Reach the City – Reach the World

Church Planting, cities, least reached, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

Prior to His ascension into heaven, Jesus shared with His disciples a life-changing revelation – one that radically changed their lives and turned their world upside down. He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, NIV).”

I’m sure the disciples wondered how this would happen. How would they get to these foreign lands – places where some of them had never been? And where exactly are the ends of the earth? The mission seemed overwhelming at best, but Jesus was quite sure of His plans. As history unfolded, something very miraculous took place. The gospel of Jesus Christ somehow managed to impact the entire Roman Empire (60 million people) in just 60 years! How did this happen, especially without any modern forms of travel and communications?

Two factors helped make this a reality. One was the work of the Holy Spirit who empowered the disciples and their mission. The other was the “koinonia” relationships that impacted the lives of people in every community they visited. The disciples were about going into the cities of the Empire. And, they also understood the value of individual relationships – the “avenues” for effectual ministry. They quickly learned that God orchestrates personal relationships for divine purposes. People “connecting” with people; transformed lives that transformed communities – all because of the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of relationships.

Reaching cities through community transformation is not a new methodology in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It was Christ’s mission for the early disciples, and it is our mission today! The same Holy Spirit is ever present to empower us as disciples, and relationships are still the “avenues” for effectual ministry.

In the 21st Century, Christians are already established in every community and every city all across America. So why has an emphasis on cities become so popular in literature today; and at the same time, a painstaking task? The primary explanation is the explosive growth of the major cities of the world including North America. And, the growth is primarily immigrant growth, meaning that the opportunity to reach the nations of the world is increasingly in our on backyards! Never have we seen such opportunity to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations, especially of the Southern Hemisphere and Asia, than we see today. And, most of us won’t need to leave our shores! But, more people will need to relocate to the cities, or partner with those who are there – following the pattern of the early disciples.

Do you want to reach the world for Jesus Christ? Then reach the city. The mission still seems overwhelming at best, but Jesus is still quite sure of His plans. You can help by partnering with those who are already living and working in the city. You can help to advance Christ’s plan of community and city transformation. Will consider your role? For more information, go to http://www.metrograce.org. Or, contact me, Kurt Miller, at kurt@metrograce.org.

Partnerships to reach the city; to reach the world!

Blessings…

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New Ministry Assignment

Church Planting, cities, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

We are delighted to share with you that we are beginning a new chapter in our lives once again as missionaries in North America. Building on our 35 years of church planting and development ministry, God has directed us to work alongside our friends, Jim and Lisa Brown (and their team of church planters), in urban Philadelphia. Jim would like Kurt to serve as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for their ministry, “MetroGrace Philadelphia.”

While serving as the National Director of Church Planting and Development for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, I introduced the concept of World Class City Initiatives, resulting in sustainable ministries in many of the largest cities in North America: New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. MetroGrace was one of those sustainable ministries. Now, God has given us opportunity to focus all of our combined energies in the world-class city arena.

This ministry is purely a missionary endeavor. As faith-based missionaries, we need to develop a personal prayer and financial-support base. We are turning to family and friends – people who see the value of investing in larger cities, who believe in us, our proven track record and our love for God. We hope you will partner with us; that you will join our team, investing in Philadelphia as we approach the needs and opportunities of the city through integrated ministries (social concerns), leadership development and new church development.

Our immediate foundational goals are three-fold:
1. To establish a solid base of prayer support.
2. To realize sufficient “seed money” to sustain us July – December 2013.
3. To realize sufficient recurring monthly and annual pledges for our ongoing ministry support.

Kurt is in the process of developing the strategic plan for this position. His goal is to have it completed by July 1 so that we can hit the ground running. Once completed, we will share this plan with our supporting and prayer partners.

Should you have any questions as you consider our request, please call us at (814) 505-4791. Should you decide to help us in any of the above three areas, please let us know. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made securely online at http://www.metrograce.org; or, you can mail your intended pledge and contributions to MetroGrace Philadelphia, 7721 Torresdale Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19136. Until we move to Philly, our personal mailing address is: 5642 Woodbury Pike, Roaring Spring, PA 16673.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration. We look forward to hearing back from you.

