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Urban and Suburban
y suburban Chicago street was a field a decade ago. Deer and coyote sightings remain common. Still, my suburban existence has urban elements. My community, which bills itself as “the city in the suburbs,” has a casino and its own listing on the Urban Dictionary website. Nearly 44 percent of my city’s 108,000 residents identified themselves as Hispanic in the 2010 census, and English is a second language at some of the businesses I frequent. The line between urban and suburban is not always as clear as it looks on a map. Big cities and their suburbs (and rural areas) need Free Methodists who heed B.T. Roberts’ 1860 call to “maintain the Bible standard of Christianity, and to preach the Gospel to the poor.”
At General Conference 2011, delegates confirmed “our responsibilities and opportunities to those in the urban United States” while acknowledging “most of the urban areas of the U.S. present significant challenges to the Free Methodist Church.” This issue of Light & Life Magazine [LLM] explores these challenges and celebrates our urban members and leaders. We salute the Free Methodist Urban Fellowship, the African Heritage Network, the Latin Network (Red Latina), the Olive Branch Mission and other Free Methodists living out their faith among urban and Finley i Jeff Managing Editor suburban residents. [LLM]
EXTRA! EXTRA! Read more about urban ministry at llcomm.org 1] Do you use QR codes? Scan this box with your smartphone to read more articles on this issue’s theme. 2] Weeping Over the City
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” — John 1:4
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3] Stop the Language of Violence
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FM Pastor Michael Traylor writes about
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Ezequiel Alvarez Janeth Bustamante Joe Castillo Jennifer Flores Guillermo Flores
Bob Havens relates Luke 19:41–44 to his experience at an urban apartment complex.
Jeff Finley Erin Eckberg Michael Metts Dawn McIlvain Stahl Andrea Anibal Julie Innes Peter Shackelford Jason Archer Ben Weesies Joel Guzman Carmen Hosea Karen Kabandama Samuel Lopez Rodrigo Lozano, Coordinator
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BY FRED LYNCH
n any real city, you walk. You know? You brush past people. People bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something. – Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), “Crash” uuu
3 [feature] The 2004 movie “Crash” is a good tool to inspire dialogue about diversity, the realities within urban America and the struggles of its residents. Its description of Los Angeles has become the American norm. Our cities’ residents are touchresistant and desperately alone. Urban church leaders experience the irony of being alone in an overcrowded existence. We navigate in a civilization short on civility — multitudes of human beings not connecting with each other. Serving in such a high-risk atmosphere takes its toll on ministers as they learn how to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The danger lies within the synapse, before thoughts trans-
late into action. The power of the Holy Spirit is constantly needed to understand pain yet initiate wellness, identify a threat yet promote harmony, recognize the hustle yet walk in peace. I don’t know any leader called to the city who doesn’t instinctively want to escape the madness. At the same time, each leader compulsively seeks to discover the divine image of what God wants that city to become. This duality — this love-hate relationship — with the cities we serve reminds me of Paul’s confession in which he wishes he were “cursed and cut off from Christ” if it could help save his own people (Romans 9:3–4). I have often found myself putting my family and me in harm’s way to save my people. Risks have included moving into the hood, sending my children to public schools and doing life with people I’ve pledged to reach.
This isn’t a social experiment. This is my life, and I only get one chance at it. God has shown Himself in wonderful ways. I could share story after story of His providence and presence, but I sometimes experience challenges that seem like cracks in His plan. These difficulties cause me to wonder: Is it worth it? There is a reason that so many have left the urban wastelands for what they consider greener pastures. Not a day goes by that I don’t dream of greener pastures, but my dreams include the green spreading into the city and overtaking the worst areas.
SNOWY REVELATION Last winter, I found myself driving on a snowy day through one of the roughest parts of South Dallas. As I looked around, I was astonished at
[feature] 4 how beautiful the city appeared. The snow covered the dirty streets and the unkempt yards, and it gave me a view of what the city could look like. I thought of the statement in 1 Peter 4:8 that “love covers over a multitude of sins.” It hit me that God gives us brief glimpses of glorious possibilities if we lovingly commit to look into areas that need His love the most. If all of this that started in a garden (Genesis 2:8) will one day end up in a city (Revelation 21:10), then how do we recapture God’s definition of the city? In one of my favorite passages (Ezekiel 3:12–27), Ezekiel seemingly is sent against his will into a community of refugees, and God saves Israel by doing a transformational work in Ezekiel as well as through him.
