The Changing Geography of Jobs and Church Planting
Cities large and small are in constant flux. Sometimes we fail to notice that cities are not static. While we love cities like Portland and Seattle there is this misunderstanding that these cities have always been great. But as recent as the 1980s both communities were hemorrhaging people and the economy was flat-lined at best (but actually in decline). Fast forward the storyline to today and both cities continue to be on the receiving end of people migrating en masse to these now deemed highly livable cities. We simply assume that entities like Nike, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Adidas, and others had always been part of these cities. Not so.
Communities are in constant transition ... either clambering upwards or spiraling downwards. It is life-giving and exciting to live in a city that is on the rise. Conversely, it is a struggle in many ways to live in a city on the decline. Again, what makes cities rise or fall? Jobs. Economics. This is the story of communities like Portland and others like Detroit.
So how does (or can) church planting play a part in improving the trajectory of communities across the continent? Far from any utopian ideal that we'll be able to wave our Bibles and "poof" a community jumps into booming economic growth, but there are ways that we can be involved. Many ways.
However, to do so means that we simply take stock and notice or observe. Where has the community been? Where is it at now? Where is it trying to go? In looking at cities in out Strategic Communities list we communities like Bisbee. It has transitioned from one of the richest copper mines in the world to a hub for artists and cultural creatives. Then there is Oakridge who lost its logging mills but now it trying to capture tourism dollars as it goes all-in on creating a world-class mountain biking destination.
No one says we have to reinvent the wheel so to speak. It is not about shoehorning an idea that is not congruent with the changing trajectory of these communities. Instead, we need to ask ourselves questions like ... what does this community need? Who am I? Who are we as a new church? How has God wired and gifted us to be a tangible asset to these communities? The way those questions are answered vary greatly. They will also have an enormous influence on how you go about planting depending upon each community.
Here's the rub though. There's a reason why people flock to cities like Portland. There's also a reason why young people are not sticking around in places like Bisbee. That's why it takes those with an intrepid ethos and mindset to go into the communities where many a church planter fear to tread. But the Gospel compels us to give our lives away.