Hsu tells the story of a two week mission trip to inner city Minneapolis. They were confronted poverty, crime and hopelessness. Over and over they were confronted with the questions: What would Jesus do here? How would Jesus minister to this neighborhood? What is the good news of the gospel for these communities? We learned that spiritual comfort about God’s love, inner peace and eternal life was not enough. Christian ministry encompasses whole persons and communities: Bible studies and gospel tracts were meaningless without sheltering abused women and children, feeding the homeless, and working toward economic and social justice. Hsu was confronted by the thought that he lived in the same county less than ten miles away.
Even if a suburban church is only five minutes or five miles away from an inner-city community, it might as well be across the country or half-way around the world. Indeed, many suburban churches give more to overseas missions than they do to support local ministries in nearby urban centers.
Suburbanites and urbanites together must affirm that to care about one requires that we care about the other.
Church consultant Eric Swanson calls churches to be outwardly focused and to “measure their effectiveness not merely by attendance but by the transformation effect they are having on their communities.” He writes:
As churches partner with people in neighborhoods, schools, human service agencies, business and government agencies, they are creating bridging capital within these neighborhoods, not just by linking the entities of a neighborhood to the church but helping to link the entities to one another. It is the church’s care and love that build bridges through tutoring programs, ministering to the battered women in the safe house, hosting job fairs and opening day care facilities. As churches seek to be agents of community transformation, they should not ignore their abilities to bring social capital to a community – building community bonds and community bridges.
Hsu admits that no church can do everything. But every church can do something.