2009 Central Valley Ministry Forum
Bakke urges urban churches to rethink
Sixth Ministry Forum draws 350
Seven words keep city churches from ministering to the multitudes around them, Ray Bakke says. It's the We Never Did it That Way Before Syndrome, and it crosses theological and denominational lines.
Bakke--a pastor, teacher and author--talked about getting beyond that syndrome as featured speaker for the 2009 Central Valley Ministry Forum February 26.
"They're the seven last words of churches," Bakke said. "Ninety percent of the major barriers (to urban ministry) are not in the cities. They're in the churches, people, seminaries and denominations."
For example, Fresno has 500,000 people and about 500 churches--one church for every 1,000 residents. In Chicago, the Hancock building is daytime home to 28,000 people, Bakke said half of whom also live there.
What would happen, Bakke asked, to pastors who suggested buying 28 condominiums in the Hancock Building to start 28 churches--the same ratio as Fresnans enjoy? Laughter from the 350 pastors and lay leaders gathered in the Special Events Center was all the answer needed.
Yet extreme thinking is required to reach the urban unchurched, according to Bakke, a former inner-city pastor and co-founder of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education. His books include The Urban Christian and A Theology as Big as the City. Today he is distinguished professor of global urban ministry, chancellor and chairman of the board at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle.
Another radical idea, work with police. Officers know the problems in neighborhoods. "We're peers here--whether it's tax money or tithe money, it's all God's money," Bakke said.
Bar owners also do a lot of informal social work. "You can't pay for the education you get," Bakke said, "if you just ask people the questions."
Traditional church growth aims at increasing attendance one day a week and encourages pastors to create churches in their image. "If you're going to move into the city, the exact opposite is true. Most people aren't going to look like you," Bakke said.
This article was originally published in Pacific, July 2009.