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Urban Churches

Planting Churches in the Guaraní Diaspora in Asunción, Paraguay: An Outreach Strategy
for Migrant Tribal Groups in Urban Contexts

Timothy Revett
The project director developed an outreach strategy that serves a twofold purpose:
improving educational achievement and forming congregations among the Ava Guaraní
and Mbya Guaraní who live in the metropolitan area of Asunción, Paraguay. The
evangelistic activities that lead to the formation of congregations come as a result of the
relationships built during educational activities carried out by the outreach team in the
communities. Over the last two decades the focus group has been experiencing a
migration from their traditional homelands to urban contexts. For this reason, the strategy
combines tribal group missiology with migrant outreach practices.

The strategy development project consisted of four steps. First, the project
director researched demographics about Guaraní spirituality and education to assess the
level of need in those areas. Second, he explored literature on outreach to tribal groups
and migrants to produce a selection of principles that guided the development of the
outreach strategy. Third, the project director’s colleagues provided input on the selected
principles and direction of the strategy. Finally, the project director presented the strategy
to a local partner ministry for official implementation.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for" : a case study of the interfaith coalition building blocks for Wilmington

Douglas Dwight Gerdts
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the process of formation, employing the method of a single case study, of a non-profit interfaith organization in Wilmington, Delaware designed to reduce city violence and attempt to ameliorate its causes. It started with one citizen's outrage at increasing shootings and the perceived lack of city and state government cooperation and positive action. After three years that initiative has resulted in an organization that is beginning, for the first time, to unify the city's diverse faith communities and hopefully leverage their moral force to reduce crime and its contributing factors. Moreover, this action did spark the city government of Wilmington to form the Hope Commission, an officially sanctioned and funded board with similar objectives but broader representation.

This work documents the steps in formation (sometimes painful and chaotic), seeks the key factors that moved the process along, evaluates ICBBW's effectiveness, and hopefully provides some lessons for similar initiatives which might include such things as: (1) One main factor that kept the project alive in the face of divisions and frustrations was that the desired goal was never in question. (2) A key group member and founder was a bridge between the "street" and the organizing group. He is known and respected by both. (3) The services of an organizational expert were enlisted at a crucial developmental moment. (4) The need to assemble the story and get it understood and credible with outside groups, i.e. funding organizations, proved to be a galvanizing factor forcing both clarity, simplicity, and urgency. (5) This organization has established a good foundation for positive impact, and has started to make real accomplishments including being the first to begin unifying diverse faith communities in Wilmington. ...

Non-Ethnic Incorporation and Cross-cultural Ministry of Migrant Churches: The case of The Ethiopian Churches in Los Angeles

Fitsum Kebede Tsige D.Min.
Migration has increasingly shifting the social demography of global and gateway cities into a complex and diversified places. Simultaneously, there is a great call for a new model of church ministry and urban missions. It is an absolute obscurity to think migrants are living in a vacuum, isolated and without having any attachment in the places of their settlements. Some research projects that focused on migrant communities in the past took ethnic group as a unit of analysis; some migrant church leaders also ignore the fact that the basic principle of Christianity prioritizes our identity in Christ over any ethnic distinctiveness. Contrary to the previous approaches this study inquired the non-ethnic interaction of a migrant community.

As much as there are numerous causes that drive people away from their homelands, a number of drawing reasons to settle to their new places. Similarly, alterity and prejudice on one side and the ‘search for national identity’ on the other are ‘push-pull factors’ in shifting Christian migrants from the mainstream churches to the establishment migrant churches. The question which is often asked, ‘‘why so many African Christians broke their ties with traditional missionary societies and joined the newly emerging churches?’’ remained to be a subject for discussion. Migration should not be seen as a negative social scenario but it is an opportunity to enrich diversity both in a social and in the body of Christ. It is also a prospect for urban missions which migrants’ churches are increasingly taking the lions share...


Christopher J. Respass D.Min.
The thesis of this dissertation was Christian congregations are called to make
disciples in the community in which the church is located. Suburban, homogeneous,
minority-led churches are an oasis and a safe-haven for ethnic minorities who relocate
from urban centers. Yet, as outposts of Christ’s kingdom, these churches are charged with
the responsibility of reaching across ethnic lines to make disciples of all nations
beginning with the neighborhood in which the congregation worships. The assumption
that leading a homogeneous congregation to diversify is the same regardless of the
church’s location and the ethnicity of its pastor ignores the long history of race relations
in America. Minority pastors who lead suburban, ethnically homogeneous churches need
key leadership qualities to diversify their congregations.
Through semi-structured interviews with nine African American pastors from
different denominations and different regions of the United States, this qualitative study
concluded that biblical conviction, cultural competence, conflict resolution skill, and
emotional intelligence are key leadership qualities necessary for diversifying suburban,
ethnically homogeneous, minority-led congregations.
This dissertation is divided into five sections. The first section provides a
rationale for this study and explains the significance of the project given the novelty of
the topic and the lack of specific research on the topic. The second section discusses the
relevant literature concerning biblical conviction, cultural competence, conflict resolution
skill, and emotional intelligence. The third section describes the research procedure,
offers a justification for using in-depth interviews as the preferred research method, and
addresses the limitations of the study. The fourth section of this dissertation presents the
results from the interviews which substantiate and confirm the project’s hypotheses. The
last section gives implications for ministry, shares the delimitations of the study, and
makes recommendations for future research.

