Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: It’s​ Our City Let’s Fix It?


Too often, people feel checked out of politics — even at the level of their own city. But urban activist Alessandra Orofino thinks that can change, using a mix of tech and old-fashioned human connection. Sharing examples from her hometown of Rio, she says: “It is up to us to decide whether we want schools or parking lots, recycling projects or construction sites, cars or buses, loneliness or solidarity.”

Urban Ministry

TED: Redemption Song

John Legend is on a mission to transform America’s criminal justice system. Through his Free America campaign, he’s encouraging rehabilitation and healing in our prisons, jails and detention centers — and giving hope to those who want to create a better life after serving their time. With a spoken-word prelude from James Cavitt, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, Legend treats us to his version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?”

Congregational Life and Ministry, Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; it’s a Lack of Cash

“Ideas can and do change the world,” says historian Rutger Bregman, sharing his case for a provocative one: guaranteed basic income. Learn more about the idea’s 500-year history and a forgotten modern experiment where it actually worked — and imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all.

Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit

There’s something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit’s decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. “These aren’t plots of land where we’re just growing tomatoes and carrots,” Davison says. “We’re building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.”

Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: “Who Belongs In the City?


Underneath every shiny new mega city, there’s often a story of communities displaced. In this moving, poetic talk, OluTimehin Adegbeye details how government land grabs are destroying the lives of thousands who live in the coastal communities of Lagos, Nigeria, to make way for a “new Dubai.” She compels us to hold our governments and ourselves accountable for keeping our cities safe for everyone. “The only cities worth building, indeed the only futures worth dreaming of, are those that include all of us, no matter who we are or how we make homes for ourselves,” she says.

Urban Ministry, Videos That Will Make you Think

7 Principals For Building Better Cities


More than half of the world’s population already lives in cities, and another 2.5 billion people are projected to move to urban areas by 2050. The way we build new cities will be at the heart of so much that matters, from climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of connectedness. Peter Calthorpe is already at work planning the cities of the future and advocating for community design that’s focused on human interaction. He shares seven universal principles for solving sprawl and building smarter, more sustainable cities.

Urban Ministry

Urban Ministry: Are You In This for the Long Haul?


But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

How would our attitude toward urban ministry change if we got a letter like the exiles received in Jeremiah 29? Here is the letter God sent to His people.

 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  Jeremiah 29:10–14.

In Jeremiah 29 there is a conflict brewing between Jeremiah and the religious leaders. Jeremiah had written a letter to the exiles in Babylonia, encouraging them to abandon any false hopes that this exile will be short-lived (verses 1–9).  In fact, this punishment would last seventy years before the Lord would restore His people.

Urban ministry is about having a settled-in mindset.

If Christians go into urban ministry thinking that they are in it for a season and not in this for the long haul they will struggle to be effective.  As we have discussed in the previous post, the challenges facing the urban centers of our world are not easily solved.  The problems are complex.  Those challenges have formed over decades of failure and abandonment, so to think you can solve them quickly is a bit naïve.  It is also insensitive and destructive to people’s hope to start something, lift expectations, give them a glimpse of glory and then pull the rug out from under them before any lasting change is in place.  For them, they would rather you not try than to promise something you can’t deliver.  Hope is fragile in the city.  Many ministry servants have made promises, many dreams have been dashed in the past.  What the residents cannot stomach is another fly-by-night promise maker.

What is needed in urban ministry is a commitment to stick it out.  A determination that through hell or high water this leader is planning to ride this through to the bitter end.  You are committed to working through the frustrations, have the ability to overcome disappointment, settle for small wins and huge defeats.  That you have the spiritual capacity to point hurting people to the only true source of strength, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ.  The work days will be long and the pathway ahead filled with potholes.  And in the end, you may never get praise or a pat on the back for your efforts.  On the contrary, people will most likely be suspicious of you and question your methods and your motives.  Welcome to urban ministry.  Are you ready to sign up?  There is not a long waiting list of volunteers, the burbs are much more in demand.

Calling all courageous leaders with integrity!

In order to be a leader, a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose. – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bits & Pieces, September 15, 1994, p. 4.

To borrow and alter a quote from my favorite leadership guru, Rev. John Maxwell, urban ministry rises and falls on leadership.  The better the leader the greater the needs you will be tested to solve.  As your competency level grows the demand will rise up to meet that growth.

As we bring this discussion to a close here are some qualities an urban leader needs to meet the opportunities before the ministry.

