The Paradox of Church Planting
One of the themes throughout Scripture is that people people don't get it ... whether the Israelites constantly questioning and doubting God in the wilderness after their flight from Egypt or the early church struggling with carrying their religious and cultural baggage into their new life in Christ. God calls us out, redeems and makes us a new creation, sends us back into the world as ambassadors of the good news, and yet we quickly get off track. Jesus, the great master shepherd, is constantly having to corral us ... because it's like herding squirrels or cats. Poof! We quickly scatter to our own ways.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul writes, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." One of the themes we see throughout the NT is the thread of how Jesus, who was and is royalty, laid it all aside on our behalf to live in poverty among us. We know his parents were so poor that when it came time to make an offering for purification they could only afford two pigeons. Downward mobility is the constant theme.
However, in church planting one of the messages we consistently hear is that we need to go after the middle-class, the elite, the culture makers and the like. As a result the majority of new churches are being planted in middle-class (and above) neighborhoods for like people. Scripturally, we can make the argument that this isn't wrong or off base. Paul proclaimed the good news before political figure heads and ultimately before Caesar. Yes, everyone matters to God. However, why do we not champion church planting among the blue collar and the poor?
Church planting among the upper echelon is mind-boggling pricey. Have you checked out real estate prices in San Francisco? Seattle? Even Portland is getting worse by the month. I'd be hard-pressed to find a home for under $600,000 in my neighborhood. Again, this is not a call to stop planting in these places. We need more ... a lot more. My point is ... in addition to this, what about planting among the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the uncool? (oh, and you could buy a house for $20,000 there too)
This is not a rant nor a diatribe against how and where we're planting today. Instead, it is a reminder to point out that in the midst of this, let's give a little love to the downtrodden, the distressed, the forgotten, and the neglected. Maybe it's an affront to the image we're trying to curate before the watching world on social media, but at the same time if Jesus did this (leaving riches for poverty) I think it's safe to say we can to.