INTO THE CITY If you really want to see God move, get where He’s needed the most. We must become incarnate in our mission or face the alternative: becoming irrelevant holders of religious artifacts. Ezekiel was lifted and taken somewhere he was dead set against going. The deciding factor was God’s hand on him (v.14). Like Ezekiel, I may not like where I am, but if God is with me, then I can make it! Let’s not forget that the One who called us is with us. His hand gets heavier the closer we get to where He’s taking us.
IN THE MOMENT Before Ezekiel could speak to the refugees, God made him temporarily “silent and unable to rebuke them” (v.26). Your presence —- being in the
moment with those you serve —- will far outshine your greatest sermon. In fact, your presence is the greatest sermon you’ll ever preach.
MADE A WATCHMAN The job of the church isn’t to police culture but to be a witness of God’s truth about culture. When God elevates us to the point where we watch over the souls of the people He loves, we don’t have to battle to be heard because His sheep will hear His voice in our voices. After time in the presence of the people, Ezekiel was granted the office of a watchman on a wall (v.16). When you become lifted up with insight among the people to whom you are called, God gives you the ability to see things from heaven’s perspective. This curious dynamic kicks in like
5 [feature] a special vision that enables you to see when others are blind. Watchmen don’t just watch. They also communicate. Share what you see with those who are blinded to God’s view.
EXPERIENCING LOSS Why can’t I win the lottery and be done with this daily bread? If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t be as able to connect with the people to whom God is sending me because they’ve never
won the lottery (although statistics show they finance it). The city is filled with few winners and far too many losers. As an urban church planter, I am well acquainted with loss. At times, I’ve even questioned if I’ve lost my mind for taking up such a risky venture. I am also aware of the greatest gifts of God’s strong hand (v.14) and whispers of what He’s going to do in the city. God wants you to experience a real city where you walk and brush
past people, people bump into you and you touch each other. You might even experience a crash and feel something. [LLM]
Pastor Fred Lynch is the director of urban mission for the River Conference and a Christian hip-hop pioneer who founded the group P.I.D. (Preachers in Disguise) in 1987.
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ere are some facts we cannot ignore. God does not wish any to miss the “very good” (Genesis 1:31) that He intends for all. No matter how it has been denied or in what way it is needed, God wants us to experience the very good. He relentlessly and constantly seeks those who are now missing it, so it can be offered to them, and they can find and enjoy it. Jesus — God present and at work on a search-and-redeem mission — explicitly describes the gospel as good news to the poor (Luke 4:18–20). Amazingly, poor people are the primary target group. I am relieved that others may find gracious inclusion, but these others are not the primary target group. Jesus’ focus on God lovingly and persistently seeking the well-being of all people, especially the poor, carries the story of our Scriptures forward toward the goal of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17). This story invites us to participate. Indeed, the call to follow Jesus is precisely the call to enter the ongoing Jesus story for the sake of all and, above all, the poor. We accept Jesus’ call today in a world rushing toward global urbanization. I will leave it to more qualified others to precisely define “global urbanization.” The church cannot wait for precise definitions, however. All over the world, the flow of people moves and mounts toward bigger, more complex and potentially more fruitful urban centers. In large geographic concentrations, we have streaming masses of people. Jesus died for all of them and, the greatest concentrations of these people suffer from the multiple forms of impoverishment that plague humankind. How can we not care about the city? How can we not marshal our presence, resources and energies to move right David i Bishop into the crosshairs of where Jesus’ mission aims? This is what Kendall the earliest church did. This is what happened as a result of To read more from the Reformation and other renewal movements in history. This Bishop Kendall, visit fmcusa.org/ is what the Methodists and early Free Methodists did. This is davidkendall. what we must do today. [LLM]
LIVE VISION CAST On August 26, sit down with the bishops at
for our next Vision Cast. The bishops will help us see where we’re going as a church and how we’re going to get there.
PLAN TO ATTEND
We’d love for you to join us, whether it’s your entire church, small group, family or just you and your computer.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION As we approach the Vision Cast, share your thoughts about the future of the church at facebook.com/fmcusa.
TALK TO US
After the event, use our Facebook page to tell us what you thought and share pictures of your church or small group watching the Vision Cast.