Spiritual Gift Awareness

Because the leader will be tempted to try and be all things to all people, it is imperative that the leader is able to discern his/her gifts for ministry.  This is deeply rooted in the belief that each of us is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

This helps define the areas where the individual might be best suited to lead in the church and focus on achieving the plan God has laid out for the ministry.


Spiritual gifts paired with the passion for ministry help provide the fuel leaders need to develop into high-impact leaders. Spiritual gifts without God-directed passion are simply gifts. When gifts are united with passion, people move toward their dreams of becoming impactful leaders.


 Once the gifting and passion for ministry are in place now comes the hard part, seeing the vision through. Tying this into the opening the leaders needs to be willing and determined to commit to following the vision through to completion. This does not discount the possibilities that other commitments such as family, professional, or personal can prevent someone from staying until the mission is complete.  What I am saying is that often we leave right before God’s blessings come from all the hard work that was laid before. Unless God clearly is moving on to a new challenge, give it your best.  Your work in the Lord is not done in vain.

Other posts on Urban Ministry:



Urban Ministry

How We Deal With Poverty Impacts Our Witness


He (Jesus)will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41–46 (ESV)

Almost the moment I unpacked my boxes and set up my office in my first urban congregation in Detroit the verse above tormented me.  It felt like Jesus was walking up and down the streets of my Detroit neighborhood and reporting what He saw that often I wanted to ignore. I was called to pastor this church not the community, right? Jesus sees the hurt, the pain, the broken lives, I was safe and secure in my office.  I could spend hours crafting that awesome sermon and worship experience for Sunday.  But this verse kept haunting me.  Adding clarity to this verse. Jesus is informing His followers that your actions are evidence of a life of devotion to him. Matthew is not preaching works righteousness here.  It is a mistake to read the text that people who do good things will punch their ticket to heaven.  Quite the opposite, he is telling us that good works of service are an evidence of true discipleship and authentic faith. This is the kicker, those who are saved by faith are judged by their works.   Our works show how much they will deny ourselves and take up our cross in the service of God and others.  This is our starting point today.

What is one of the main challenges of the urban ministry? Poverty!

Poverty is a central issue plaguing most cities.

For the church to witness in urban areas, it must address the poverty issues in your neighborhood. The difficulty rests in the reality that poverty is complex. Poverty’s issues are various and interrelated. Many experts list sixteen areas of life that must be covered in depth. Those areas are:

spiritual needs,

drug and alcohol addiction,


underemployment and unemployment rates higher than the national average,

satisfactory education,

financial planning and management,




immigration issues legal and undocumented,

legal issues,

drug possessions,

recreation opportunities for children,

healthy stable relationships,

a safe sanctuary to escape crime,

and reliable transportation.

The problem is widespread, but we can develop a strategy to solve it.  To truly make an impact in the life of each individual you must assess each situation to determine what help they need in those sixteen crucial areas of life.

As churches, we can usually meet spiritual needs, but as you can see with all the other factors working against us, how effective is our witness? It may seem like we are just putting our finger in a dam to plug a hole while the dam is leaking is a thousand other places.  Drug and other addictions are prevalent in the urban context. People experience the devastating effects of crime on a regular basis in their daily lives. And try as you might to overcome the streets the unemployment rate in the inner city is above the national average.  In part due, poor education systems that fail to provide students with marketable skills and adequate jobs preparation. All of the this creates a failed system that lacks sufficient employment opportunities to break the cycle of dependence on the government assistance to rescue the next generation.  The failed system creates the never ending cycle where to residents cannot produce adequate finance resources to improve their impoverished communities.  That leads to a sort of black market system of bartering in the inner city culture. EBT cards and other resources are used like currency and exchanged for cash, shoes, and other items.  That is the system we are forced to operate in to share Christ with a broken and failing system.

How do we fix this?

If the church takes the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 to heart we must address the issues facing our cities face in a holistic way. Community Development is the key.  This development processes by which local partners are identified and mobilized to transform the community into what God intends it to be a place where we clothed the naked, feed the hungry, welcome the immigrant stranger, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner.

According to Bob Lupton, our focus should not be on charity, which he calls betterment, but, on development. “Betterment does for others; development enables others to do for themselves.” How this plays out in our witness to those in need is that urban churches and ministries are concerned and aware of what is happening in the community.  Then the churches take the next step and develop ways with other partners in the community to create solutions to the problems in their community.

I will leave you with these as idea starters.  More on this next week.  Please share your thought and stay tuned as we go deeper.

