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  • Randy Nabors

Who is in, and where are we going?

We recognize that the Lord is moving in many places, in many congregations. We recognize that long before New City became a church there were folks committed to justice and mercy, committed to a church that was truly welcoming of people of different races, ethnicities, and languages. I grew up in a church that found itself becoming multi-ethnic and transitioned to be cross cultural. In the beginning of that church (Calvary Gospel Church of Newark, New Jersey), they were driven by a passion to be soul winners, to be evangelistic. They rejected an abandonment mentality found in many Evangelical churches in their city and instead of leaving the city they sought to win the people of the city, no matter what their color or culture. They did soul winning with a presumption that theirs was the correct Christian culture, they assumed that new disciples would assimilate to their worship and to the practices of the church which had brought them the Gospel. Frankly it could be said that they disdained what they saw in the traditional African American church, as well as disdaining what they saw in most white main line denominations. They eventually had to come to terms with historical and traditional racial and ethnic culture. We recognize that apart from us, from those who are in some way connected to the history of New City Fellowship, that many Christians have been bothered by the segregation of American churches and by the neglect of the poor in our country and around the world. The reason for this of course is that we are not the only ones who have the Bible. God’s concern for the afflicted, the poor, the widow and orphan are clearly there for all to read. Many believers through all ages have taken up the challenge and vision to be a City set on a hill that produces good works. Hallelujah, and may their tribe increase. We must be humble in our understanding of ourselves in the light of history, in the light of how large the Kingdom of God is, and how God has used many people in different kinds of ways to accomplish his will. However, we must sadly still observe that far too many of our churches in the United States are self absorbed, self indulgent, and self satisfied. We have earned a reputation of building churches that are all about ourselves; not about our neighborhoods, not about the culture (except to oppose it), nor about society. We are faced with a monumental missionary challenge in the United States and one reason it is monumental is the speed by which it is growing. We are gaining population, we are losing churches, and we are not replacing those churches fast enough to keep up with the population growth. Not only that but the demographics of change for our country are increasingly multi-ethnic and non-Anglo. Much of this growth is by immigration and by the birth rate of minorities. Some of these folks are increasingly from countries that are decidedly non or anti Christian. The present churches we have are overwhelmingly mono-ethnic and mono-cultural. The general population of Christians we have are trendy and shift according to programs, charisma of the leadership, need a sense of security and safety and struggle with the challenge of real commitment and loyalty to institutions. In short they are shallow and that in almost every part; theologically, culturally, and in character. I think the New City type of churches we are, and want to propagate, are uniquely equipped to meet this missionary challenge. In order to do that we will need to unite in some practical fashion to encourage, fund, and plant such churches. Most of our churches are overwhelmed with meeting the needs of the poor around us, while trying to build in terms of staff, facilities, and programming. It is a real step of sacrifice, (based on need, the call of Christ, and vision) to reach out singly or together to plant new churches. That is not new for the people of God and we must not shirk the challenge because it is difficult or overwhelming. Our churches are known for several things though they vary in intensity and style from congregation to congregation. They are committed to the city, to the poor, to being not only multi-ethnic but cross cultural, to preaching and living in the power of the Gospel and a grace enabled life, and to culturally relevant and joyful worship. They are committed to the development of ethnic and indigenous leadership and to outreach. We hope they will also be committed to missions that propagate more of such churches in cities all over the world. These churches are committed to a theology of reconciliation that is preached through and by the power of the cross, but is also a necessary by-product of taking the Gospel to the poor and by crossing ethnic and cultural lines. We understand that there are those who agree with us about the Gospel containing this theology of reconciliation but who do nothing to actualize it. We realize that there are those who attempt reconciliation without such a theology and have become cultural colonizers rather than true servants of the Gospel as Paul practiced and described in I Corinthians 9: 19-23. Our churches reject the idea that churches are legitimate in targeting a certain demographic while stepping over people who are different racially and culturally that live right next to them. If Jesus was commissioned to preach the Gospel to the poor what elevated us to the middle and upper classes? The so called Homogeneous Unit Principle is actually a Homogeneous Unit Observation. It is sociological but became a method resulting in an excuse for segregation. Am I being too harsh here? This does not mean that our churches fail to make a cultural choice in how they worship for that would be impossible. We are humans who live in culture, who speak in language, who respond in emotion to what grips our identity. It is just that we pursue the culture of the separated population. We seek to become like them, not demand that they culturally become part of us. This obviously takes a conscious attitude of servant-hood or sacrifice but leads to an enrichment of life and an expansion of community. Knowing that tribalism, ethnic cleansing, racial hatred, and division are rampant around the world we seek to plant our churches where the witness to the unifying, healing, love of Christ can be demonstrated. We want to increase the number of joyful worshiping communities that exhibit a spiritual Body and living stones that are being built together. We know that this exhibition is a miracle where God takes broken and hurting people who have legitimate reasons for hatred toward the people group represented by people worshiping next to them in the same building or place, and has them forgive each other, share with each other, listen to each other, and be willing to die for each other. These are the kind of churches we seek to have be part of this network. These are the kind of churches we want to plant.

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