Preaching Stewardship to Encourage Growth in Missional Outreach in a Small Urban Church

Jeryl Salmond
Like so many other congregations, small churches are suffering from declining membership, and many have closed their doors. This decline has caused many pastors to be concerned about their ability to survive. As a consequence, churches have focused on survival tactics which result in an inward focused church in order to safeguard their limited resources. This inward focus minimizes missional ministry and ignores the pain and brokenness of people in the community that surrounds the church. This issue is particularly impactful in the urban context, where social challenges are prevalent and evidenced by the visible amount of homelessness, hunger, and poverty in the community. This thesis investigates the utilization of preaching stewardship to encourage growth in missional outreach in a small urban church. The preacher must be intentional about developing and delivering sermons that demonstrate the symmetry between stewardship and outreach ministry. This project focused on a small urban church and seeks to demonstrate that preaching stewardship is influential in encouraging growth in missional outreach to offset the needs of the community beyond the church.

Bicultural liberative education : educating the non-poor in an urban work-study program

George D Beukema
Bicultural Liberative Education (BLE), developed primarily for college students in an urban work-study program, seeks to empower the non-poor to liberate themselves from the ways their culture is oppressive both to them and the poor.

Chapter One presents a description of, and a biblical foundation for, liberative education of which BLE is a part.

Chapter Two provides a description of the development of BLE and its pedagogical components: 1) "cultural awakening" which "conscientizes" the learners to their "myths" concerning the poor, ideologies, and worldview through engaging the culture of the poor, 2) "reflexive examination" which examines their "myths," ideologies, and worldview through engaging the culture of the non-poor, and 3) "bicultural reconstruction" which facilitates a response to more just ways of living. These components are rendered most effective as the educator creates a trusting atmosphere of "safe containment" which enables the learner to engage more deeply in cultural critique.

Chapter Three describes how an "experiential" seminar with the urban poor and a course on modern work combine to provide a specific context for BLE within a work-study program in Chicago.

Chapter Four concludes the project by providing suggestive hints toward applications of BLE for the non-poor congregation, the seminary, and the poor congregation.

The servant's community : a study of the development of a servant style ministry in the inner city

George G. Beukema
The purpose of the project was to research, report, and evaluate a new low-cost, shared leadership, servant style ministry that has been developed on the west side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The project report describes the historical and sociological context for the ministry, defines the biblical concept of "servanthood" and its theological implications for ministry, assesses the needs and resources of the target community, and evaluates the ministry to date as to its feasibility of application to other urban areas.
The project described in this paper is limited to the John Ball Park area on the near west side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The emerging inner city congregation, the Servant's Community, provides the congregational context. The biblical theme of servanthood provides the focal point for mission strategy and reflective analysis.

A tale of two cities divided : in search of radical reconciliation

Dan J Smith
In my thesis I begin by exploring the histories of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. These histories show the development of the cities and how their histories have played a big part in shaping how things are today. After probing the history of the area I take a theological and exegetical look at the idea of reconciliation, as engaged in the Bible and the work of practitioners and scholars. The thesis then focuses on interviews I conducted, using the research method of Narrative Inquiry, with people that live in the communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, and, more specifically, people from Union Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church and Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ. Using these two congregations as a baseline for study, I interviewed a cross-section of both churches. The Narrative Inquiry approach helped me to identify similarities that existed between the two congregations. After the interviews were concluded they were analyzed and then presented to the participants from the two congregations for review. As I engaged the participants in this time of reflection I explored how future conversations or collaboration in the area of reconciliation might be beneficial to all parties concerned. I believe relationships were established through this project and that this was a measurable response in my thesis. By this measure, my project was very successful. Before this project I had little to no contact with my neighbors. Now I have a place to start and build upon as I look to the future of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor with a great deal of hope and passion. My final chapter is a retelling of the story of the tensions between the two cities in light of what I learned throughout the project and an anticipation of what steps we might take towards reconciliation.

There is life after death : using Christ's call to sacrificial living as a foundation for church turn-arounds in urban settings

Jevon A. Caldwell-Gross
"This project is a response to the rapid decline found within today's churches. A sizable percentage of the United Methodist Churches (UMC) within the Greater New Jersey Conference (GNJC) are steep in decline; and St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Montclair, New Jersey faced a similar struggle. The approach to this project was to use Christ 's example of sacrificial love as a model of how a congregation can organize her people, procedures, and programs to fully live out her mission in a rapidly changing culture. An ongoing assessment tool was created to assist St. Mark's United Methodist Church and others to determine what aspects of the church's ministry should be ended and allowed to expire. This assessment tool was administered during a one-day seminar with three different congregations. The researcher of this project held phone interviews with each pastor after a three-month period to gauge the effects of their commitment to letting go of certain aspects of their ministry." -- Leaf [2].

Training and Equipping the Urban Church for Missional Engagement Utilizing Fivefold Ministry Gift Curriculum

Gregory Emmett Bell Sr
Philadelphia urban church members may not be receiving adequate training on how to participate in the mission of God. According to secular and Christian research, church attendance is declining along with adherence to the teaching and application of Scripture. Statistical analysis of both Christian and secular research, demographic, and crime data confirm the researcher’s hypothesis that the urban churches of Philadelphia need a curriculum for missional engagement. Model Studies of two other ministry schools were also conducted and critiqued to glean from each institution’s experience. The research, literature review, and model studies were used to determine the best approach to perhaps produce supernatural results in the community. This applied research project examines the impact of a missional engagement curriculum designed for laypersons within a Philadelphia urban church, on the fivefold ministry gifts, also referred to by the writer as the five apportioned gifts of Christ. Scripture and other Christian literature were carefully examined to ensure understanding and acceptance of the gifts for today in the body of Christ. The students were taught how to function in their gift as part of a fivefold gift ministry team and complete a ministry project at the end of the semester.
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