Letter to Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC

FBC News | Posted by: ashley

The Elders have recently sent a letter to the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC. Below is the content of that letter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The elders of First Baptist Church, Durham, NC want to express our profound sorrow and grief at the recent shooting and deaths of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. 

We understand that situations of such a violent and extreme nature are generationally profound and carry long shadows of hurt and grief. We are encouraged by the forgiveness your congregation has modeled throughout this season of severe trial, beautifully reflecting the nature and glory of Jesus Christ and His Church. We pray that Christ will continue to show Himself to be the “God of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) to your church community in the days and months ahead.

Be assured of our continued prayers for your church as we eagerly anticipate the day when “[Christ] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Blessings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor
Greg Fox, Lay Pastor
Ron Halbrooks, Lay Pastor
Rick Lesh, Lay Pastor and Elder Chairman
Chris McKeel, Lay Pastor
Ashok Nachnani, Lay Pastor
Daniel Renstrom, Assistant Pastor
Kevin Schaub, Assistant Pastor
Andy Winn, Associate Pastor

Cc:  St. Mark AME Zion Church – Durham, NC



Brianna’s Baptism: The First of Many

Baptism,City Outreach | Posted by: Editors

By Matthew Hodges, Director of City Outreach

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, we had the joy of baptizing Miss Brianna Fisher. Brianna attended our Summer Sizzle city outreach event in July and joined us for worship the following Sunday. Over the next few months, she began to actively attend our youth ministry Bible studies and through the work of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Pastor Kevin Schaub, and many other members, she wanted to be baptized as an outward profession of her faith.

imageHer baptism was a great moment for our church to celebrate the faithfulness of God in answering our prayers that we might begin to see men and women within walking distance of our church building joining us in worship. And, although we rejoice over Brianna as one of the first, we continue to be mindful that there are more from our 27701 zip code who we would hope and pray to see walking to First Baptist, joining with us in worship, being baptized, and becoming active members of our church body. It’s our hope and prayer that the words spoken to Paul in Acts 18:10—“ … I have many people in this city”—would be true of our ministry in the city of Durham.

That Sunday morning was an amazing day of worship, and Brianna’s baptism, an amazing sight that could simply pass us by if we don’t stop and reflect. We know our church has a long history of preaching the gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ. We value doctrine and verse-by-verse expositional preaching. Our classrooms are filled with men and women eager to think biblically and eager to apply the gospel to every area of life. All of these things are good, but sadly, they are not known by many in our surrounding neighborhoods.

There is still a very strong perception in the community that churches like First Baptist are not a place for African-American or Hispanic individuals to attend, worship at, or become members. By the grace of God, the baptism of Brianna—as, Lord willing, the first of many from our surrounding community—is something for us like the first day Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers’ uniform, or when Thurgood Marshall became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, or when Pastor Fred Luter became the first African American President of the Southern Baptist Convention, or when Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Brianna’s baptism leads us to rejoice and say, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).

This blog post isn’t so much written for the praise of Brianna, but for the praise of King Jesus! Jesus prayed in John 17:21 “that we may all be one.” Brianna’s baptism was the first step for us becoming one with her, but there are many steps still to take for us to be truly one with her. I will share more in a later post on what it means to truly be one with others in cross-cultural ministry.

Lord willing, the perception in the community of churches like our own will one day come down like the Berlin Wall as the hammer of salvation leads us out to engage cross-culturally with men and women from different ethnic and socio-economic groups—whatever the cultural barriers might be. Please pray with us that we be faithful to pray and proclaim the gospel, so that the waters of our baptismal pool, and our future “New Member Sundays” grow to reflect more and more the diversity that we will see and experience for eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth.

Why I was Thrilled to Vote for David Platt

Announcement,Missions | Posted by: Editors

By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor

Yesterday was a historic day for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I was absolutely delighted to have had the privilege of being part of that history as an IMB Trustee. At about 11:00 yesterday morning, I wrote the single word “Yes” on a small, blank piece of paper in answer to the question, “Should David Platt be the next President of the IMB?” The day before that, I had been deeply moved to thankfulness when I found out the Search Committee was presenting David as their chosen candidate. The Committee revealed the identity of their candidate by playing an IMB video done using David’s passionate voice making a powerful appeal to Christians to risk everything for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. I immediately recognized two things: the identity of the speaker, and the same moving of the Spirit I feel inside my heart every time I hear David pour out passionate conviction on the urgent need for sacrifice in the cause of missions. I immediately thanked God for his providential moving in bringing such a man to such an agency for such a time as this.


