10 truths I wish every inner city congregation knew

that's the look
that’s the look

Whenever I tell people that I am pastor of an inner city church, that I enjoy it, and that I wanted to go there people often look at me with a very confused look. What really gets me is that I get this confused look from pastors and members of inner city churches as much as I get it from other people out in the world. Now I am not typically in the habit of explaining myself, but here are ten truths I have found in the inner city:


1. The city is a blessing – No you should not have left, no the city is not a bad thing, and yes the city is one of your greatest opportunities.

2. Just because you are a small, weird, shrinking, or budget challenged congregation does not mean you have failed – your congregation’s challenges might very well be caused by your own sins along the way, but do not assume that a shrinking attendance means failure. Remember – it’s not about you.

3. Sometimes the only thing you can do is pray “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus” – I want you to look at me and repeat these words “I am not Jesus.” Look, there are huge economic and social challenges that the inner city faces. However, it can be freeing to know that you are not the savior of the world; you worship and serve the savior of the world.

4. God already loves your neighbors – Your neighbors are not problems to be solved. Your neighborhood is not a problem to be solved. They are people and places that are loved by God.

5. Liturgical worship and inner city ministry are not contradictory – Look at the history of the Oxford movement (aka the high church movement in the Anglican church). It really took root in the slums of London

6. Being a truly multicultural church is hard work – church publications tend to romanticize the multicultural church. The truth of the matter is that a multicultural church is actually a very difficult thing. It requires constant communication, open and frank discussion, and practically guarantees that along the way someone will get mad. It is totally worth it, but a very easy road to walk down.

7. Many traditional things about Church still work, they just need to be adapted – Being a church in the inner city doesn’t mean everything has to be burned to the ground. Many “normal Church” programs and events can still work, but you do have to be willing to adapt them. 

8. Age is not a factor – I hear this comment in almost every church I have ever been in: “well… we are an older church.” I’m sorry to say this, but that is irrelevant. Abraham had a kid at a 100, Moses was 80 when he went to go see Pharaoh, and on the other end of the spectrum Jeremiah complained that he was too young. God didn’t really care in all those cases. The short and sweet of it all is this: you are never too young for God’s call and you never get to retire from God’s work.

9. Admitting you are tired is OK – I hear this comment a lot too (often with a lot of shame): “we are just tired.” Don’t be ashamed of that. Plenty of prophets and honest people of God have been tired before. I get that. That doesn’t give you an excuse to stop doing God’s work, but it is the noble right of the people of God to admit that the work is hard.

10. There is no pattern or formula to follow – the church growth movement if founded on the belief that there is a set formula that you can follow in order to achieve success (which means attendance growth). I’m sorry to say this, but there is no formula for inner city churches, there is no pattern that people can give you, and attendance growth does not mean success.


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