MetroGrace – church planting in philadelphia

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

MetroGrace is an urban church development ministry. Our purpose is to gather, train, send and coach teams to develop gospel-centered, community-based churches in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

Gathering: We gather urban workers by sharing our vision and hosting short-term mission teams. We share our vison in a monthly newsletter that details God’s work in Philadelphia. This allows us to share with supportive friends from all over the world. (Contact us if you’d like to receive our newsletter.) We send speakers to churches, schools and conferences. They help others to see the needs of the city and invite friends to serve. We also recruit workers by hosting short-term mission teams. These teams help cultivate the soil for new church plants and strengthen existing churches. This exposure to urban ministry enables informed response to God’s call.

Training: MetroGrace trains urban missionaries through internships. Summer interns serve for 8-12 weeks. They receive hands-on training in urban ministry while receiving credit from their college or seminary. Church planting interns serve for 18-24 months as they prepare to lead a team to establish a new church.

Sending: We send teams to establish new urban churches. We assist the team in its own development. We connect the group with a network of urban churches. We help them formulate a plan. We guide the team in discovering financial support. And, we assist with the launch of the church plant.

Coaching: MetroGrace coaches teams to establish new urban churches. For at least two years, the team leader meets regularly with a coach. Encouragement, advice and assistance are provided during these formative years of the new church.

Our Goal: When we’ve accomplished our purpose, at least ten biblically relevant, reproducing churches will glorify God by transforming lives in neighborhoods throughout the city. These believers will renew their city by acting to influence their culture. And Philadelphia will truly become the City of Brotherly Love.

If interested in joining MetroGrace on a small group, summer internship or a church-planting team contact Kurt Miller / kurt@metrograce.org / @kurtmiller01

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Eternal Life

Church Planting, Discipleship, Scripture, Uncategorized

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Eternal life is a free gift, based on God’s grace.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
  • This might surprise you, but Heaven cannot be earned or deserved.
  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • Grace is what God wants to give you, but which you do not deserve.
  • It is amazing, but true; God wants you to go to heaven. Eternal life is a free gift!

People in themselves do not deserve the gift of heaven. Why?

  • We are sinners by nature and by choice.
  • “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
  • We are incapable of doing good according to God’s standards.
  • “…There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).
  • “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
  • People cannot save themselves.
  • “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).

There is a penalty for sin.

  • God is love – He doesn’t want to judge you.
  • “The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
  • But, God is also just – He must judge sin.
  • “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7).
  • “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), i.e. physical death and also spiritual death (separation from God).
  • Our basic needs are: forgiveness, eternal life and peace with God.
  • So, people try religion, good deeds, materialism, self-acclaim, etc, to satisfy their needs, but these do not solve the problem of sin.
  • But remember, God is love. He has the solution!

Jesus Christ is your only way to Heaven.

  • Who He is – the infinite God-man.
  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14).
  • What He did – He paid the penalty for our sins, and purchased a place in heaven for us!
  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
  • “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the answer.

  • Faith is not – merely believing a fact.
  • “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).
  • Many people agree that Jesus Christ lived and died, and they even believe in His resurrection! But, they have not turned from sin and trusted Him.
  • Faith is – turning from your sin and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your eternal salvation.
  • “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
  • “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
  • The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Can you think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to invite Jesus Christ into your life right now? Might I suggest a simple prayer?

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the gift of eternal life. I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for my sins and rose again from the dead to give me eternal life. I now put my complete trust in You alone for eternal life. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus name, Amen!

 

This post reflects my heart passion and was inspired by a booklet entitled, “Life’s Most Important Question” published by BMH, P.O. Box 544, Winona Lake, IN 46590, http://www.bmhbooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have We Got ‘Equipping’ Right?

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry, Urban Poverty

 

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Within my denominational affiliation I serve on a team called E-Net. The purpose of the team is to shine a light on the need for pastors and churches to better understand and implement the biblical mandate to ‘equip the saints.’  A recent summary communication from our E-Net team says, “Equipping grows directly out of Ephesians 4:11-16, one of the most significant passages of the New Testament, yet one of the most neglected. Why is it neglected? One reason is that too many people do not realize that in this passage the terms “apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher” refer to functions in the church, and not positions.

“Another reason is that adopting an equipping culture represents a huge paradigm shift. Our [pastoral] training emphasizes preparing us for doing ministry, rather than for equipping others in ministry. We can do ministry better and faster than having to equip others to do it, and much of our identity comes from doing it ourselves. Too many think that equipping and training are synonyms. However, the root meaning of katartismon (equipping) is to bind or to join. Though you cannot equip without training, you can train without equipping. Equipping incorporates joining believers to ministry opportunities. Equipping transforms ministry consumers into ministry participants.”