David Platt

Why do I say that? There are many reasons I could give. I could speak of David’s remarkable love for God’s Word, and his skill at weaving together some of the deepest themes in the Bible in ways that are both doctrinally sound and unifying. Given that the IMB is the united effort of a wide array of Baptist congregations, such a unifying theological vision is essential. Or I could speak of David’s fruitful years of ministry at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, where he led that local church in a journey of increasingly sacrificial service to Christ for eight years. Given that the IMB President will need to make an effective appeal to pastors to lead their congregations in similar journeys, such a track record gives him credibility. Or I could speak of David’s book, Radical, which has made a profound impact on the hearts of countless people, calling them away from the emptiness of a life lived for materialism to the fullness of a life lived for Christ’s Kingdom. Given that only radical obedience to Christ will be able to meet the challenges of taking the gospel to the remaining 6,500 unreached people groups on earth, such a message is vital. There are many other aspects of David’s life and gifting I could address.

What moves me to write is how the Holy Spirit moves in me whenever I hear him speak. Truth on fire! That’s good preaching, preaching with unction. It flows from the white-hot convictions of a heart shaped by God’s Word and ignited by God’s Spirit. Jonathan Edwards, in an ordination sermon he preached entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister” said that a faithful preacher must combine light and heat—truth and passion. The truth must flow from sound exegesis of Scripture. The heat must radiate from a heart that loves God and people by the power of the Spirit. Both are essential. Both are present whenever David Platt speaks. I feel my heart ignited with zeal when I listen to David… I want to sacrifice, to live with passion, to speak with conviction, to risk more and more for the spread of the gospel. David is one of the most effective tools I’ve ever heard for driving out the lukewarmness from the hearts of his hearers.

This fire is essential to the future of the IMB. Young people respond to this kind of a message. They want to live and if need be, die, for something of eternal consequence. David Platt ignites their hearts for the eternal glory of God in the advancing Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Without thousands of young people and millions of dollars flowing toward the ends of the earth, not only the IMB but all mission agencies will die. David’s message resonates with young Christians.

I picture the IMB like a sawmill by the side of a river which is powered by the flow of the water turning a waterwheel. The wheel turns in proportion to the amount of water that flows by the mill. The more water, the more lumber can be cut. At present, the stream flowing by the IMB is dwindling year by year. But further upstream, there are huge blocks of ice with all the resources needed to cut astonishing amounts of lumber. They wait for the thawing heat of the sun… they wait a fiery heat, a passionate breath from the Spirit of God. When the ice melts, the waters will flow. The ice represents locked-up resources of time, energy, money, spiritual gifts, people. David’s biblically accurate passion is like a blowtorch in the hands of the Lord, unleashing resources to flow for the eternal glory of God and the joy of presently lost people. To God be the glory for this generous gift, not only to the IMB, but to the people who will spend eternity worshipping Christ because a missionary was brought to a fork in the road of his life and made the infinitely wise decision to risk it all for Jesus.


Image credit: http://www.imb.org/main/news/details.asp?StoryID=13479&LanguageID=1709#.U_4DcSRurWp

The Gospel and Ministering to the Poor

City Outreach,Ministry to the Poor,Urban Ministry | Posted by: Editors

By Diana Lisle

Note: Diana Lisle is a member of FBC Durham and has spent many years ministering in the urban context of Durham, often leading Bible clubs for children in nearby neighborhoods around our church building.


Two Possible Wrong Responses to Poverty: Pity and Pride

If you minister in an area of poverty, it can be easy to err in two very different ways: pity or pride. The gospel teaches us to set our minds on things above, not on things on earth. The gospel teaches us apart from Christ we are hopeless, all things are given by Christ not gained by the strength of our own hands. The gospel teaches us that the most pressing need of every man, woman, and child is to be reconciled to God. God gives all spiritual fruit. We were once God’s enemy, but now we are adopted into his family and coheirs with Christ. This is not based on any merit of our own, but only by the merciful, pursuit of Christ. It is with this understanding that we must minister. It is out of the knowledge of our past condition and God’s mercy that we must share the good news with those who are still, like we once were, dead in their trespasses and sin.