Blessings,

Kurt and Anecia Miller
kurt@metrograce.com

Why Should the Church Focus on Cities?

Church Planting, cities, Urban Ministry

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Globally, cities are attracting more people. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas today. The World Health Organization estimates that the global urban population is expected to nearly double (to 6.4 billion people) by 2050. The Associated Press reported in June 2012 that recent census data indicates that most of the United States’ largest cities are growing at a faster rate than their surrounding suburbs for the first time in a century.

This reality of global urbanization presents a challenge and an opportunity for Christian churches. Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, noted in an interview with Outreach magazine that cities are growing in numbers and influence and that younger people disproportionately want to live in cities, creating an environment where churches are needed. But cities are difficult for churches because they are expensive, intimidating and no longer see the value of churches for the rest of civil society. Keller went on to say that as a result cities are underchurched; and, churches, denominations and mission organizations must do more to try to reach the growing urban population around the world.

The God-directed evangelistic realities of this need have caused me to return my vocational attention to World-Class Cities. Building on our 35 years of church planting and development, I will be working with Dr. Jim Brown in urban Philadelphia as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for MetroGrace.

While serving as the National Director of Church Planting and Development for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches for nearly 20 years, I introduced the concept of World Class City Initiatives, resulting in sustainable ministries in many of the largest cities in North America: New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. Now, God is asking me once again to focus my energies, and to draw attention to, North American cities with a specific focus on Philadelphia.

You can find more information about MetroGrace and donate to my missionary support at http://www.metrograce.org.

The Only Unreached People Group in the United States?

cities, least reached, Urban Ministry

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An unreached people group refers to an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement. Any ethnic or ethnolinguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the nation is an Unreached People Group. It is a missiological term. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization defines a people group as “the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”

“Nation” is sometimes used interchangeably for “People Group”. The term is sometimes applied to ethnic groups in which less than 2% of the population is Christian.

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is a Biblical mandate to make Christian disciples in every nation of the world. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, these were the final instructions of Jesus Christ before he ascended into heaven. This is a basic tenet of Christianity. Therefore, spreading Christianity to the remaining people groups without access is of primary importance for Christians worldwide.

So, are there any unreached people groups in the United States? According to the Joshua Project, the largest and highly regarded database of unreached people groups in the world, the answer is, “Yes!” They identify one “nation”, or “people group”, living in the United States who are unreached – the Bengali people. This link will give you insight into these people living in our backyard.

http://www.joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?rog3=US&peo3=10790

Will you pray with me or the Bengali people? Maybe some of these wonderful people live near you!

Practice What You Preach!

Rambling Thoughts, Scripture

Today I was reading Romans 2. I was impressed with the last paragraph, verses 17-29. This paragraph can be summed up in the last verse where the Lord teaches, “But, a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”

My reaction was quick and significant – The joy of my heart is to learn to live out what is in my heart – an exercise critical to effective Christian living and testimony. My prayer was this, “Father, never stop teaching me this art, allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to live His life in and through me.”

In essence, Kurt, “Practice what you preach!”

Three in One

Scripture, Uncategorized

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For centuries philosophers and theologians have tried to explain the Trinity, but their attempts always fall short. However, God in His wisdom, provided an example in creation that is a parallel to His own Triune existence—the universe. Enjoy this short clip from the Institute for Creation Research.

http://thatsafacttv.com/2013/03/09/episode-27-three-in-one/

Copyright © 2013 Institute for Creation Research. All rights reserved.

The Power of Partnership

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Urban Ministry

20130313-111320.jpgChurch planting is hard work.  The days of solo church planting are gone.  In the 21st century we are discovering the value of collaborative partnerships.  The need to work together is biblical and increasingly critical.  The power of partnerships is tangible.  A partnership approach:

  • Brings real credibility (John 17) to our message.
  • We can actually demonstrate restored relationships.
  • Allows for the release of the Holy Spirit’s power and refreshment for those involved in ministry—frequently in the hardest neighborhoods (Psalm 133).
  • Welcomes each person as they employ their God-given gifts (I Corinthians 12). Evangelists, teachers, student evangelists, business people, medical personnel, carpenters and many others can each have a conscious sense of being part of God’s redemptive grace.