Reaching the City S C RI P T U R E :
BY E. KENNETH MARTIN
hether meeting in storefronts, public schools, libraries, hotels, coffee shops, theaters, warehouses or traditional sanctuaries, the urban church is as complex and creative as the city it is called to serve. As we look at today’s urban church, we must look at God’s Word for His direction to reach diverse neighborhoods and people. The message is the same, but reaching the city takes multiple methods — not a one-size-fits-all approach. Look at Jerusalem where Jesus wept over the city (Luke 13:34, 19:41). He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father “until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jerusalem — besieged, captured or destroyed, in whole or part — is the type of city to which the urban church has been called. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” King David wrote (Psalm 122:6). “Pray for the peace of our urban center” is the cry of our city congregations as they toil together day and night by the grace and wisdom of God to carry the light to dark places. The urban church must have a three-legged approach to ministering to the city. One leg is deeply rooted in message and purpose. Another leg stands for social holiness and is the community’s moral compass. The third leg is in the marketplace. The urban church must bring the light of Christ to corporate America. An effective, rapidly expanding and successful urban church works collaboratively as the body of Christ. An urban church member should be a doer (James 2:24) until every resident of every neighborhood hears and sees the wonderful works of God. [LLM]
Luke 19:41 Luke 24:49 Psalm 122:6 James 2:24
Browns Mill Church leases and has renovated a commercial building in downtown Newnan, Ga. q
E. Kenneth Martin, the pastor of New Vision Fellowship in Forestville, Md., serves the Free Methodist Church – USA as a Board of Administration member and as the denomination’s representative to the National Association of Evangelicals.
Kernels of Wheat in the Cities BY ANDREA ANIBAL
escribed as “queenly-looking,” Rachael Bradley hardly seemed a candidate for a mission that would take her to her grave as penniless as those she served in the slums of Chicago. But an experience with the Holy Spirit changed her completely. While teaching sewing to the poor in the Morgan Street FMC, Bradley began what would become Chicago’s oldest rescue mission — officially formed in 1876 with ministry dating to 1867. Despite predictions of failure, she found an old one-room hall on Wells Street and curtained off a living area. In 1891, Mary Everhart joined the ministry and nursed an ailing Bradley back to health. They relocated the mission, newly named Olive Branch, among the saloons and brothels of South Des Plaines Street. In a sooty landscape devoid of grass or trees, they offered the peace of Christ to residents of the newly industrialized city. Conditions took a toll on Bradley’s already-weakened body. Her soul left the city streets in 1893, but the Olive Branch and its mission of reclamation remain alive. More than a century later, Free Methodists in the Philippines grasped an opportunity to take the gospel to poor families living on a dump in Butuan City. In that treeless place, with its noxious gasses and hazardous waste, Pastora Tessie Chua began the Ahon Project to give children of the trash pickers a chance at new life. When she taught Pastor Willy Abrao’s class at Light & Life Bible College, he felt called to join the ministry. Abrao and Chua fed the malnourished, visited homes and preached the good news. In 2010, Abrao died of tuberculosis spurred by the conditions in which he worked. According to John 12:24, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Like Bradley’s Olive Branch, the Ahon Project continues to produce seeds in the city. [LLM]
p Rachael Bradley (Photo courtesy of Marston Memorial Historical Center)
For video of the Ahon Project, visit bit.ly/ ahonproject.
he challenges of urban ministry do not prevent the Foundry Escondido from reaching people in the San Diego area for Christ. “These are people that I see every day,” said George King, lead pastor of the Foundry. “Unfortunately, I see a lot of them making choices that are filling their lives with harm.” Escondido, Calif., is a diverse city of nearly 144,000 residents, of whom 49 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are of Asian descent, according to 2010 census data. Because the Foundry seeks to reach all of the people in its community, uuu
the city BY MICHAEL J. METTS
[action] 10 the Free Methodist congregation has developed partnerships with other congregations across cultural boundaries. “We’re just going to have to work through the differences of language, culture and concepts of time and success,” King said. Several of the Foundry’s Hispanic families have Spanish-speaking parents and bilingual children. King sought partnership with a Hispanic congregation to better serve these families and other Spanish-speaking people. “For them to grow and be discipled, they need to be somewhere where they can speak their own heart language,” he said.
Photo by Michael J. Metts
Kingdom Cooperation King soon realized the importance of cooperating with other ministries. In addition to partnering with the Hispanic congregation, the Foundry partners with Filipino and Arabic congregations in the San Diego area. “They’re reaching people that we’re not going to reach,” King said. Although the Filipino and Arabic congregations are Free Methodist, the Latino congregation is not. “Our main concern, first and foremost, is the kingdom of God and
seeing that kingdom expand,” he said. “I like the Free Methodist Church. I like our values. I like our vision. I like what we stand for. I like that we’re Wesleyan in our theology. But we’re not the kingdom.”