E-Net’s position is this:

  1. Every church is to fulfill each of the five ministry functions of Ephesians 4:11.
  2. The Lord sends gifted people to every church to serve as “joints and ligaments,” the mid-level leaders committed to helping join the members to ministries.
  3. To equip is to identify both the ministry needs and the available people, seeking to bring them together, usually through involvement in ministry teams.
  4. Through equipping the entire church grows up into Christ, the Head, from whom the whole body is joined and held together by every supporting ligament.
  5. As a result, the church grows and is built up in love, as each part does its work.

I serve in Philadelphia with MetroGrace. We believe God has called us together to raise-up followers of Jesus who help release neighborhoods from Satan’s strongholds by starting gospel-centered and community-based churches. Last year Anecia (my wife) and I had this sense that we could be part of God’s answer to the cries of the the city, and especially those of the urban poor. We relocated our lives to focus our best attention on loving God and neighbors in need in Philadelphia.

While it is easy for our MetroGrace team to be overwhelmed by what is in front of us each day, we sense a call to multiply ourselves and to see more light shine in dark places. We have no desire to help build a mega institution as a vehicle for our own benefit. Rather, we seek to raise-up teams of Christian workers able to go and pioneer, reproduce and multiply strategic neighborhood mission churches throughout the city, and especially among the urban poor. This means that we must get equipping right!

One of my core convictions is ‘organic growth’ which for me means using reproducible models of nurturing, equipping and raising-up of new teams and leaders as the means of growing workers and local Jesus-centered (gospel-centered) movements from within our communities. Responding to urban poverty, helping spark Christian movements in neighborhoods, seeing real transformation requires us “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  (Ephesians 4:12 NIV). We cannot depend solely or primarily on outside help. We must equip the saints!

We are committed to assisting MetroGrace to become a gospel-centered, community-based church planting movement. This will have the greatest opportunity for success as we follow the five-point recommendations of E-Net. We must train our folks, and future church-planting team members, to grow new believers into Jesus-centered workers, serving together in teams, to impact their neighborhoods for real community transformation.

Your thoughts?

Ministry Update and Prayer Requests

Church Planting, cities, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

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Yesterday I drove to York, PA, about a 2 hour drive west of Philadelphia. Through the years Pastor Dan White and the church family have supported the ministry of church planting in Philadelphia through their prayers and finances. It was a nice time of reacquainting with the church. When I was with North American Missions I consulted with the church, helping them to plant a new church in their area. It was enjoyable to reconnect with several of the men and women who served on the church-planting steering committee; it was wonderful to hear of their continued interest and concern for our church-planting efforts, now in Philly. Will you join me in prayer for the York Grace Brethren Church?

I drove home in time to attend church at Wissinoming at 6:00 PM. I was hoping to find Kareem out on the street and to invite him into the service. I had met Kareem, a young African-American man, last Sunday night after church sitting on the steps of the Laundromat next to the church. We had a nice conversation. I invited him to come to church next week. I knew it was a long shot, especially because it was raining and cold. I didn’t find him, but I will continue looking for him again. Will you pray for Kareem?

Last Friday evening I had a chance to speak with and pray for a nurse assistant. He is separated from his girlfriend and three-year old daughter. He was very open to talk to me, especially after he found out that I am a pastor. He had several questions about his relationship with his girlfriend and his concern for his daughter. I prayed with him and told him that I’d be back to the hospital this week, seeing a patient, and will look for him so that we can talk further. He lives in North Philly. Will you pray for him? His name is Thomas.

This coming Sunday, March 9, we will be presenting a ministry update at Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church in Bethlehem, PA, about an hour north of Philadelphia. Pastor Larry Humberd and the church family have been another prayer and financial supporter of MetroGrace for many years. The church added Anecia and me to their 2014 missionary budget for which we are so thankful! Will you pray for us as we present the ministry in Bethlehem this coming Sunday, March 9? Will you also pray for Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church? Thank you!

Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Larry have been dear friends of mine for many years. It is so nice to reconnect and visit with longtime friends, isn’t it? It is equally nice to meet new people, especially those who need the Lord. I have enjoyed meeting several of our neighbors and people that God brings across my path through His sovereign design. I have distributed several dozen Gospel tracts through casual contact, and have been able to impress upon folks that God loves them. I didn’t find Kareem, but I did meet a lady on the same Laundromat steps last night after church, sitting there in the rain. Her name is Marie. She said that she believes in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, but that she does not attend church right now. She is about my age and seemed lonely. Will you pray for Marie? I welcomed her to attend our church on Sunday morning or evening. I’d like to introduce her to Anecia.

