Partner over Planting

How long does it take to build trust? How long does it take to understand the culture of a block? A neighborhood? A city? These are some of the more pressing questions that must be asked when starting a new church. From personal experience, I can tell you the answer. It’s longer than you’d think or prefer!

In an effort to build trust on my block, I plowed all the snow all winter. I wanted to demonstrate with my actions what I had communicated with my words – our new church was here to serve! I thought it went great. Every time it snowed, I rushed to my snow blower to make sure I got to everyone’s sidewalk before they even knew what hit ‘em. Folks came home after a long day of work to a clean sidewalk. They must have felt cared for. And I for sure felt like a snow covered hero. Until spring.  

When our winter hibernation ended and the neighbors finally came out of their caves, I was able to talk to Alphonso, who I hadn’t seen in months. I said something to the effect of, “it’s great to see you. Feels like it’s been forever!” To which he replied, “yeah, normally all the neighbors come out and chat during the big snow storms while we all shovel together. But this year, someone plowed the snow every time.” Gulp. I messed this one up!

Do you know who wouldn’t have made that same mistake? Someone who knew the culture. This is one small, goofy example, but it helps to illustrate why we should prioritize partnering with existing churches in under resourced areas. Many churches in tough places already have trust and credibility built in their neighborhoods – and they understand the culture. Because they are the culture. They intuitively and experientially understand what the real issues are that need to be confronted – and what the real strengths are that need to be built off.  

“We are praying that we might have the privilege of learning from them and serving with them. “

How much more effective will it be for us to partner with under resourced, gospel-centered churches in tough areas than starting new churches in tough neighborhoods? It may take more time to build relationships with these churches than it would to identify a church planter, but it will take those churches far less time to make an impact in their neighborhoods than a new church would.  

We are asking God to give us the grace to partner with faithful, Bible believing, gospel centered churches in under resourced areas. We are praying that we might have the privilege of learning from them and serving with them. We are begging God to let us watch Him transform this city from the inside out – as we serve WITH existing churches.   

Time to Wake Up

We are going to pursue a dream, that to my knowledge, has never been pursued. At least, not to the extent, depth, or length that we are considering. This may be foolish. It may be dangerous. It will certainly be challenging and exhausting. But there is a sleeping giant out there, and if she woke up, she would trash the gates of hell that occupy our city. Our dream, our prayer, is to see God revive existing churches in Milwaukee.

We believe that the local church is the hope of the world because the church has been entrusted with the message that brings eternal hope to all people – the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the gospel creates a new person, and new people form new communities that are committed to speaking and displaying the gospel in their communities, those communities will be adorned with hope and healing.  

Many of the depressed and under resourced neighborhoods in our city are being sustained by the flickering flames of hope provided by small and faithful churches. These churches tend to be made up of people who live in the neighborhood and are led by a pastor who must work at least one outside job in order to serve the church as a pastor. There are many reasons for this situation including the size of the congregation. But more pressing is the reality that a church of people who live in a zip code where the average income is less than $24,000 a year, as faithful and generous as they may be, simply cannot afford to give enough to support a pastor’s salary.  

Still, these pastors and churches provide a tremendous value to their communities. They are the shelter scared people turn to when another body hits the ground. They are the rock desperate people turn to when they can’t afford their next meal. They are the light that overwhelmed people turn to when they need to know there’s still hope.

“the church has been entrusted with the message that brings eternal hope to all people – the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

They are the ones we need to learn from. They are the ones we need to partner with. As we pursue this dream, I want to make sure that our hearts are in the right place. Our intention is not to offer support to “those poor people.” We intend to partner with and learn from them. Can you imagine how beautiful this could be? Can you imagine how much we could learn about faith and trust, community and service?  

And if many of these under resourced churches have sustained their neighborhoods while their pastors have worked multiple jobs outside of their community, can you imagine what God might do through them if they were even just appropriately resourced?  

Church, it’s time to wake up the sleeping giant, kick over the gates of hell, and watch God build His Kingdom and bring hope and healing to this world – and glory to His Name!