My last post talked about my shift from large ministry to more organic and one-on-one disciple-making. This has always been my preference, but I didn’t know it or know that it was anything other than just plain friendship. But I believe friendship ministry is what you see with Jesus as he is walking around with his disciples, especially the twelve. They are camping, talking, eating, chilling at Mark’s mom’s house. They are friends. Jesus even says later that he is going to lay down his life for his friends.
For the past few months I have been working with Elevate Detroit looking to create friendships and build up Christ-centered communities in Southeast Michigan. Elevate empowers local congregations to host barbecues in their neighborhoods, which allows us to connect people with faith communities that are local to them. This creates friendships not only between people and churches, but churches with other churches and neighbors with neighbors. Some of these barbecues are weekly, some are monthly, all have the same purpose.
Recently I have been thinking about what else we can be doing to build up neighborhoods for Christ. The barbecues are a great start, but are still one event a week or a month. Of course the hope is that the faith communities will be able to follow-up and be more present, and they are all doing that to varying degrees. But, I have been pondering going deeper.
The truth is that the best way to be a constant presence in a neighborhood is to be constantly present in the neighborhood. In other words, move in. This was one of the early things that Dan Sadlier taught me was that being present was one of the best ways to be present. Moving into a community and opening your life to your neighbors can be a very effective way to minister, and if you’re as interpersonal as I am and believe in the power of friendships, it is the best way to minister.
That being the case, three friends and I are in the process of buying a house in Pontiac, Michigan and moving there to begin an intentional community and house church. We are in the later stages of writing our organizational proposal, getting nonprofit status and getting together our board of directors.
Our hope is that we can move into the neighborhood, get to know its strengths and weaknesses, be great neighbors and build up what we can while celebrating the things it is already good at.
We chose Pontiac for many reasons that I will post about later, but I will summarize with a few bullet points:
- It’s a city in trouble. The city is bankrupt. Crime is high. High school drop-out rates are 50%. Property values are down. Jobs are leaving. This gives us opportunities to come and become part of the city-scape and plug-in to many different places. I hope to be a teacher. One friend wants to really work hard on community gardens to feed people healthy food for free. One friend is excited to play with kids all day who are home alone because their parents can’t afford daycare.
- It’s a city with history. Pontiac used to be a thriving community with several large manufacturing plants. Business was booming. The city was growing. They were a city with a lot of pride. This is a city with some pride and swagger about its history. That is something that can be used to help it become better again.
- It has possibility for renewal. Pontiac, though down-and-out right now still has potential. There is still a desire in the people for the city to come back and a drive for that from within and outside the community. Pontiac is a city of 60,000 people, located in close proximity to two well off suburbs (Troy and Rochester) who have an interest in revitalization. Unlike Detroit which is looked at as a 700,000 person ghetto 30 miles away, Pontiac has the support of the communities around it. This will make it easier to leverage the support of our friends in those cities to pour out love and resources into Pontiac.
- There is already so much going on there. We are not reinventing the wheel. We are not four white kids coming to save the day. We are merely coming to be a permanent presence and help the organizations that are already there. Already we have spent time listening to leaders of great initiatives from Kensington Community Church- Orion, Grace Centers of Hope, the International Church of Christ and others. We are merely coming to throw out hat in with the others who are doing the work of Jesus in this city.
So there it is. That’s where we are going and what we are hoping to do. All this week I will be posting more details about what we are doing and where we are going. This is a huge step for all of us. Please keep informed about what we are doing as I keep posting things about the move and the mission.