We will increase Free Methodist church planting and ministry in U.S. urban centers by developing lasting ministries and local leaders that multiply themselves throughout our cities.
By David Kendall
To the Cities
In the summer of 2011, the Free Methodist Church – USA gathered for another of its periodic general conferences. Our lay and clergy leaders, along with hundreds of other committed brothers and sisters, resolved to listen to what the Holy Spirit was saying to our church family. We organized the entire week to seek and respond to God’s direction. We expected God to speak, and God did not disappoint us.
We believe God’s Spirit directed us to identify the cities of the nation and world as strategic mission fields where God’s love must go. If we received this direction from God, we do not have to make the case for obedience. Before we gathered, we had already decided that we would follow the lead of our Lord. As we follow, let me encourage you.
Our mission as Free Methodists requires this focus on the cities. The mission is to love God and people, and to make disciples. Because God loved the world, God sent Jesus who went to the people wherever they were.
Jesus accomplished His mission by entering, engaging and embracing people in the cities of His day. Notably, the mission culminated in the largest city of His earthly mission context — Jerusalem. Then, as the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus charged His followers to go from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth with ministry. As they went, the prominent cities of the first century world became their primary missional destinations. Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Rome — along with many other urban centers — became home to outbreaks of God’s kingdom that have continuing impact today.
Our world requires focus and priority on cities. The population flow everywhere in the world streams toward the cities. In our own country over the last century, the population has shifted so that nearly 80 percent of all people in the United States are in cities.
It seems obvious that where the people go, the church must also go, but that response has not been automatic for the Free Methodist Church.
It seems obvious that where the people go, the church must also go, but that response has not been automatic for the Free Methodist Church. In fact, we followed the crowds of churches fleeing the cities in the last century. With the passing of time, we now clearly see the convicting irony that the churches fled and all sorts of people quickly rushed in. The church ran from some of the places where most people in need of the gospel settled. This, however, did not reflect the original story of the Free Methodist Church.
Embracing Our Heritage
Indeed, our heritage reflects the focus and priority on cities to which the Lord now calls us. Our best understanding of the gospel is that the poor are especially welcomed by the good news of Jesus. This was Jesus’ way of summing up his mission (Luke 4:18-19), and the earliest Free Methodists understood their mission precisely in such terms, as good news to and for the poor.
B.T. and Ellen Roberts sacrificed their own home and family stability to plant an urban church in Buffalo, N.Y., even though they were unemployed. Many others followed their lead in the first decades of our own history as they entered the cities to found outreach ministries for the lost, least and last.
Urban centers host many forms of human brokenness that Jesus wants to heal and mend, and they also hold potential for human wholeness and flourishing.
Finally, our vision also requires passionate commitment to the world’s urban centers. We work to bring wholeness to the world through healthy, biblical, holy and multiplying Free Methodist ministries. Urban centers host many forms of human brokenness that Jesus wants to heal and mend, and they also hold potential for human wholeness and flourishing. Jesus wants to redeem that potential and bless the world by fulfilling it. He will do this in part through a people called Free Methodist.
Lord Jesus, we will follow you to the people and to the places where they are most to be found in all their need and with all their potential, all for your glory. Amen!
Free Methodist Urban Fellowship President B. Elliott Renfroe is putting out the welcome mat for people who want help responding to the needs of their communities.
For nearly four decades, FMUF has served as a connection point for Free Methodists in metropolitan areas with its Continental Urban Exchange (CUE) conferences alternating between major cities across the nation.
The challenges of urban ministry do not prevent the Foundry Escondido from reaching people in the San Diego area for Christ. “These are people that I see every day,” said George King, lead pastor of the Foundry. “Unfortunately, I see a lot of them making choices that are filling their lives with harm.”
Escondido, Calif., is a diverse city of nearly 144,000 residents, of whom 49 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are of Asian descent, according to 2010 census data. Because the Foundry seeks to reach all of the people in its community, the Free Methodist congregation has developed partnerships with other congregations across cultural boundaries.
He wants all reached; none should perish!
God wants to reach people. And [the city is] where the people are, increasingly.
The fish don’t go looking for the fisherman.