Community Development as the Outcome of Church Planting
"No heart that loves Christ can be cold to the vulnerable and needy." (Tim Keller in Generous Justice)
Wait ... community development as the outcome of church planting? Isn't that casting aside the historic mission of the church? Shouldn't church planting be about seeing individuals transformed through hearing and responding to the gospel?
There's not enough space to adequately respond to these questions and pushback. With that said, they are valid questions and should be asked.
Why do we want to plant churches? Is it simply about gathering already convinced people into culturally cool and relevant spaces of worship and instruction? No. It's about proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel. Then those who respond we gather together for instruction (discipleship) and worship (regardless of how cool or uncool that gathering is).
As we gather people we are focused on discipling them ... to coach, encourage, and mentor them into maturity. Ok, but is that only in relation to "spiritual things" and nothing else? No. We're under the impression that as people grow in maturity it begins to reorient their entire worldview and way of life. It's even more than living lives of integrity and good repute, but it spills into what kind of a spouse we are ... what kind of parents we are ... what kind of friends we are ... and what kind of workers, employees, or bosses we are. Even discipleship has an economic component to it.
We could jump onto a side trail to explore the Old Testament principles of gleaning which is about not only being a successful farmer, but ensuring you leave the edges of your fields for the poor to come afterwards to work (and thus establishing dignity) to provide for themselves. In other words, the ability to provide for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner is economic because it means as you succeed in your business it allows you to care for others.
But what if the economic conditions of your community (for whatever reason) doesn't allow you to thrive? What if there are little to no job opportunities? How will you provide for you and your family let alone those who're needy? See, all of a sudden we've made the leap from discipleship into community or economic development. Obviously it's been a hasty and abbreviated leap with lots of gaps, but hopefully you get the point. We can truly plant churches in communities facing economic hardships, but lack of opportunities will (and do) severely hamper the lives of those you're trying to connect with.
"The provision of our daily bread, through neighborhood supermarkets, grocery stores, and bodegas, is unambiguously a set of commodity relations." (DeFilippis and Saegert in The Community Development Reader)
As we seek to go into communities to plant churches we also equally value starting new businesses and non-profits. You see, often times what makes a community thrive ... or decline ... is largely tied to its economic state (vulnerable to local, regional, and global forces). What's the modern day storyline of Detroit about? Economics. The idea is we can't simply compartmentalize things ... church planting is about "churchy" things and nothing else. It has to be about more. It's this more which is what Intrepid is all about.
Build a trail. Start a business. Plant a church.