Partnership for evangelism/church planting acknowledges that none of us is sufficient in ourselves and demonstrates genuine humility in our call (John 4:34-38).

This approach also acknowledges that God is the orchestrator of the harvest; that as we are faithful, He is faithful (Hebrew 11:35b-40). While we must “press toward the mark,” we do not control the timetable, it is in His hands.

Many barriers stand between us and such an approach to ministry. Personal and organizational pride. Demand to have short-term if not “instant” results. Majoring on perceived minor theological differences while unwilling to acknowledge agreement on the heart of the Gospel. Tradition, fear and unwillingness to consider new approaches—especially ministry approaches that call for us to depend on each other and to share success. And, of course, Satan. He uses division and discord based on individualism as his primary means of destroying the power and credibility of Jesus’ life and message. Finally, we have little history of knowing how to work together. To help us do so, we need intensive, practical training and on-going coaching and mentoring that is deeply rooted in prayer and the Scripture.

For strategic partnerships in evangelism and church planting to succeed, someone will undoubtedly pay a terrible personal price as they work to bring partnerships together for Christ. But, the partnerships’ credibility and effectiveness will be enhanced because they will be working together tomorrow. Why? Because, in reality, they are deeply engaged in the partnership of God’s grace expressed in the lives of those who have gone before.

One could hardly imagine a greater privilege or a more remarkable motivation for wonder, humility, and worship!

Church Planting and Partnerhips

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Urban Ministry

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“The history of the church is replete with the stories of heroic individuals who, against all odds and with little apparent human support, engaged in evangelistic efforts which resulted in the launching of a thriving, sometimes lasting church. But, the real Biblical pattern for effective church planting has been largely lost in the history of the modern missionary movement which has been so heavily influenced by Western culture and its highly individualistic forms of lifestyle and Christian witness.” (Phill Butler of visionSynergy)

Historically, there have been two primary forms of church planting: parachute and mother church. Due to the dominance of Western culture in the 20th century, these two models have been seen as the primary paradigms. Fortunately, the 21st century is becoming marked by a return to community life and partnering relationships. With this shift has come new models of church planting. One model, in particular, deserves attention: Collaborative Networks or Partnership Church Planting.

This growing form of church planting is a rapidly growing trend where organizations committed to church planting work together to plant churches. These informal alliances are referred to as collaborative or partnership networks. The participating organizations often share common beliefs and a passion for starting new churches. Planters often get many of the benefits of the “mother church” model but with increased autonomy in decision making.

Biblical church planting is evangelistic. The collaborative or partnership model mimics the biblical evangelistic effort. An effort that typically involves more than one person. The results are likely the product of our work and someone else’s faithfulness—someone we never knew, being faithful at a time before we were involved. The result? A soul was reborn and welcomed into the Kingdom of God. In like manner, Partnership Church Planting respects others’ roles and God’s work in history—even if we have no first hand, specific knowledge of how either figured into the results we are now seeing.

This observation is strongly supported by the apostle Paul’s words to the Church in I Corinthians 3:1-9. (In the Good News translation of this passage, Paul concludes, “There is no difference between the man who sows and the man who waters. God will reward each one according to the work he has done. For we are partners together [emphasis added] working together for God ….”)

This understanding of God’s plan for evangelism and Church planting is rooted, of course, in our understanding of the very nature of God Himself as revealed especially in the first eleven chapters of Genesis where repeatedly we meet God in the plural, the “us” of creation. God, dwelling in community, outside of time or the created order. It explains, why when He did create, God created “in His likeness”—that is, beings designed to live in relationship; with Himself, internally with themselves in a self-consciousness (which separates man from all the other created order), and with others (giving particular meaning to the Luke 10 passage of sending out the seventy-two in pairs).

Combine these passages with well-known New Testament sections such as Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 where the Spirit-given diversity of gifts is outlined and we begin to understand why Jesus never spoke of success but relentlessly about faithfulness. Each individual has a role to play! This understanding of God’s nature and plan also sheds further light on well-known passages like Matthew 25:14-30 where the master had different expectations of the servants’ abilities but uniform expectations of their faithfulness.

