By Matthew Hodges, Director of City Outreach
On Martin Luther King Day, in Durham, North Carolina, I’ve been thinking about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, mainly because we’ve all got dreams. Our church is Durham’s oldest, founded in 1845, and we continue to meet near downtown Durham. Of Durham’s 228,000+ residents as of the 2010 census, 42 percent are white, and 41 percent are African-American. And, my church has a dream for our church and surrounding community. A dream where the Good News of Jesus Christ crumbles down walls that would normally separate us one from another, a dream of FBC Durham growing more and more to resemble the multitude of saints in Revelation 7.
It’s our senior pastor’s dream also.
As I begin my sixth year as the Director of City Outreach, my soul has been encouraged often by the men and women referred to in Hebrews 11, and those like them who’ve followed. There are many things I could point to that God has used to strengthen my resolve as I help lead FBC Durham to minister to our surrounding urban context, but something Dr. Andy Davis recently preached in a sermon was huge for me.
1. Dr. Andy Davis’ Dream
On November 17, 2013, Dr. Davis preached a message from Galatians 2:11–21, which he titled, “The True Gospel Produces True Unity if Truly Followed.” And in his introduction, he made this tremendous statement:
“A few years ago, Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream.’ Well, I have my own dream for First Baptist Church. I would love to see a supernatural unity happening in this church. I would like to see more people walking to church here, … people right from this community, who don’t need to drive, and have been reached by our city outreach ministry, and others who have come to faith in Christ and make First Baptist their church.”
This isn’t a new dream for Dr. Davis. It’s always been his dream. I’ve had the joy of talking with Dr. Davis on many occasions, and even before I came on staff as the Director of City Outreach, I’ve had the joy of hearing his heart on the subject: that our northeast downtown building not just be that—a building in the community—but that FBC Durham be a people, actively engaging the surrounding community with the gospel, and with other acts of grace.
For years, one of Dr. Davis’ go-to chapters for ministry in the urban context has been John 17. We’ve talked about several of the verses in that chapter numerous times. In John 17, we see Jesus praying for unity (not uniformity), as this supernatural unity would be a sign to the world that Jesus Christ had, in fact, come into the world (see vv 21, 23). What an amazing evangelistic strategy! Jesus, bringing people from all different walks of life and backgrounds together through the forgiveness of sins and faith in the gospel message, so that the world might know that God the Father has sent God the Son.
2. The People of the Dream
The local church composes the workers of this dream. Over the years, FBC Durham members have served in the urban context in a number of ways: health fairs, Jobs for Life, working in the Caring Center, kids clubs at Liberty Street Apartments, benevolence, and so on. Those are just some of the ways we’re seeking to make progress toward the goal of our dream. Whether you’re a member of FBC Durham or of another local church, as men and women who desire to be obedient to the Word of God in every area of life (even those areas that stretch us!), may we grow and work together to increasingly see evidences of the dream Dr. Davis proclaimed in his sermon in even greater ways this year.
3. The Goal of the Dream Will Not Come Easy
But keep in mind that the goal of this dream doesn’t come easy. Cross-cultural ministry isn’t easy in any context. FBC Durham’s population center is northeast central Durham. There, the population is 49 percent African-American, 27 percent white and 21 percent Hispanic—and that is quite different than the make-up of FBC’s congregation. The good news is that Jesus knows all about the make-up of our surrounding community. He knows everyone! He knows their temperaments, interests, life experiences, joys and challenges. Jesus knows just as well that cross-cultural ministry is a challenge because the world’s disunity is due to sin. And, he knows that cross-cultural servants often have their own fears to overcome, their own comfort zones to breach. He knows that the dream of our senior pastor will not magically become our new reality overnight.
4. By the Lord’s Help, We Can Make Progress
But you know, on this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered, not because his dream has fully met its goal (it hasn’t; there is still work to be done), but because of the major impact he had on a movement in our nation to grow to see all men seen as equal, and treated as equal. Similarly, I hope this day will encourage people like you and me to embrace the dream of our pastor, Dr. Davis—to see men and women from the surrounding community join with us in the journey of the Christian life as family, walking to First Baptist Church because they’re members, not just visitors. It won’t be easy, but thankfully God is with us. May obedience to the Great Commission—even if in small steps—be accomplished this year by going, declaring the gospel (Matt 28:18–20), and showing the gospel (John 17:20–26).