Lessons from Planting in an Urban Center
"There have been no SBC church plants attempted in Bellevue in over 30 years." "There is only one English speaking SBC church in the entire city of Bellevue." "Planting in Bellevue is planting 'upstream,' the impact you make here has the potential to impact the entire region, country, and the world." These were just a few of the statements that echoed in my heart and mind after my wife and I first began to prayerfully consider planting Essential Church in Bellevue, WA. We had initially dismissed the city because "It was too big and too expensive!" Yet, God broke our hearts for the reality that this is a city that MUST be reached with the gospel. Any person who desires to plant in an urban center should not proceed unless they share this overwhelming burden that is compelling them to go.Planting in an urban center is not easy. It presents a unique set of challenges to the church planter. The burden and the call are what keep the church planter going when things get tough. It must be acknowledged that this blog is not written by one who has conquered the city, but by one who is fighting for the city every day. Yet, in our time in Bellevue, God has taught us a few things about planting in an urban center that I believe will be helpful and effective for others in the future. Using the teachings and experiences of Jesus, I offer four biblical insights that will aid church planters who are serving in the urban context. 1. Be the Good Samaritan- Those that are the most open to the gospel are often the people who are most obviously hurting and least like you. Loving your neighbor, as Jesus commands, takes time, intentionality, and sacrifice. Many of the people that we have been able to reach in our short time here have been those who have found themselves at their lowest point when we stepped into their story. God has allowed us to reach a former drug dealer, alcoholic, and other hurting members of our community. 2. Reach one Leper, one Adulterer, and one Demoniac- In a city with over 82 languages represented in the school district, it is easy to get overwhelmed with how to reach our city for Christ. In studying Jesus' ministry in the gospels, we have discovered a unique church planting principle. Often times, Jesus would reach one person and then that one would reach their entire community. Reach one leper, and you reach the lepers. Reach one woman at the well and you reach a whole town. Reach one demoniac on the other side of the sea and reach an entire region. Tax collectors, fisherman, religious leaders, were all impacted by Jesus touching one in their community. We too must pray that Jesus would allow us to reach key people who represent our city and then set them loose to reach their community for Christ. 3. Inspire the Rich Young Ruler- The affluent have no need for our service or ministry. They are driven, materialistic, and very busy. When presented with the sacrificial call of the gospel, most will walk away. Yet, we see that in this "cause" conscious city, the affluent desire significance. Although most have not figured it out yet, something inside them is whispering "the world is not enough." If we are to reach the Rich Young Ruler's of our city, we must invite them to join us in ways that add significance to their lives. 4. Determine your Disciples- Every church plant must have a core group of disciples on whom Jesus can build his church. Jesus invested in a few over the course of 3 years before He left them to launch the church. You cannot build a church on a crowd, you must build it on a core. This takes time, patience, and intentionality as you seek out God's wisdom in discerning who to invest in as a leader in the early days. We should not seek to hurry this process as we prepare to launch a church in an unchurched culture. Fighting for the Gospel in an urban center is a daily battle with countless ups and downs. Yet, if we are to win our cities, our nation, and our world, we must continue to cling to the call that Christ has burdened us with. We must continue to see every person who enters into our path through Christ's eyes and pursue them with Christ's heart. As we see, strive, and serve in our city with a sustained effort, we will see the power of God transform our urban centers with the Gospel.Warren Mainard is a native of greater Seattle. His journey has taken him all over the United States, but it is his heart for the Pacific Northwest that has drawn him back to Bellevue. He and his wife Leah have been married for 15 years and have two beautiful children. Warren has a passion for young people, families, and those that feel like they are on the outside looking in. Warren's message is filled with hope and inspiration that a life devoted to Jesus is essential to joy, meaning, and purpose.