We have a guest today, Dr Dale Meyer is the President of Concordia Seminary in St Louis, Mo. He was the president there will I studied for my Masters of Divinity degree and I understand that he suffered some minor trauma as the result of my being time there, sorry Dr Meyer. He’s a tough guy, he handled it. Dr Meyer writes a daily commentary, that you can subscribe to, he has great insights. Today’s particularly hit home with me. I am very much about inner-city ministry and blogged on it in the past, in particular my admiration for Rev Tom Wildner down in Baltimore, Md. Dr Meyer’s commentary today is about the church and ministry in the city:
“Meyer Minute for August 14
Over the decades my denomination pretty much abandoned the major metropolitan areas of the United States. We weren’t alone, other denominations moved out too, and for very understandable reasons. So this isn’t about blame. People seek good and safe places to live.
The real city is a strange place. Oh, I can handle myself quite well walking on Broadway in New York or Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and so can you. But what about living in Harlem or Chicago’s south side, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” territory? Fear in the city is definitely not “false evidence appearing real.” The real city is strange, a foreign, foreboding place to many of us.
“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” asked the psalmist when he and his people were exiled in Babylon (Psalm 137:4). From suburbs and small towns, we look at the city… People who didn’t move out watch their churches decline or close… And if we care, that’s a big if, if we care, we feel alienated from the city life of decades ago. For many of us, being in the real city is being in exile.
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) The early growth of Christianity was through the great urban centers of the Mediterranean region. There are some stirrings among church people to get back into the city, voluntary exile, because God wants His Church where the masses are. Jesus saw “a great crowd and he had compassion on them.” (Mark 6:34) I don’t know about you, but this makes me uncomfortable sitting in my cushy suburban church pew.”
I, Jim Driskell, am the pastor of a great old church in a smallish size city, but with definite inner city problems, just smaller scale. I frankly feel very strongly about these great old churches that were built to the glory of God vs a lot of churches today that were built more for pleasing man. The church certainly has a ministry, we have tried to do a lot of work to provide for our neighbors. But frankly there is a lot of need around us and by virtue of the “urban retreat”, churches like First St Johns, are pretty short in resources. We have a great congregation that really sacrifices and scrounges, but certainly could use more support. I tell have told people many times, if they want to do real ministry, they will get it here at a church like First St Johns. It’s interesting that Dr Meyer’s commentary comes out after Reggie McNeal’s presentation. Pastor McNeal is certainly calling for the suburban church to get serious about ministry. Churches like First St Johns are very visible symbols of the Kingdom in the middle of cities. They should be preserved and built up in terms of support from serious brothers and sisters in Christ.