Keeping this right perspective, can be a struggle when we are ministering to people from our own culture (i.e., those who look like us, think like us, and live like us). When we minister cross-culturally, whether across ethnic or economic lines, this struggle can be increased if we don’t fully understand and live out the gospel. In other words, as we minister to others our practical theology comes to light. What do we really believe about the gospel? How do we view the places we minister? How do we view the people we minister to? How do we view other peoples’ circumstances?

1. Pity

Working in areas of poverty can be a distraction from the gospel for many Christians. When they see others without things that they have come to depend on as daily provisions or comforts, often it produces a response of pity. They may hurt for those in such conditions and want to help. It can be hard to see others without the comforts that you are used to or at times without their basic needs met. This can make one pity the families in this situation and begin to find solutions to their financial or material woes. Some people are so overwhelmed by entering a culture of poverty that they leave emotionally paralyzed. Others return with a determination to change the earthly situation of those they met.

There is a time for providing for those in need. Having compassion and providing for others in need is an important godly response. We should be generous in doing so. However, pity can be used to distract us from what’s not physically seen: their spiritual condition. I can become more concerned about the living conditions of others than spreading the hope of the gospel. My concern for providing material wealth for others can be used to distract me from the gospel.

2. Pride

Another wrong response to poverty can be pride. It is easy for one to be thankful they would never be found in a situation of poverty because of their own hard work and faithful service. Some start to judge those in poverty. While following patterns of biblical principles can lead to stable or fruitful lifestyles, all people living in poverty have not been the cause of their situations. Consider those who were born in poverty, many for generations, sometimes because of unjust societal structures or oppression. This may have left them without the resources and knowledge to get out. Consider also what the Bible tells us about wealth and material possessions: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth …” (Deut 8:17–18). If one falls into the trap of taking credit for their material possessions or wealth, this can also hinder one’s gospel witness.

If I let pride cause me to think I have gained material wealth by hard work, then I am failing to truly understand the grace of God, and I might judge myself more highly than I ought and might judge others lower than I ought. This can damage any ministry in which I am involved. If I let pity drive me to focus on changing the lifestyle of my friends, those I minister to, I can be distracted by valuing the temporary over the eternal. The same God who provides me with every good and perfect earthly gift (common grace) provides me with eternal life with Christ (saving grace), and I don’t deserve either one. If I compare my life with that of another without the correct view of the God’s grace, I may walk away with misguided pity or unmerited pride. 


When you think about ministering in an area of poverty, what do you think? Do you think someone needs to go rescue those poor people? Do you view those living in poverty as in a more desperate situation than your unbelieving neighbors next door? Are you distracted from the gospel by the effects of poverty and wealth? Does one’s earthly condition cause a stronger emotional response in you than their spiritual condition? 

Do you think of all people in poverty as unbelievers? Or do you believe there are co-laborers and co-heirs of Christ, people saved by grace just like you living in poverty? Are you distracted from the gospel by thinking too lowly of others or too highly of yourself based on material possessions?

Do you believe that some of the next church leaders are living in neighborhoods of poverty? Do you believe that God is at work pursuing, saving, and growing believers living in a variety of life’s circumstances? Do you believe that the greatest rescue that can be made is not from a life of poverty, but a life of sin? Do you believe that God has rescued you by unmerited favor from his wrath and made you his child and he will do that for others?

Poverty in Light of the Gospel

Believing that all material gain I have comes from God and not from my own self-worth means I must humble myself and give all credit to God for my earthly possessions. Believing God offers his grace freely to all who believe, completely without merit gives me the best strategy for rescuing others in poverty. We have the glorious privilege of joining the father in ministering to others in a variety of life circumstances within the body of Christ and throughout the world. By remembering God’s sovereign role in our lives, we can minister humbly and compassionately with great joy sharing the same hope of the gospel that has rescued us.

“I Have a Dream” … For FBC Durham

City Outreach,Urban Ministry | Posted by: Editors

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.

Matthew Hodges with Andy Davis

Matthew Hodges with Andy Davis

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).

