Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Email to the New City Church Core Team

Here's an email I sent out to our core team. I think it is an important email that sets forth how our vision for an inclusive church came about:

Hey guys,

We had a good meeting last Sunday.

Here’s a synopsis of what we talked about. A couple of weeks ago, we brainstormed our target profile--on what a typical “downtown dude” is like. He looked like this: social liberal, well to do economically but in lots of debt, spiritual but not religious, young, single, ambitious, new to and loves downtown, techno savvy, post-modern, socially minded, lots of superficial friends, desires close core of friends, mixed music taste, social front-runner, intelligent, no respect for tradition, thinks churches are hypocritical, intolerant, irrelevant, and generally uninteresting.

Although I think a lot of the downtown dude’s characteristics are true of all people, I felt uneasy and at no peace about the idea of having downtown dude as a dominant target profile. I think it is the reason that I did not summarize our discussion and email it to you. I felt like it was too exclusive. Even though we never said that our church would be only for the downtown dudes, I felt that God is calling us to become inclusive in every way right from the beginning, even the way we think about our targets. I know we have talked a few times about whether we should have multiple targets that include the downtown dudes, skid row residents, the Latinos surrounding downtown, and others around downtown. Everytime I decided on focusing on the downtown dude (at least as a dominant target group), I felt uneasy. I think one of the reasons is that I didn’t know how we can actually do church with downtown dude next to a skid row dude next to a Latino dude (can also be dudettes :-)). It is hard to find a church model where it is not only multi-ethnic but also multi-socioeconomic. The bottom line was that I was scared.

As I prayed about this, I repeatedly felt that God was calling us to a multi-ethnic and multi-socioeconomic church, but I was unsure that it would work. But God repeatedly took away my sense of peace about focusing on the downtown dude.

Last Thursday, it became very clear to Grace and me that God was speaking to us to go all the way without fear of failure. I shared with Grace that I heard a church planting CD that talked about the definition of success. He said the biblical definition of success is (1) figure out what God wants you to do; and (2) do it. The Biblical definition of success has nothing to do with whether it works or not, whether you are recognized or not, whether a lot of people come to the church or not. You focus on what God wants you to do and do it. That’s success.

Then, Grace said she just happened to come across an autobiography of Ralph Winter (Grace used to work for him as an editor at William Carey Library). He is the founder of William Carey Library, US Center for World Mission, and generally one of the most influential Christians alive today. He started the center with $100 in pocket with no support or commitment whatsoever. His autobiography said this:

"After we made the decision to leave Fuller we did not at any point in the next thirteen years, during which we paid off the campus, feel that God had promised us success. We only felt that the value of the goal was sufficient justification to go all out, sink or swim. I coined the phrase, 'You do not evaluate a risk by the probability of success but by the worthiness of the goal.' We were willing to fail because the goal we sensed was so urgent and strategic."

See, for his full autobiography. Grace and I immediately teared up as we realized that God has been saying the same to each of us. We should make decision based on what God is calling us to do, or put another way, we should not evaluate a risk by the probability of success but by the worthiness of the goal.

Rocky Lloyd who came to the meeting for the first time last Sunday encouraged us by exhorting us to be like Caleb and go for the high ground, instead of being scared like the rest of Israel. Yes! Go for the High Ground! It’s interesting that I was reading a book today about a guy who planted a multi-ethnic and multi-socioeconomic church and he said the same thing: “We knew that if we were to plant a multi-ethnic church, we would have to do so with the faith of Abram, certain only of our calling and being willing to obey.” When I read this line from the book to Grace, I could not help but to tear up. Another voice of the Spirit speaking to us.

I looked into the biblical basis for a multi-ethnic and multi-socioeconomic church and what I found was enlightening and confirming. I went over them at our last meeting. An outline of what I talked about is attached. Unfortunately, the outline is not very comprehensive. The bottom line is that when Jesus prayed for us in John 17 right before his arrest, he prayed for unity. He prayed for unity because he said unity will do two things: (1) get people to believe in Jesus; and (2) get people to know God loves them. Then, we looked into the book of Acts and saw that the way that God answered this prayer was by creating a diverse church of both gentiles and jews (which were as different as downtown dudes are from homeless person in skid row), rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, and creating unity among them—which is something that the world had not seen. It did indeed become a testimony of Jesus and his love. I believe that God is calling us to participate in His work of building a church that is united by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the love of God, the power of the Spirit among diversity of ethnicities, socioeconomics, and cultures.

For the Kingdom,