"church born from below"

As I continue to prepare for this upcoming year leading Praxis, I’m continually inspired by the teaching and example of others in the area of faith and culture in an urban context. I’ve quoted a few times in recent posts and tweets from Mark Gornik’s book, To Live In Peace. He articulates a vision for the inner city that combines thorough cultural and biblical analysis through the lens of his inner-city church in Baltimore - this is theological storytelling at its best.

As one who maintains there is still relevance for the church in our world, I found the following passage particularly inspiring, insightful, and inciting:

If it is the church’s mission to speak of and witness to hope and redemption, to life against death, and to peace over the violence of the powers, then the following agenda, while partial and preliminary, is important for the church in our cities. Our frame of reference is a vision of God’s new city of peace; our practices are rooted in the gracious demands of God’s reign; our sense of what is possible is engendered by the Spirit. And our most basic commitment is that any agenda must meet the demands of reality as experienced on the streets.

At the forefront of an agenda for the urban future must be the development and renewal of grassroots Christian churches and networks. In a changing urban environment, vibrant, healthy, holistically oriented churches with a parish commitment are vital because they are normative institutions that enable families to negotiate a changing world. As such, they are agents of proclaiming the good news and generators of the social and spiritual bonds that contribute to the revitalization of communities. On a daily level, the church clearly can make the difference that allows for survival, given its very personal, political, economic, social, and spiritual interest in people’s lives. The church fulfills this role not by downplaying its distinctiveness but by recognizing that it is a community “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

When we survey the inner city and the larger world, we realize that the future church is a church of the suffering and the poor. The importance of the church born from below is, at the deepest level, bound up with God’s redemption of the world...

The future of the church in the city depends on taking up the gospel, the good news of Jesus and the kingdom, for the prisoner, the poor, and the outsider, not as the pretext for a mission strategy, proselytizing, or a programmatic enterprise, but as a living truth and movement that transforms...Born of the Spirit, the church of the poor that impacts the city reads Scripture in communion, practices decentralized leadership, and is committed to holistic ministry.

In a celebrity-crazed world where power and influence often come at the expense of someone or somewhere; and when socio-economic gaps perpetuate division and conflict; and where even Christian ministry to the poor only further alienates and divides, Gornik’s words on church, gospel and solidarity are timely:

Church of the poor...
Church born from below...


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