By Jerry Harris
My favorite thing about publishing Christian Standard is how much I am learning. In just a few short months, I have been exposed to stories and ministries that have challenged and inspired me greatly. But this issue has wrecked me the most. A sidebar to one of the articles describes a tree in North St. Louis. I was there on a nearly 100-degree day to speak with Lucas Rouggly and his family while we took pictures for the magazine. When we returned to the car to head home, I faced some hard reflection.
For 19 years, I have served as lead pastor of The Crossing, a multisite megachurch with 10 locations in communities that range in population from 125 to 40,000. We minister in Midwestern small towns and micropolitan cities surrounded by a rural landscape. Prior to this, I served a church in a small town of 900 in west-central Indiana for 11 years. All that to say, I know and understand little about the urban church. Most of the independent Christian church megachurches are in suburban settings—many predominately white and upscale economically, so I don’t think I’m alone in this regard.
That’s why I think if I were a typical churchgoer who had been considering buying a Christian Standard, I would probably buy this one. David Johnson’s story at Harvest Pointe Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, reminded me of the power of a truly transformational God. It pushed me to find answers to hard questions. How might one do effective ministry in urban areas of intense diversity . . . where the very rich and very poor are separated by a couple of blocks? . . . where one might hear six different languages spoken during a short walk to get coffee? . . . where facility and parking issues are completely different than in other contexts, and can be far more overwhelming?
The stories in this issue are incredible! And just as incredible are the environments in which these stories take place and where great accomplishments are occurring! And if the goal of our movement is to grow this kingdom, where better to achieve this than among incredibly high concentrations of people? These urban areas are extremely diverse, and I am overwhelmed by how difficult and how much sacrifice is required to carry out ministry in them.
World missions was stressed at my Bible college; we were constantly encouraged to go or to send. I heard lots of lessons on the 10/40 Window and that churches should tithe, at least, to the foreign field. But I never fully grasped how many nations are represented in our major cities, and how little many of our churches actually do to take ground for Jesus in these cities. I have known of churches that have sold their property to move farther away from the urban sprawl rather than adjust to the people who were coming to them.
As you check out the stories this month, take time to reflect on the spiritual needs in our major cities, and prayerfully consider the special people called to serve in these contexts and the very real mission that lies immediately before us.