cynical at watching churches spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new sound and lighting systems to approximate a rock concert and “attract” a crowd when similar churches just a few miles away are struggling to stay open in lower social economic communities.

This article from The Washington Post highlights the research by Robert Putman which should be a warning to growing and healthy churches that Jesus admonition still holds today: “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much…” Luke 12:48.

Why so many empty church pews? Here’s what money, sex, divorce and TV are doing to American religion

By W. Bradford Wilcox, The Washington Post, 3/26/15.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

Courtesy of Robert Putnam, "Our Kids."
Courtesy of Robert Putnam, “Our Kids.”

In “Our Kids,” Putnam assigns much of the blame for the unraveling of America’s religious, communal and familial fabric to shift from an industrial to an information economy. The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources. The figure below, taken from Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay on men’s employment, shows that work dropped precipitously for men in the 1970s.

wilcox1.png&w=480
(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)

A key reason that working-class men are now less likely to attend church is that they cannot access the kind of stable, good-paying jobs that sustain a “decent” lifestyle and stable, married family life — two key ingredients associated with churchgoing in America.

Read more at … https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/03/26/why-so-many-empty-church-pews-heres-what-money-sex-divorce-and-tv-are-doing-to-american-religion

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

NEED-MEETING & How The MIX ministry is meeting Maslow’s Safety Needs for an urban community

Commentary by Dr Whitesel: Abraham Maslow said one of the most critical, yet overlooked, tasks is meeting “safety needs:” the need people have for a safe and secure environment. Read this article to see how one church, in a dangerous neighborhood, weekly opens its doors for a potluck and free courses to provide a safe and popular environment for local residents. Thanks to Great Commission Research Network president James Cho for passing this along.

After 2014 tragedy, why the MIX in Santa Ana is thriving as a free source of classes, meals and love

by Theresa Walker, The Orange County Register, 12/28/16.

It’s a Wednesday night at Newsong Church in Santa Ana, and the gathering known as The MIX is in full swing…

Pop into different rooms on the church’s 17th Street campus, and classes for children and adults are underway, including art, baking, martial arts, crochet, piano and guitar, robotics, and PiYo, a mix of Pilates and yoga.

There are classes in English as a second language for adults and homework help for students.

The MIX is meant to create a safe place for families that live in overcrowded and risky neighborhoods, where it’s unsafe to go out at night. It gives them a place to relax, let the children run around in the open air, connect with one another and improve their lives.

It’s all free, with classes taught by volunteers who include church congregants and members of the wider community. They range from white-collar professionals to someone like Hilda Colin, a mom who heard about The MIX from neighbors.

The meals are typically potluck…

The MIX, formally called The MIX Academy, is Lo’s ministry, and he sums up its purpose in one word: Love.

There’s no preaching, but Lo views what happens at The MIX in spiritual terms.

People might come at first for the free food but find other nourishment when they break bread together and share their stories, their dreams and their talents, he said.

“To me, that’s community transformation, when you can equip the community to teach the community,” Lo said, adding that most of the people who attend The MIX are from impoverished and underserved areas, such as the Willard Intermediate School neighborhood around the corner from the church.

He hopes to train others to start their own version of The MIX at a second location in the city, if a place becomes available.

Lo talks about children who spend so much of their lives indoors – most of the day in a classroom at school and then all evening cooped up inside at home – an overcrowded apartment or maybe just one room in a house, because their parents fear what might happen to them on the streets. Or there is no place for them to play outside. Or there is no money to pay for after-school activities…

On routine nights, the free meal is served from 6 to 7 p.m. Then two hour-long sessions of classes take place, one starting at 7 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m. The classes are listed on a big screen inside the dining hall.

The MIX is supported by a host of donors, local and national, that include Wells Fargo, Nike, Adobe software, Trader Joe’s, Dave & Busters, Obey Clothing and Bracken’s Kitchen…

Read more at … http://www.ocregister.com/2016/12/28/after-2014-tragedy-why-the-mix-in-santa-ana-is-thriving-as-a-free-source-of-classes-meals-and-love/

MUDRER & Not even a belief in heaven should quell our anger at murder

by Chris Granger, New Orleans Times-Picayune Newspaper, 1/25/17.

It’s understandable that people who’ve just had a loved one snatched away from them want to be comforted, want to believe that everything happens for a reason. It’s understandable that they don’t want to believe that awful things just happen. There’s a desire that we all have to squeeze some sort of meaning even out of the worst things that have happened to us. Talk of angels coming down to retrieve or loved ones can give somebody peace that all hope is not lost.

But we don’t need to make peace with these murders. We don’t need to reach the place where we can find some comfort in what’s been happening here. We need to refuse to be comforted. And understand that our refusal to accept these murders as normal and part of some divine plan has biblical support.

In 2009, the Rev. John Raphael gave the eulogy for 2-year-old Ja’Shaun Powell whose father slashed his throat to avoid paying child support. Raphael, who had witnessed a jazz funeral for the toddler the night before, told the people crowded inside New Hope Baptist Church, “I thought we started dancing a little too soon.”

Raphael, the preacher who put up “Thou Shalt Not Kill” signs around his Central City church is gone now, but the message from his eulogy is unfortunately evergreen. The book of Jeremiah describes Rachel, mother of two of Jacob’s sons, crying at the deaths of the children of Israel. Rachel refused to be comforted. For the most part, Raphael said, we refuse to be troubled. We refuse to even experience sorrow. We dance at second lines. We speak of angels swooping up our loved ones.

Let us mourn. Let us be angry. Let us be honest when we see evil and not attempt to make peace with its presence.

