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.