Adjust Expectations Because every culture has unique values and traditions, King has had to adjust his expectations of what ministry looks like. “I’m realizing that if we’re going to partner cross-culturally, it means a lot more hanging out, hearing one another’s stories, learning to laugh with each other, eat with each other, cry with each other,” he said. Last summer, the Foundry held a joint baptism service with its Arabic sister congregation; 18 people were baptized, half from each congregation, with songs alternating between Arabic and English. Although some Foundry attendees may be uncomfortable when they aren’t able to understand what’s going on in a service, King encourages them to celebrate the things they share. “There are certain things — and it doesn’t matter what culture, what race, what language, you name it — we share in common,” King said. As a church in an urban area, the
As a church in an urban area, the Foundry frequently serves people who are homeless, poor or struggling with addictions. Members step outside their comfort zones to make way for the moving of the Holy Spirit. Foundry frequently serves people who are homeless, poor or struggling with addictions. Members step outside their comfort zones to make way for the moving of the Holy Spirit. “When people that are different from us come, we feel like we can’t control To watch George King discuss the them,” King said. “We’ve Foundry’s urban just got to learn to be out of ministry, visit bit.ly/NCIkow. control.” [LLM]
Urban Fellowship President Shares Vision BY JEFF FINLEY
ree Methodist Urban Fellowship President B. Elliott Renfroe is putting out the welcome mat for people who want help responding to the needs of their communities. For nearly four decades, FMUF has served as a connection point for Free Methodists in metropolitan areas with its Continental Urban Exchange (CUE) conferences alternating between major cities across the nation. Renfroe believes many Free Methodists overlook the benefits of joining FMUF because they don’t see their congregations as urban, and they don’t realize how the fellowship could benefit them. “If people would recognize that they have urban issues within their churches and identify them that way, there would be more people who’d want to come to CUE,” said Renfroe. He cited drug use, homelessness and poverty as increasingly prevalent For video of in the “golden ghetto” of Renfroe and more information about suburbia. FMUF, visit “Teen pregnancy was at fmcusa.org/fmuf.
one time considered an inner-city problem,” added Renfroe during an interview at the North Central Conference’s annual conference where he was appointed the pastor of First FMC in Peoria, Ill. Renfroe said his vision for the congregation is “to Free Methodist Urban Fellowship (FMUF) President B. Elliott Renfroe get the church in To help more churches in volatile the community” and “to get the communities, Renfroe wants FMUF community in the church.” to sponsor four regional conferences Peoria has been called the testeach year in addition to CUE. market capital of the United States, Apart from conferences, FMUF and the local chamber of comprovides summer scholarships for merce’s website boasts of the comchurch interns and offers its memmunity’s “solid Midwest values.” bers resources, encouragement and But Renfroe said Peoria County prayer. [LLM] ranks in Illinois’ top five counties for sexually transmitted diseases among 15- to 24-year-olds. “I’m told of murders that have happened within walking distance of the church,” he said. “It’s a volatile community with a lot of needs.”
[news] 12 PASTOR IN 50TH YEAR AT CHURCH Freeport, Ill.
At its annual conference in June, the North Central Conference honored Pastor Lyle Babcock and his wife, Ruth, for 50 years of ministry at Richland FMC. Babcock founded three Free Methodist congregations in the Freeport, Ill., area and continues to lead Richland. “Lyle and Ruth have been serving God faithfully,” Superintendent Mark Adams said. “This is not a retirement.”
YARD SALE SUPPORTS SISTER CONNECTION McMinnville, Tenn.
The New South Conference Women’s Ministries International (WMI) raised money to support Sister Connection and build a home for a widow in Burundi. Bratcher’s Crossroads FMC held yard sales that raised $650 — $50 more than the cost of the home — and connected neighbors with the congregation. For more information, visit fmcusa.org/yourstory.
SALVATIONS AND BAPTISMS IN JAIL Albert Lea, Minn.
Pastor Federico Rivera of Iglesia Emmanuel has been ministering in a county jail for nine months and now visits the jail three times a week. In May alone, Rivera’s efforts led to 89 people accepting Jesus Christ, four being baptized and 99 reporting changes in their lives as a result of the ministry.
TOP BIBLE QUIZZERS AT SPU Seattle
The 2012 Bible Quiz Finals were held June 25–30 at Seattle Pacific University. The quizzers gave nearly $3,500 toward a new ICCM high school in Kenya. Individual final winners included Garrison Wright (young teen rookie), Kellyann Stackhouse (young teen veteran), Cayleigh Pracht (senior teen rookie) and Nathaniel Stout (senior teen veteran). For more results and information, visit fmquizzing.org.