Two weeks ago I met with two staff leaders with CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), a university outreach ministry. They are quite interested in further dialogue about a partnership with us on the many campuses in this great city! On another note, on March 27 I will be meeting with students at Lancaster Bible College. Will you please pray about a potential relationship with CCO, and for my visit at Lancaster Bible College?

Well, as you can see, there is a lot to do – so many people who need the Lord and many opportunities that God is bringing across our paths. Thank you for your prayer support. As you are able, thank you also for your financial support. We are here only because of God and His provision through your financial support for our ministry and this city. Thank you so much!

Blessings,

Kurt and Anecia Miller

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Discipleship

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

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It is the greatest need in the world today. It is the most fundamental command that Jesus ever gave us. Yet the Church as a whole is not doing it. The Church and the world are suffering greatly today for our disobedience to His command to make disciples. Jesus said in Matt. 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” This verse has been widely misunderstood only to mean evangelizing individuals.

Discipling peoples involves far more than just evangelizing or “getting people saved.” This is an essential first step but it involves so much more. It is not just about planting churches, as critical as this is to the overall process. It involves developing specific strategies and approaches for each community (or even neighborhood in the case of multi-ethnic neighborhoods) that will take into consideration their specific cultural and historical backgrounds and the environment in which they live so that believers within that community are discipled in a culturally relevant way. A one size fits all approach to discipleship will not work.

I believe the Church in the United States is failing to adequately disciple its people both young and old. The unbelief we see in the younger generation is also present in the Church as a whole. It is only becoming more pronounced in each succeeding generation. We must seek to obey the command of Christ to make disciples if we are to succeed in reversing this ominous trend. We must disciple our people so that they not only can defend their faith, but also become cultural change agents as they follow Christ and seek to make disciples of the people around them.

Again, the purpose of discipleship is not just to get people saved and going to heaven. It is to glorify God in all that we do and to show to the world what God is like. Our job as followers of Christ is to be agents of change within our respective cultures. Every people group and every culture on Earth has been impacted by the forces of evil and needs to be transformed by the power of Christ. This societal transformation takes place as people come to faith in Christ and begin to obey His commands to love their neighbors as themselves; by meeting the real needs of people who are suffering and by standing for biblical values as representatives of the King of righteousness; and, by equipping other believers to do the same. Unless we are developing our church, especially our young people, of sound doctrine and solid spiritual disciplines, who are able to defend a biblical worldview and its values and beliefs, we will have nothing to offer the world as pastors and missionaries. Effective discipleship is the essential element in the future of world evangelization.

Why Have I Been Drawing Attention to Israel?

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Urban Ministry

If you are one of the many followers of this blog; or, of my Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Linkedin accounts, you might be asking, “Why have you been drawing so much attention to Israel recently; I thought this blog is a Church Planting focused blog? And, you would be right to ask that question. After all, this is a church-planting blog. So, what’s up with this focus on Israel?

Please give me a moment to share a brief testimony. I was raised to love Israel and Jewish people. Early in my church-planting life I planted a church in Florida, in a community that had a high concentration of Reformed Jews. I was privileged to work alongside many Jewish businessmen and women. Some of my dearest friends were Jewish and remain so today. The Rabbi of a very large synagogue and I were fishing buddies. I learned to love him dearly. We were good for each other. I came to realize that God had put us together for a reason. I hope we accomplished all God intended us to do between ourselves. I believe we did.

I have Jewish friends who follow my life and who follow this blog. They know me and my missionary zeal. I believe they know I am not trying to push Jesus down their throats. I think they also know that there is nothing more important to me than to introduce Jesus and His Message to everyone in the world, including Jews. They know that I believe Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. No surprises there. So, with this minimally transparent background, I come back to the leading question of this post, “Why this seemingly sudden focus on Israel?”

3 reasons:

  • I believe it is my responsibility to bring the Good News about Jesus Christ to Jews.
  • I believe there has been an erosion of concern among many evangelicals toward Israel and Jewish people in general.
  • I believe the timetable toward Jesus’ second coming is rapidly drawing to an end.

    With that in mind, I offer the below article from the May 2013 issue of the “Israel My Glory” magazine. It is so on target, that I especially encourage you who are church planters to read it; but, not just church planters. Christian friend, there are undoubtedly more Jewish people living around you than you realize. I bet that most of them are wonderful people. Why not meet them? Why not become friends? Maybe, as in my case, some will see the love that Jesus has for you?

    For my Jewish friends, please know that I mean no offense to you. I love you dearly. My love for you is my incentive for writing this post.

    Shalom.

    If you cannot read the article below, click here to see it on their website.

