“It’s tough work. It’s hard soil. I don’t think the average person outside the city understands how difficult it really is here.”
Kurt Miller is the director of strategic partnerships for Metro Grace—a church planting agency to urban North America with a primary focus on Philadelphia (Dr. Jim Brown, founder and executive director).
Metro Grace and other ministries in urban areas face many challenges in developing churches among people who often live in poverty and who are surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and violence. “The Enemy has well-established strongholds here in the city,” explained Miller. “And we’re fighting a very secular, non-biblical worldview.”
Additionally, the ethnic diversity of Philadelphia is enormous, presenting obvious cultural and linguistic challenges but amazing opportunities to impact the nations.
Metro Grace tackles all of these challenges head-on with prayer and, by what Miller terms, “deeds of righteousness” or loving people by meeting their community needs.
“If you’re really going to impact a neighborhood, you need to be practicing righteous deeds, or they don’t hear your message,” he explained. “And we as pastors and elders of the church have to equip the people in the church to be able to do the things that the community needs. We are very intentional about starting churches that are gospel-centered and community-based.
“This is a real challenge. We work hard at equipping new believers to assume responsibility for the needs of their neighbors and their respective neighborhood. This can be difficult, especially among the poor; but you can’t separate righteous deeds from the gospel message. That’s a big part of the ministry for our churches. It is discipleship of the whole person . . . it’s not just teaching them the Bible.”
Metro Grace welcomes short-term mission teams, allowing people the opportunity to minister within their churches and communities. However, they are careful to maintain a ministry balance, being sensitive to the fact that too much “give” from privileged churches can create a dependency that hurts urban communities in the long run.
“We don’t want to do things that make people from outside the city feel good but ultimately hurt the people in the city,” Miller noted. “We’re really trying to help these people help themselves, and for that reason we probably don’t get the exposure that other groups might get because we’re not out soliciting that much.”
In the long-term, Miller hopes to see church planting take off in Philadelphia, finding people who are passionate about investing their time into planting churches in urban areas.
“My hope is that the number of people wanting to plant churches in Philadelphia gets almost out of hand—where we can’t plant churches fast enough! We hope to find many people who sense God pulling at their hearts to come serve on a church-planting team.”
To find out how you can pray for, support or join the Metro Grace team, visit metrograce.org.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information about ministries in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.