The Rest of the Story Want to find indepth stories of remarkable Free Methodists? Visit fmcusa.org.
We want to hear from you! Tell us what your church is doing to impact lives in the United States and around the world. Submit your story at fmcusa.org/ yourstory.
FM Urban Ministry Goes Global
ig cities mean big ministry opportunities for the worldwide Free Methodist Church. According to Free Methodist World Missions’ “Mega Cities” Web page — fmcusa.org/fmwm/ mega-cities — Free Methodist ministry occurs in seven of the 10 largest global cities. The Free Methodist Church is present in 65 of the 140 urban agglomerations (contiguous urban zones) that have more than 3 million people. Dan Sheffield, the director of global and intercultural ministries for the Free Methodist Church in Canada, wrote that each global city has culturally diverse residents speaking multiple languages. Global cities also have a noticeable gap between the rich and the poor, and connect to other
global cities through trade, communication, transportation and family ties. The Free Methodist Church is thriving in places like São Paulo, Brazil, which has nearly 20 million inhabitants. “We currently have 49 Free Methodist churches just in the São Paulo metropolis,” Bishop Jose Ildo Mello wrote in the April–June issue of Free Methodist World Mission People, which addressed urban ministry around the world. Cairo, Egypt, has more than 20 Free Methodist congregations. The largest Free Methodist congregation in the Americas is an urban church, according to data compiled by Paul Olver and posted on the “Mega Cities” page. Chretien FMC in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has an average worship attendance of more than 2,000. Other urban congregations include the Barrio Obrero FMC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Normandia FMC in Bogota, Colombia, which average more than 500 and 400 worshipers respectively. “Thirty-seven cities in Spanish Latin America have a population more than 1 million; 18 of them have at least one Free Methodist church,” Olver wrote. “Every mission district or conference in Latin America includes at least one city of 1 million or more with at least one Free Methodist church.” [LLM]
t São Paulo, Brazil
To read the April– June issue of Free Methodist World Mission People, visit bit.ly/fmwmp.
Race and Church BY KATHERINE CALLAHAN-HOWELL
hen Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith wrote “Divided by Faith” (2000), they surveyed white evangelical America and discovered that many white Christians preserved the racial chasm. Emerson and Smith discerned that whites did not actively promote racism, but their emphasis on individualism, free will and personal relationships ignored society’s systemic problems that perpetuate racial inequality. White evangelicals believed racial problems could be solved by repentance and conversion. At that time, 93 percent of churches were racially homogenous. Our nation now has an African-American president, which leads many to believe that anyone can rise above race and circumstances. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap between whites and blacks has grown; in 2009, white households had a median net worth of $113,000 compared to $6,000 for black households. These disparities persist largely because of a lack of equity passed down through generations. If an urban church truly represents its neighborhood, it will likely include multiple races. Yet, according to Scott Williams’ “Church Diversity” (2011), 93 percent of churches are still homogenous. We cannot continue to be the church in the city without addressing the concerns of the city: racism, poverty, homelessness and addictions. Although personal salvation certainly addresses the problems of the individual, we must join black churches in working for systemic justice. The Indianapolis First FMC recently participated in a joint worship service with two other neighborhood churches to worship across racial and denominational lines. We could all learn from other churches in our neighborhoods what issues are pressing their members and how we could help. Look around and see where God leads you. [LLM]
Katherine Callahan-Howell is the pastor of Winton Community FMC in Cincinnati and a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.
p The Indianapolis First FMC holds a joint worship service with two other neighborhood churches to worship across racial and denominational lines. (Photo courtesy of Greg Coates)
GROUP DISCUSSION:  Does our church reflect our neighborhood?
 What is our church doing to promote justice?
Did you know a new discipleship article is posted to our website each week? The four monthly articles are perfect for use in your small group or as a weekly supplement to individual study.
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[resources] FMUF The Free Methodist Urban Fellowship provides networking, resources and encouragement: fmcusa.org/fmuf.
AFRICAN HERITAGE NETWORK FM pastors and leaders of African heritage connect for support and training: myahn.org.
Here’s help for urban ministry from fellow Free Methodists serving our nation’s cities.
“BAREFOOT CHURCH” Urban FM Pastor Brandon Hatmaker gives advice for “serving the least in a consumer culture”: bit.ly/barefootchurch. “BROADER VISION” Acts 12:24 Churches Superintendent David A. Harvey builds on the FM urban legacy: bit.ly/fmharvey.