My list may seem too long at this point. I spend a fair amount of time pondering the question I hear so often from church leaders, "How can we help?"
So, the list goes on.
6) Understand the role of the church to be, at least in part, a challenge to the dominant culture.
People left the city for many reasons--economics, racism, crime, suburban sprawl, jobs, freeway development, etc. It is one thing to leave and quite another to forget altogether.
Face it. Our culture deifies the individual to the detriment of any viable sense of community. What's best for me is what I should do. What's best for the church and its growth is best for all.
Not so fast. Greed, materialism, selfishness, inequity in social policy, profit without morality--these forces need to be called to account by the church and its message, but even more by its lifestyle. A secondary outcome of a church's decision to challenge the dominant culture is a growing concern for people in need and, thus, for the city itself.
7) Redefine and broaden the church's understanding of morality and values.
This one can become a bit controversial. The struggle required here is essential.
The church today, especially among Evangelicals, seems preoccupied with right to life issues and homosexuality. Any biblical understanding of morality, any relevant discussion of values must be broader than this.
Urban value struggles involve equal opportunity to acquire fit and affordable housing. Access to healthcare and the quality of life this access provides is a moral matter. Quality education for children, no matter where they live, is a matter of civic morality. Overcoming hunger in the city, providing employment opportunities that deliver a livable wage, equal access to fair and impartial hearings in our courts of law--these are all matters for the values discussion that occupies a lot of time among church people. Scripture study will more than support this contention.
8) When coming to the inner city, don't assume that everyone is "lost" and in need of your gospel.
This may sound strange to some. The fact is, most, no, not most--the vast majority of the urban poor are believers--in God as a supreme being and in Jesus as the Messiah. The vast majority consider themselves to be Christians.
Entering the neighborhood as "saviors" almost always proves to be counter productive to say the least.
Come as friends. Come open to learning and new experiences. Come to receive as much as to share.
Come to engage in new relationships that could be long-term if taken seriously.
Sorry, but there is a bit more to come. . .should churches pay taxes???