This is an article[1] worth reading modeling how the Asset Based Community Development approach of Community Development can work in helping congregational leaders get a positive handle on church growth.  The article is about the work of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis and her pastor Rev. Mike Mather who has done significant work in helping this congregation change the way they think about people – “as people with gifts and, not just needs.”   They also changed how they viewed themselves as “receivers of gifts of others” instead of “the bestower of gifts in responding to needs of others.” jwho

While I endorsed and tried to model the use of this ABCD approach in the church I served[3] I could have/should have been much more aggressive on my watch as pastor in training and implementation.  This model of reaching into the community is a great way for churches to do community development without the “in-your-face” activism that so often alienate some congregational leaders who are simply not inclined to be aggressive with their outreach.  I like the fit with our Presbyterian way of doing things – grass roots up (vs. top down) way of building on the gifts (assets) of those in the community around the church.  In my mind, this is a no-brainer way of doing the work of community development.  Link:

This article – A GOOD READ!

[1]  DEATH AND RESUREECTINO OF AN URBAN CHURCH, March 25, 2015, Robert King.

[2]   Robert King is a reporter for the Indianapolis Star

[3]  The Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, Michigan.  I served this urban church as pastor from 1985-2013.




Preparing for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly in June


This is painful.   Only one full time black Presbyterian pastor in Detroit with an African American Population in the city of over 82%!   Where are the resources from “connectional” friends in Presbyteries and the General Assembly?  What happened to support urban congregations used to get from General Assembly?   I don’t believe we have a single staff person assigned responsibility for helping urban congregations in doing urban ministry.


The congregation I served in Saginaw, the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, had around 18-20% African American membership.  This is another example an urban church in a predominately black population and I am was a white pastor.  The only black pastor in the Presbytery of Lake Huron is in Flilnt, Michigan.  Again our multi-cultural/urban congregations need more support / resources and black pastoral leadership. 


What are we doing as a General Assembly, specifically and intentionally, in growing multicultural urban worshipping communities?  Isn’t this a goal of the 1001 New Worshipping Communities?   What about support our established urban congregations need to survive?  And yes, we need to find ways to support our black pastors wishing to serve in our cities!


This quote from an article I recommend reading (that elicited my writing this blog):    

Our cities—and the churches in them—are in trouble. In 1960 Detroit had 45 Presbyterian congregations. By 2013 that number had dwindled to 12—and of those 12, only four had full-time pastors.    If we in the PC(USA) recognize that the church is to stand for peace in the neighborhoods of cities like Detroit, how do we explain the demise of African American Presbyterian congregations in the host city for the 221st General Assembly (2014)—a city that is so predominantly African American?

……In a city (Detroit) with such pressing needs, what few Presbyterian congregations there are have been largely unable to afford even the minimal compensation necessary to support full-time pastors. In a city where 82.7 percent of the population is African American, like Jesus and like Betti Wiggins I weep when I sit at a table with the mayor and other leaders seeking a better life for its citizens and realize that I am the only black pastor representing the Presbytery of Detroit. One is a lonely number.





“The end of the church is not more church—the end of the church is helping more and more people experience life as God dreams of it for them….”   Chip Hardwick. 


Chip Hardwick’s recent trip and blog, “Effectively Sawing Off the Branch We’re sitting On”,  has stimulated a few thoughts….. 


As a denomination (PCUSA) we talk about growing new churches.   What about the struggling churches we still have?  In my mind we are still closing too many doors to existing urban churches without going the extra mile to find new and creative ways to  connect with urban dwellers!


As presbyteries, are willing to risk doing what it takes with our limited resources to grow churches from the inside out?  Spiritually?  In our inner cities?  Urban churches and Presbyterian Seminaries need to be re-tooled with resources in order to meet people with the gospel from where they live within the reality of diverse, cultural settings.   We need to get away from the metrics of simply counting souls and buildings.  


As Chip Hardwick, director of worship and theology of the PCUSA recently stated in his blog (quoting Sergio Ojeda)[1]:


The problem is that we are adding churches, but we are not changing the culture.”  With this he helped remind me that there is a difference between the ends and the means.  The end of the church is not more church—the end of the church is helping more and more people experience life as God dreams of it for them, including both physical care and sustenance and the spiritual resources that come from our faith in Christ.   Many of the people who experience this care, sustenance, and faith will be inside the church, but many more will be outside the church.  More church is the means by which this end is delivered, but more church is not simply the end itself.  The more we remember that churches don’t exist for the benefit of their own members, but the rather for the benefit of the world, the more individuals and society and culture will resemble God’s hopes for them.


In my mind and heart as a Presbyterian, we should be searching for ways to help urban dwellers/congregations “experience life as God dreams of it for them”? 



[1] President Sergio Ojeda,  Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico.