NCD Update 3

The email copied below is one I wrote which went out to the Open Door’s email list yesterday.  Most of the information in it has been posted on this blog before, but this email is the first public announcement of it we’ve made to the whole community.  We’ll be explaining more in worship this Sunday (6pm @ Union Project).  Also, the password on the NCD Vision page has now been removed, so you can feel free to check out and comment on the theologizing behind this idea. 

What if . . . there is one neighborhood in Pittsburgh with 4,000 people between the ages of 25 and 34, and only a handful of churches, none of which are actively seeking out that age group?

What if . . . that neighborhood has the widest variety of ethnic groups in Pittsburgh, yet little is being done by the local churches to bring together the rich gifts of these cultures?

What if . . . that neighborhood is home to professors, health-care workers, and others who serve in vocations which can make an impact for the Kingdom of God, if only they would be called to see their vocations in that light?

These are the questions I’m asking as I approach the last month of my internship at The Open Door and the end of seminary. I’m looking back at the many joys, challenges, and surprises God has brought to me, and one of those surprises has been a particular sense of call to church-planting.

One year ago, BJ suggested that I consider a call in church-planting. That led me to meet with Vera White, the New Church Development director of Pittsburgh Presbytery, who arranged for me to attend a church- planting training/discernment weekend in Washington, D.C., last November. As other pastors affirmed and encouraged me to pursue this specific ministry, I sensed God confirming my call to new church development. Last September, my friend from seminary Michael Gehrling and I began praying together for mutual discernment regarding our future calls, specifically wondering whether either of us may be called to church-planting. After I returned from the event in Washington, we began to pray about whether we were called to plant a church together. In December and January, that turned into prayer-walking various neighborhoods of Pittsburgh on cold Friday mornings, still unsure where God was leading us.

What we discovered as we prayed and explored Pittsburgh was the neighborhood described above – a place rich in possibility for a new church to grow and lead others to become followers of Jesus. That neighborhood is Squirrel Hill. And so, through prayer, fasting, discussions with the Presbytery, Open Door Steering Team meetings, and conversations with other churches and pastors, we’ve discerned an opportunity to begin a new ministry in Squirrel Hill. As Michael and I go forward into this adventure, we’re going out like missionaries, recognizing that people everywhere – whether on the other side of the world or a few blocks away – need to experience the good news of the Kingdom of God in both word and deed.

Now we’re asking you (as individuals and collectively as The Open Door), to prayerfully consider how God may be calling you to be a part of this journey. As you do, this is a chance for Open Door to continue living out what it means to be a missional church. While we do not desire to be “birthed” by The Open Door in the same way that Bellefield gave birth to The Open Door just a few years ago, we are seeking to be “sent”, recognizing that all churches are both sent and sending, constantly participating in the mission of Jesus who told the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

If you’d like to know more about this opportunity, please come to the worship gathering on Sunday the 27th, where I’ll say a few more words about it and share some specific ways in which you can participate in this ministry with us. In the meantime, feel free to read more on my blog (just click “church-planting” in the category cloud). You can also comment here or email me with any questions you have. Thanks!

Grace and Peace,
Chris

Why plant new churches? Check out this video by Tim Keller, and this link, from the Pittsburgh Presbytery,

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