FBC Durham’s New Service Times

Announcement,FBC News | Posted by: Editors

By Kevin Schaub

New BFL Time Website GraphicHey there, readers. We wanted to take a brief moment to remind those of you who are members or otherwise attend services at FBC Durham that our new service times start this Sunday, January 19. We hope to see you for Bible for Life (BFL), which starts at 9:15am. Come early and grab a cup of coffee in the Welcome Center (that will help you wake up!); our new worship service time is 10:30am.

As a reminder, if you’re scheduled to serve in the nursery during the worship service, please be sure to come and relieve the BFL-hour volunteers as soon as BFL is over. Otherwise, we hope you’ll take advantage of the gap between BFL and the worship time to grab (another) cup of coffee, chat with friends, and get to know someone new.

See you Sunday!

New Book: An Infinite Journey

General | Posted by: Editors

By Kevin Schaub

An Infinite JourneyFBC Durham’s senior pastor, Andy Davis, has written a book on the doctrine of sanctification, and we’re excited to announce that it is now available for order. An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness (Ambassador International, 2014) is an accessible yet extensive treatment of sanctification, written with pastoral care and clarity. It’s our hope Andy’s book will bless the church, glorify God, and help each reader on their two infinite journeys.

To whet your appetite for Andy’s book, here are a couple of blurbs:

“Rarely have I read such a book on sanctification that is simultaneously serious and fresh, at once reflective and accessible. Andy Davis combines analytical astuteness with pastoral passion. Those who think of themselves as Christians but who have no desire to grow in holiness need this book; Christians who want to be increasingly conformed to Christ will cherish this book.” – D.A. Carson

“Besides the Bible, it would be difficult to find any other single resource with more biblically sound, theologically rich, pastorally helpful, and practical insight about Christian growth than this book. Moreover, it’s not just a book about progress in Christlikeness, for I know Andy Davis and I can affirm that there’s a life of growth in grace behind the book. I recommend it to anyone on the Infinite Journey.” – Don Whitney

Also, you should check out Tim Challies’ review (January 7) of An Infinite Journey here.

To order a copy of An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness from Amazon.com, click here. The book is available both in print and digital formats. You can also pick up your copy at FBC Durham if you’re close by, or feel free to contact our church office.


Image credit: Ambassador International.

Andy Davis Speaking at the 2013 CROSS Conference

General | Posted by: encompass

By Kevin Schaub


In a few days, there will be an enormous missions conference for students in Louisville, Kentucky. We’re excited about CROSSCon for many reasons. Students have a passion and love for missions, and CROSS will be a terrific momentum builder and doctrinal trainer for many would-be missionaries. We’re also excited about the wide breadth of topics that will be addressed, from expositions of key biblical texts to missions history, and the church and missions.

In addition to the plenary speakers, there will be many breakout sessions, and Andy Davis has been tasked to tackle the important topic of mercy ministry. If you would like to download and read over his outline prior to the conference, click on this link. After the conference is over and once the audio of the breakout sessions are made available, we’ll link to that as well.


Image credit: CROSSCon.

Ministry in the New Urban Context

Urban Ministry | Posted by: Editors

By Kevin Schaub, Assistant Pastor

I’ve never been to Detroit, so I don’t know for sure whether the comparisons I’m about to make will be able to stand. Since this isn’t a post about Detroit, but instead one about local ministry in the urban context, it’s probably not necessary that I be nuanced on Detroit. So if you’re reading from Detroit, please bear with me.

1. Durham’s Urban History

Detroit is a city with a complicated history. It’s a city once built on the shoulders of the auto industry, now reinvented as an entertainment hub. It’s an important American city, but it has its well-documented problems: crime, social tensions, urban decay, and bankruptcy.

In a similar way, Durham is a city with a complicated history. It’s a city once built on the shoulders of the tobacco industry, now reinvented as a city of research and medicine (which, I think we’ll all admit, is kind of ironic when you think about it). Durham is mostly a liberal city, and one which is haunted by its Southern, sometimes racial past. Of course, Durham is smaller (and less influential) than Detroit will ever be (at least I should think so). But like Detroit, Durham’s once vibrant urban center decayed once the tobacco industry left the city. Durham’s suburban areas flourished, however, north, west, and south of the city center. Those without financial mobility to move with the (mostly white) suburban middle class remained in the urban center, while many of the once-urban jobs left the city to follow the money. The sad result was the city’s lower class (mostly urban, poor African Americans) was left behind, in many ways without hope.