In the world of the early 21st century, we are being forced to deal once again with the meaning and significance of these passages. An initiative in which one individual does everything is not only foreign to the true Biblical paradigm, it is a relic of time in history. Working together to develop effective partnerships for evangelism and Church planting demonstrates faith and practical Holy Spirit power. I am increasingly convinced that there will be no real blessing of the Holy Spirit, no real power for breakthroughs in the most difficult areas of the world, and no credibility for our message without a genuine partnership approach to the preaching of the Good News and planting new churches.

We All Face Winds of Adversity

Church Planting, Other Authors

Again, my friend Duke Heller sent the following to me today. “Do you understand and know how to deal with the winds of adversity?” by Ramfis Kolfin

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never to be any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24).

We need to understand the winds of adversity. I remember extremely difficult times when I was tempted to “throw in the towel,” stick my head in the sand, or blow the whistle to call it quits. An author called Jerry Bridges, had some great answers for me in his book: Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, particularly in the chapter, “Growing through Adversity.” I also memorized Psalm 46:1 and found help in the hour of crisis: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. It is also said that “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” But now, what is this seed we’re talking about? In the Bible’s Old Testament we can find numerous examples:

Abraham: In the book of Genesis. He spent years of learning how to obey, whom to obey, and when to obey. Along the way Abram experienced detours, disputes and disappointments. But God rewarded his faith and obedience, even in the face of adversity and uncertainty.

Job: In the book named after him. He had experienced years of prosperity, happiness and success. Then the roof caved in on his life, the walls fell out, and he became a total failure in the eyes of many – he lost his family, fortune, fame and fitness. Understandably he lamented, “God breaks me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17). But then he discovered the importance of waiting, even if it requires weeks, months or even years. He learned the value of patience in adversity. “Though He slays me, I will trust Him,” Job was able to say. When a promise seems to fail, Job discovered, you can always trust the One that makes the promise.

Joseph: Also in the book of Genesis. His life amounted to years of riding a 24-hour rollercoaster. In moments, he went from the paternal favorite in his family to the pit; from a position of prominence to prison; from the pen to the penthouse; from plight to prime minister. Eventually he was able to say to his betraying brothers, “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50: 30).

BOTTOMLINE: When hardships come your way – and they will come – remember and cling to this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of adversity” (Psalm 46:1).

A man’s courage can sustain his broken body, but when courage dies, what hope is left? (Proverbs 18:14)

New Ministy

Church Planting, cities, Urban Ministry

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I am delighted to announce the Holy Spirit’s clear direction in my life for a new ministry. Starting sometime this summer I plan to work with MetroGrace in Philadelphia. Years ago, while National Director of Church Planting and Development for Grace Brethren North America Missions, I introduced the concept of World Class City Initiatives to our Grace Brethren Fellowship. Dr. Jim Brown, church planter in Philadelphia, was one of the first to jump on board with the idea and incorporated MetroGrace as a Grace Brethren urban ministry.

I have fond memories of walking the streets of Philadelphia with Jim and others on his ministry team. I remember sharing Christ with various merchants on Frankfort Ave. I have prayer-walked neighborhoods in northeast Philadelphia and have maintained friendship and prayer support for Jim’s ministry. Now, at Jim’s invitation, I have the opportunity to serve on the missionary staff of MetroGrace. As Director of Strategic Partnerships, I will work in the area of development, inviting prayer and financial support for the ministry. I will advance the goals of MetroGrace by sharing the vision and inviting folks to serve urban ministries through short-term mission teams, internships and new church development. I will represent MetroGrace at colleges, universities, seminaries and conferences. I will also establish and maintain relationships through advancing technologies, digital media and social networking.

This assignment is faith-based – meaning this is a missionary assignment. I have the opportunity to strategically partner with individuals, churches and organizations for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through urban ministries. I need both your prayer support and your financial support. If I am to begin this summer, I will need an immediate influx of financial support to cover my salary and office expenses. As a missionary, I will seek commitments for long-term and ongoing financial support.

If you would like to support this immediate need, you may send your tax-deductible donations to MetroGrace, 7721 Torresdale Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19136. Be sure to indicate that your gift is for Kurt Miller’s missionary support. If you, your church or organization would like to be added to my Urban Strategic Partner Team for prayer and/or financial support please email me at kurt@metrograce.org.