It was good to be in a meeting tonight where we were discussing the challenges faced by urban churches among our association of denominational congregations and other fellowships ministering in under-resourced settings with inner city challenges.
The issue of partnerships between urban and suburban congregations could easily slide into a paternalistic quagmire where the smaller churches of the inner city were crying "Come help us survive" and the larger churches on the outskirts of town were responding with, "We'll come aid our little brothers and sisters, poor things."
Now, no one would say that, but that is the way it seems when one group has hat in hand and the other is put-upon to "help."
Partnership is a better model. The assumption then is that God has given each congregation certain gifts and assignments and those churches, in and of themselves are gifts to the communities where they are assigned, to the church at large, and to the cause of the Kingdom of God in transforming communities from the inside out.
What then is the gift of the urban church to the larger church and, specifically, the highly resourced and larger suburban congregations from which it seeks "aid." It is the provision of a laboratory for urban mission experience, instruction, coaching, and mentoring. Pastors, staff, and members in the urban churches must be willing to make an investment into the lives of those people who come to "volunteer" or "intern" among them just as a seminary professor would invest in his or her students.
Both the urban and suburban ministers are on the same team working toward the same ends. Along the way, each has something to give and receive in authentic partnership.
It is time for partnership.