Key Elements of Community Development:

Christian Community Development, according to John Perkins, consists of ministries to the poor that:

  • Begin with felt needs of the people in the community.
  • Respond to those needs in a holistic way
  • Are based on clear biblical principles
  • Are “time-tested”
  • Develop and utilize leaders from within the community
  • Encourage relocation – living among the poor
  • Demand reconciliation – people to God and people to people
  • Empower the poor through redistribution – all community members
  • Sharing their skills, talents, education, and resources to help each other[2]


When our faith moves us action it manifests itself in what Matthew describes in the first half of the opening verse.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’- Matthew 25:34–40 (ESV)

This example is the of faith that proves to be a strong witness to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.  More on urban ministry next Tuesday.




More on urban ministry in the weeks ahead.  Check in on Tuesday’s:










Urban Ministry

In Urban Ministry Is Compassion Alone Enough?


Urban Ministry is messy. It involves loving all people. Some come into our stream of consciousness with messy and broken lives. Because of the struggles their lives have gone through that makes our ministry with them will look messy. Our need to include others makes our partnerships with community leaders and congregations outside the comfort zone of our tribe look messy. But our message is unchanged. Our purpose is clear. We preach Christ and Him Crucified! – Keith Haney

I need to begin this discovery process to figure out how we witness to those in our cities. I want you to know my roots. Honest reflection is good for the soul and transparency. I did not grow up in the bright lights of the city. I grew up in a medium size southern city. We had only one tall building in my town and no downtown area. When I graduated from the seminary, I had no desire to do urban ministry. My intern year in Detroit was more than enough of the big city. To be clear, it is not that I was afraid of urban ministry. I know some who are just terrified of being in the city. There are reasons to be fearful or at the very least cautious. Urban pastor’s and congregation on a daily basis face real life and death issues right outside your door. If were to ask those who do ministry in the city they could share stories of real human hurt and pain.

That one story that remains frozen in my memory bank took place over ten years ago. In one parish I served, about twenty minutes after our elementary school’s spring musical there was a drive-by shooting on the steps of our church. I came back the next day and saw the bullet holes. Left in the aftermath was a twenty-four-year-old man whose life was snuffed out and the funeral was at our church. A funeral attended by his fellow gang members. His life shortened and his toddler daughter and unwed mother left with an uncertain future. He had big plans to move to Atlanta and start fresh. The city streets have a way of changing dreams in an instant. Two minutes changed the course of their history in the blink of an eye. I don’t write this post to come off as some know-it-all expert in urban ministry because I am not. It was thirteen years of mistakes and a lot of on the job training. You can check my head for the bumps of experience. If you asked me about how to do ministry in the Deep South that would be an area I could talk about with some level of confidence. Or if you wanted to talk about doing ministry with college students, that was where my passion was, but that door never opened. God placed me in the city centers of Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee and now near Chicago and God said: “Go!” My answer was, “Who me and are You sure?”

So, this is the beginning of a deeper discussion. There are my impression of the challenges and the opportunities the church has to make a positive impact on the city. As Reformed Pastor Tim Keller points out, “It is imperative that the Church understands how to reach out to the expanding cities of the 21st century.” We have to figure this out because studies show that half of the population of the world lives in cities of one million or more. If we don’t reach and disciple this community, our churches will continue to decline, and our pastoral ranks will be diminished.

The needs are great, the resources limited but we are called to help.

I am not a big fan of the writings of James the brother of Jesus. He is a little too blunt at times for my taste. For example, the way he talks about faith in chapter 2. Just read this.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; (ESV) James 2:14–22

People often ask me as a former urban pastor isn’t ministry in the burbs the same as in the city? Don’t all people have “stuff” to deal with in their lives? Isn’t there brokenness all over? Don’t all people need the same, Jesus? The answer to all those questions is a big “YES!” And here it comes, “But” poverty is a major problem in most cities. You cannot do effective urban ministry outreach without addressing the felt needs of the people struggling our communities. Our connecting point with people are the services or ministries our congregations provides to the urban poor under-resourced. There is a collaborative relationship between outreach to the poor and needy and an urban church. As James points out in the verse above it is hard to connect someone to a church who is struggling with the daily concern of having their necessities met. Just saying, Jesus, loves you does not address their needs. Faith is active. The probing theological question asked by James gets right to the heart of the question urban ministry must seek to answer. And this is not only an urban ministry question it is a question the church doing ministry among all people must struggle with as well.  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? James 2:15-16. This post is the starting point of this conversation. It is too big and too important not to give it several weeks to review, discuss, and dream of ways we can make a difference in the lives of those living in our urban backyards. I pray it will generate discussion and maybe together we can explore solutions and brainstorm ministry partnerships to reach those struggling in our cities.

Other posts in this series.