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URBAN CHURCH PLANTER PROTO-TYPE

If I could pick the kind of man I would want to come and be a church planter in the inner city, how would I describe him, what would he be like? My wife and I often say if we had been assessed before we began to plant a church in Chattanooga many years ago we probably would have been rejected. There were so many issues in our lives, so much baggage from our backgrounds in growing up in the projects of Newark, NJ, and a lot of immaturity. I hope we can say with all integrity that God used us anyway, in spite of our weakness and even our sinfulness. I pose this question not because I think there are any perfect people, and nor do I think the “perfect” would necessarily apply for this kind of calling or assignment from God. I pose it to articulate the challenge of what kind of character, gifts, and skills could make someone more effective. Having gone through it I believe we would still have to admit that God can make a jackass talk, and make the stones praise him if no one else will. 1. A man desperate for God, who seeks to be close to Jesus, who loves Christ and is forever mindful of his dependency on the power of the Holy Spirit, the washing of the blood, the finality of the cross, and the power and hope of the empty tomb. 2. A man of humility, who is able to learn from those who are already in his community; who listens to them, who receives them into his home, his time, and his friendship. A man who can be trusted as a friend. 3. A man who loves his city, who sees its promise and its delight, who yearns for its success. A man who can see the potential in grit, toughness, and the people who come from a hardscrabble past. 4. A man who understands grace, and what it can do for someone who seemed to have no chance at all. A man who believes not just in second chances but in seventy times seven of them. A gracious man who gives grace especially to those who seem to offer no benefit to him, or who oppose him. 5. A man who spends time with the poor, who loves them, who speaks to them with respect, who thinks, prays, and studies how he can help them without hurting them. A man who delivers mercy to them, who leverages their own resources with them, who engages them in ministry alongside him. 6. A man who loves boys and girls, who delights in the children of the community, who understands and knows they can have faith, and is willing to stay in ministry with them as they grow up. 7. A man who is angry all the time; at injustice, at poverty, at racism, at ignorance, at violence. A man who prays against evil, seeks to right wrongs, stands up for the helpless and weak, but does it with wisdom, faith, and an ability to not lose his love for persons. 8. A man who challenges those with money and resources to be radical in their faith, to not live for themselves but for him who died for them and gave himself for them. A man who prophetically calls on the rich to be rich in good works, sacrificial in their giving for ministry to the poor. A man who loves rich people without sucking up to them and refuses to manipulate them for his own enrichment. 9. A man who is innovative, entrepreneurial, energetic in his networking to create social and economic solutions to the poverty that surrounds him. A man who can see economic and vocational solutions without surrendering himself to the idolatry of materialism. 10. A man with a wife who is with him in the mission. A wife whose face reflects the reality of his love for her as they pursue their joint calling. A man who wins the battle to balance his passion for ministry with a passion for her, who is present for his children, and engages them in the ideological struggle of justice without bitterness. 11. A man who humbles himself to learn cross cultural skills and pursues relationships across racial, ethnic, and linguistic boundaries. A man who listens to the voice of the people, refuses to be their messiah but points them to the real One, who seeks their advancement and does not use them for his, who feels their cause, their hurt, their hopes, and celebrates with them in their joys. 12. A man who loves the Church of Jesus Christ, who will not abandon it for seemingly quick or pragmatic solutions. Who is willing to endure ambiguity in the twilight of waiting for movement and growth; in the newly converted, from the congregation, help from outside, or change in the city. A man who has joy in the worship of God’s people, and sees it as the fountain of hope for those engaged in the struggle of life and justice.

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