I have spent my entire life living in two inner city neighborhoods of Chicago (Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park). It is easy to believe that God has abandoned these two communities due to the poverty, crime, lack of education, absence of fathers and hopelessness.
While many would want to avoid these two communities, I have come to understand God’s sovereignty in determining the boundaries of my dwelling place. God has invited me to be His presence for those seeking Him. God has invited me into His mission for those feeling their way towards Him.
“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:26-28)
Has God abandoned the hood? Of course not! Have Christians abandoned the hood? Sadly, in many ways we have. We have abandoned God’s mission for our momentary well being. We have focused on our desires before other people’s needs. We do not realize that our well being is tied up in the well being of those around us. We do not realize that we actually find life through death to our individualism.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
Following are 5 simple ways that you can seek the welfare of your community (whether it’s an inner city neighborhood or not). This is not an exhaustive list, but my prayer would be that it sparks believers to understand God’s purpose for us in the exact places that He has sovereignly placed us.
After reading the 5 steps, feel free to give additional ideas that you may have. Let’s grow together as urban missionaries!
Step 1: Pray daily for your community
Take ten minutes each day to pray for the families on your block. As you see your neighbors, be purposeful in asking for prayer requests and then follow up with them on those requests.
Step 2: Spend time in your community
In today’s day and age when we jump in our car to go from here to there, this will take some intentionality. But let yourself be seen. Be friendly. As opportunities arise, get to know people. Walk your community, play basketball at the local park, shop at the local stores, eat at the local restaurants, volunteer at a community center or nursing home, worship at a local church.
Step 3: Asset map your community
Map out the resources available in your community and city. These resources might include job training programs, GED programs, sports leagues, after school programs, day camps, tutoring programs, and church service times. Include as much info as possible (Contact name & number, cost, address, etc). Print these lists out and distribute them to people in your community.
Step 4: Beautify your community
Pick up trash. Help your neighbors plant grass on their lawns. Begin a community garden that the block can own and enjoy together. Recruit skilled labor to do a service day in your community.
Step 5: Open your home to your community
Invite people over for dinner. Host a game night. Lead Bible Studies. If you have an extra room, invite someone in need to live with you.