The cities around the world are growing, yet the churches are shrinking. Why should this matter to Yorkville and Kendall County? I think the best illustration is what often happens at state or federal elections: the state votes one way, and Chicago votes the other. “As the city goes, so goes policy.” Think about that statement for a few minutes, and think about the policies that have changed over the last few decades.
Churches used to be the center of city life. If you go to downtown Chicago, you will still see glorious steeples and structures. But the impact those churches are making on the people around them are far less glorious. In fact, many of our city congregations are single-cultured and elderly even as the communities around them get younger and more diverse. The church with a lessened impact in the cities is a church with a lessened impact in our entire country.
What can we do about this? For the past several generations Christians have moved out of the cities and into the suburbs, promoting stronger congregations in places like Yorkville, Oswego, Naperville, etc. While this has caused growth in the suburbs, it has left a deficit of resources, people and organizational influence in our cities. This cannot continue.
The challenges facing the city are not new. The faithful people and congregations serving the city have and continue to do God’s work, but there is increasingly more to be done. Many of our city churches are shrinking as the population around them grows. The effect of their influence is lessening even as they work harder. Is there something we can do to help?
LINC International is a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod organization that has been trying to think and work differently. They began in Houston, TX and have successfully expanded to Los Angeles, CA, the Twin Cities in MN, and are looking to have a similar impact in Chicago. LINC is not a church planting group nor do they have a program that fixes everything. The basis of LINC is that God is already placing His call into the hearts of believers living in the cities. What is lacking is the full body of Christ working together. LINC works to network, equip and resource people to accomplish what God has given them the desire for in their hearts.
This may seem too simple, but in fact this is the classic “working smarter not harder strategy.” God has not left the cities. It is the body of Christ that has been struggling to connect the faithful in mission and ministry. This last year LINC Twin Cities identified six men who will be entering the seminary, none of whom even knew this was an option. Three new nonprofit ministries have been started to help victims of sex slavery, provide affordable food and reach the Oromo people group.
This last week I had the opportunity to attend a gathering of suburban congregations and LINC ministries. This exciting opportunity allows the whole body of Christ to work together with the people and financial resources of the suburbs in conjunction with the heart and faith resources of the city. Over the next few months we will continue to network, pray and listen to hear if God is calling us as a Northern Illinois District to provide resources for the city of Chicago and more specifically, what role Cross will play in it.
If you would like more information or desire to be a part of this, you can contact Pastor Matt or me. You can also look at LINC.org or on Facebook. Most importantly, please add the city of Chicago to your prayers, and we’ll see if God grows our heart for a vitally important mission field.