Read more at … http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/01/metairie_triple_shooting.html

SUBURBAN/URBAN DIVIDE & Why Church Leaders Must Start Building the BRIDGES of God Across this Growing Chasm

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Over the past decade I’ve been urging growing suburban churches to take more responsibility for helping their urban colleagues. And according to this article in Forbes magazine this may be more necessary after the recent election. Read about how polarization is growing in America – not between rural and urban, but between urban and suburban. Then if you lead or pastor a church in a suburban area, ask what you should be doing differently.

“It Wasn’t Rural ‘Hicks’ Who Elected Trump: The Suburbs Were — And Will Remain — The Real Battleground”

by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox, Forbes Magazine, 11/22/16.

…The popular notion of “city” and “country,” one progressive and “vibrant,” the other regressive and dying, misses the basic geographic point: the largest metropolitan constituency in the country, far larger than the celebrated, and deeply class-divided core cities, is the increasingly diverse suburbs. Trump won suburbia by a significant five percentage point margin nationally, improving on Romney’s two-point edge, and by more outside the coastal regions.

Despite the blue urbanist cant that dense metro areas — inevitably labelled “vibrant” — are the future, in fact, core cities are growing at a slower pace than their more spread out suburbs and exurbs, which will these edge areas even more important politically and economically in the coming decade. The states that voted for Trump enjoyed net domestic migration of 1.45 million from 2010 to 2015, naturally drawn from the states that were won by Hillary Clinton. Democrat-leaning ethnic groups, like Hispanics, are expanding rapidly, but Americans are moving in every greater numbers to the more conservative geographies of the Sun Belt, the suburbs and exurbs…

Read more at … http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2016/11/22/donald-trump-clinton-rural-suburbs/#6ce23da3690c

MULTIPLICATION & The Problematic ‘Creative Class’: When a Generation of Church Planters Only Reach White People

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my book “The Healthy Church” I describe five models of multicultural churches and show how two of the models are better than all others at breaking down racial walls and creating physical, as well as spiritual reconciliation. Readers often ask me if this is really necessary. And, I believe it is based upon the reasons cited in this important article.

The Problematic ‘Creative Class’: When a Generation of Church Planters Only Reach White People

Written by Doug Paul, Missio Alliance, on January 26, 2016

So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scholar Stephen Hayes has long noted that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time in America. There are many reasons for this, most of which I will not delve into in this post. Instead, I want to explore one, perhaps hidden force that may be perpetuating this trend.

Closing in on 10 years ago, my wife and I, along with some close friends and a few pie-in-the-sky ideas, started the process of planting a church.

Around this time, a book came out of nowhere, capturing the imagination of America and finding a spot on the New York Times best seller list: The Rise of the Creative Class (by Richard Florida).

In a nutshell:

This book quickly achieved classic status for its identification of forces then only beginning to reshape our economy, geography, and workplace. Weaving story-telling with original research, Richard Florida identified a fundamental shift linking a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing importance of creativity in people’s work lives and the emergence of a class of people unified by their engagement in creative work. Millions of us were beginning to work and live much as creative types like artists and scientists always had, Florida observed, and this Creative Class was determining how the workplace was organized, what companies would prosper or go bankrupt, and even which cities would thrive. –Description of the newly revised and expanded The Rise of the Creative Class

Not only was this book a best seller, but it changed the way people started talking about vocational desire. This was injected straight into church planting conversations in ways that went something like this: “What if we had churches that reached the creative class? After all, these will be the people who are shaping culture!”

The missiological question that came to dominate these conversations was essentially, “What if church (in structure, in practice and in ethos), was built to reach this cooler-than-thou group of culture makers that so many suburbanites aspirational?”

Seemingly overnight, church plant after church plant after church plant popped up…all looking somewhat similar taking their cues from the concept of reaching the”creative class.” It would be difficult to describe the impact of this book on church planting in the last decade. Not just the church planting world…but our country as a whole.

In fact…it’s gone mainstream. Today, the core principles planted with these concepts have born the fruit that is lovingly, ironically, and sardonically called Hipster Church (a purposeful over-generalization). And Hipster Church? Well…it’s everywhere in church plants. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve visited such a church. You might even be part of one.

But there was one thing that always seemed to be missing in the description of this creative class. Yes, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Yes, they like flexibility in workspace and dress. Yes, they want to tap into and blend all of the various creative avenues in their life. (I could go on with these descriptions.)

But the one unspoken?

The creative class is disproportionately WHITE.

Because of the racialization of America, the vast majority of people who have access to the experiences one would need to become a part of this class means that most of these people are:

Disproportionately affluent
-1 in 3 earn over $100,000 per year, 9% earn over $150,000
-48% are members of what is called “the Investor Class”

Disproportionately educated
-Over half have college degrees (compared to 30% nationally)

And disproportionately white
-65%, according to Forbes, but I think this is significantly off (but is still 2/3rds!)

Just so I am 100% clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t loads of creative voices who are minority voices. Rather – and this is how race and class come together in a subtle way – the sociological distinction known as the “creative class” means things that include economic realities and educational realities. And study after study shows that white people have more access to these opportunities than anyone else.

So it’s not, “Who is creative?” It’s about who fits the sociological description of “creative class.”

Now, I’m not going to spend lots of time proving the point above. Chances are, if you don’t believe the creative class is mostly white, and the ability to access the creative class is far easier if you’re white, even if I try to prove the point, I doubt you’ll agree with what I’m saying. So no need to take up any more space. 😉

So herein lies the problem: What happens when a generation of church planters buy into a core concept that, almost by nature, is seeking to reach one group of people? White people.

If you’re not white and you walk into one of these churches, even though they are trying to reach the “creative class,” my sneaking suspicion is that it still feels distinctly white. And if you’re a minority voice in America, something that feels white doesn’t tend to feel safe.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/the-problematic-creative-class-when-a-generation-of-church-planters-only-reached-white-people/