2. The New Urban Context

There is yet another comparison to be made with Detroit. Motown’s present-day reputation isn’t flattering. Outsiders hear of the city’s crime rates, distressed urban districts, and the city’s inability to pay its bills, and many conclude the city is too messed up to turn around.  Marchland and Meffre’s “Ruins of Detroit” photo-art has immortalized Detroit as a city lost to decay, but if you ask Detroiters, they will tell you those images don’t tell Detroit’s whole story. Detroit’s downtown, midtown, and New Center areas have all been revitalized, so the money and middle class of Detroit don’t necessarily live just in the suburbs anymore.

Durham’s Revitalized American Tobacco Campus

Similarly, Durham’s present-day reputation, at least according to outsiders, isn’t always flattering. They hear Durham is crime-ridden, scary, racial, too messed up to be turned around. However, Durham residents know better. Just as “Ruins of Detroit” doesn’t tell Detroit’s whole story, neither does the “Welcome to Durham, USA” documentary tell Durham’s whole story. Revitalization has come to Durham’s downtown and nearby tobacco districts. Once near empty of businesses, downtown Durham is now vibrant and full of life. It’s trendy, it’s cool. The food is delicious; the entertainment is top-notch. With the downtown revitalization has come its money and community, which makes it all sustainable.

In other words, the urban landscape isn’t the same in Durham as it was in the 70’s. Ministry in the urban context—at least in a broader sense—isn’t just ministry in poor, distressed neighborhoods. With the revitalization of downtown Durham has come its people: middle class, mostly white, liberal, entrepreneurial, independent, mostly unreached people who love Durham, who love this city—at least in their own way.

However, still across the street from revitalization in Durham—sometimes literally—are the low-income apartment communities and homes, where life is hard, sometimes hopeless, often crime-ridden, where real people created in God’s image live day in and day out, just as much in need of the gospel as the new downtowners. The urban poor have been here through it all.

3. Ministry in the New Urban Context

Ministry in the new urban context isn’t monolithic, if one could say it ever was.

FBC Durham stayed in downtown Durham; we never left. Most of our members live in suburban areas, and commute in for services and local ministry. I don’t know all the reasons why our church became a commuter church, but it’s safe to conclude there have been family, social, financial, and cultural reasons for it. I live about 15 minutes from downtown Durham, so in Durham terms, I technically live in the suburbs. I’m a northwest Texas transplant to the area, so I’ve never been urban. Suffice it to say that I don’t want non-urban Christians to feel bad over where they live.

With that said, for churches in urban areas, it is vital to their Christian witness to have a heart for ministry in the urban context, and therefore essential that those churches be careful to pray for, and train for cross-cultural ministry. Urban cultures aren’t the same as rural, suburban cultures. White, middle class, urban culture isn’t the same as African American, urban poor culture.

In my mind, though, an urban church should have a missional heart toward all of its urban communities. This is what it means for a church to be a good steward of its geography (where its members meet), not for the sake of its historic property, but for the sake of the community that walks passed and lives near that historic property, and hears stories about the people who meet there.

In recent years, the hearts of the church members of FBC Durham have been moved afresh toward a love for Durham’s urban communities. Because it’s not monolithic ministry, because it’s often cross-cultural ministry, and because it’s hard ministry, ministry in the urban context needs to be a whole-church ministry. In other words, it can’t just be for a few. There are many ways in which a whole church can join in urban ministry, and it’s not all rocket science. For example, an urban church’s services should feel safe, not socially uncomfortable for visitors from the urban community. This doesn’t just happen. Church members have to work on it, and be intentional about it. Training is necessary.

As I conclude my thoughts, let me say this: cross-cultural ministry is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Left to our own resources and skills, it would be impossible. However, we as Christians shouldn’t rely on our own resources anyway. Instead, we should rely on our sovereign God, who is able to accomplish all he purposes to come to pass. It is our confidence in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ and obedience to his commands that should lead us into faithful and sustained ministry in the new urban context. After all, only the gospel addresses the greatest needs of all of the people of the world, no matter their culture or social background.


Image credits: Durham’s Revitalized American Tobacco Campus