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    How Modern Evangelism Creates Consumers

    Church Planting, Other Authors, Urban Ministry

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    Alan Hirsch speaks about HOW MODERN EVANGELISM CREATES CONSUMERS. Hirsch says, “The reason why this is the case, is because the church growth movement and the way we do evangelism, catered to the very thing we need to work against—consumerism. Consumerism, folks, is an alternative religion. It’s not just buying goods and services. People go buy in shopping malls things other than feeding their body and basic needs. They’re looking for purpose, meaning, significance, belonging, community. That’s what it’s called—brand community…In other words the very thing that religion offers to us, or ought to, is being sought in consumption…

    “You can’t make disciples out of consumers. You can’t consume your way into the Kingdom. It doesn’t work like that. Jesus says die…You come to the cross. Now who said you can take that out of the equation and expect the results that Jesus points to later on in the piece. If Jesus says it’s good enough to go through the cross upfront, in the beginning, who are we to make it different.”

    Listen to Hirsch

    The Critical Role of Evangelism and Discipleship in Church Planting

    Church Planting, Other Authors

    Evangelism and discipleship does not automatically happen in a new church. That is unfortunate for some aspiring planters. All of us struggle with our view of lostness no matter how long we have been in the faith. Too many planters think that the reason lost people have not come to Christ is because they have not found the right church yet. Thus, a mythological equation is formed: lost culture + relevant church plant service = instant harvest.

    So, they sincerely set out with a new formula that will fill the local middle school gymnasium or movie theater with lost people. They have a vision of lost people streaming en masse through the doors on launch Sunday shouting, “I found it!” No wonder that planter will spend the majority of the week getting the production ready. The band, slides, movie clips, coffee and donuts, are all a part of an environment that helps people feel at home. But at the end of the day, the demanding grind of an attractive church can potentially take away from the pursuit of those far from God. Simply put, when you have an attractive plant it can end up solely with an attractional strategy. The end result will be that you “sell” a new and better church (product) to consumers of religious goods and services.

    It is possible (and even common) to spend too much energy focused on only one aspect of the church plant: the Sunday morning crowds. There are many solutions, including opening up new lanes to all kinds of church planting, something Warren Bird and I discuss in Viral Churches.

    One solution is to personally invest significant time in relationships with lost people and new believers. The sermons may need to be simpler with less “special effects.” The band may need less programmatic direction and more relational investment with you. At the end of the day, the core team and lead planter must personally invest heavily in the harvest. Not only is that great for the moment (for those lost people, etc.) but it creates the culture for the future of every person who connects with your church. The long term future of the new church is in the harvest, not a Disneyfied Sunday morning experience.

    Most planters I know start new churches to reach lost people and grow disciples. Planters we talked to highlighted five challenges to evangelism and discipleship:

    (1) Multiple time demands detracted from time needed for evangelism and discipleship.

    (2) Discerning how to practice faith (James 1:27) in a way that represents all God is doing in world not limited to direct evangelism only. Examples include hunger relief, assistance and adoption efforts.

    (3) Living incarnationally and engaging in today’s culture.

    (4) Implementing a deliberate evangelistic and disciple-making strategy.

    (5) Making small groups work.

    Here are two observations that will help you work through these challenges to evangelism and discipleship:

    Distracted by the Planting Process – The paradox for the planter is that what drives to plant — a heart to reach lost people — is often hindered by planting the church. Challenges cited by planters in this area appear connected to the first five issues in this report. Specifically developing leaders, mobilizing volunteers, building teams, financial resources, and building healthy systems all divert a planter’s focus to things other than evangelism and discipleship.

    They are a part of making disciples but can be programs executed with a focus on process rather than on people.

    The desire to engage people incarnationally and build relationships is met with the reality of the challenges that tug on the planter’s time, energy and focus. Yet as previously mentioned, these values must be lived out. Difficult decisions need to be made about what will really be important. It is essential to keep the unchurched before you and your team. Keep the issue on the table for everyone in your core team — make yourself accountable to them as well as making them accountable to you.

    The Internal Scorecard – A nagging sense of falling short of the dream in the area of evangelism and discipleship can significantly contribute to a planter’s discouragement. The planter’s tolerance level for the pressures and disappointments of planting is higher when lives are being changed.

    In some ways, it’s like parenting. When our kids respond by grace and through faith to Jesus and live for Him, it’s easier to deal with disappointment over less important areas of their lives. Evangelism and discipleship are core values for most planters and should bias the internal scorecard more than many other factors.

    Church planter networks that value reaching people provide great environments to help. The tension planters feel to get it all done and invest in lost people is common (thus Top 7 material). The great news is that in every region, somewhere there is a planter being used by God to get it done. Time with someone like that will give you insight on how to stay focused and work toward gospel impact.

    This blog was written by my friend, Ed Stetzer. His partner, Todd Wilson (Director of Exponential), also helped on this project. http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/02/7-top-issues-church-planters-f-3.html

    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!