Laura and I visited Cincinnati today. I was there a week ago and really sensed a leading from the Lord to seriously pursue planting a church there in the urban downtown area. I blogged about it last week.
A wise friend told me recently that when you’re looking to plant a new church, you want to see some tangible evidence that God’s hand is in the project and He is working to pull things together. In light of my trip there today, here are some ways that I definitely see God working.
1. This church plant was being planned before I came along. I was fascinated to find out, while meeting the Cincinnati Baptist Association Director of Missions, that his association has determined inner-city Cincinnati as his top priority for this year. While I was thinking that I would have to come into a new city to start a new work, God showed me that I will be going into a new city to continue and reinforce the work that others have already begun.
2. God has burdened me for racial reconciliation before this opportunity came along. Back in 2003, Laura and I really wanted to pursue racial unity with our local ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ but unfortunate circumstances beyond our control derailed the idea. But our passion for this has not been deterred. Recent conversations with friends have given me some hope, but the task seems daunting. Too much distrust, anger, and resentment on both sides have led to deep rifts. These experiences have been formative in my understanding of what it will take to establish a racially unified local body of Christ.
3. There is a wide open, gaping need for this type of church in Cincinnati.Â There are many churches that see the need, but no churches are being started with racial reconciliation as a part of its core DNA. Several large, established congregations in the Cincinnati area have partnered to work in mercy and reconciliation ministries downtown, but these are largely white churches that were planted white. I met with an African American pastor today who has been in Cincinnati for 18 years at his church (Dr. O. B. Yates of Union Baptist Church) who told me that there are no churches with this core passion being planted in the inner city currently. Essentially, there is a great need and we would be located in a prime location to pursue it.
4. People have responded very positively to the vision; even seeking me out to ask me about it. Laura and I have talked to at least a dozen people over the last couple of months who are at least considering moving to Cincinnati with us to start a core group. We have approached some of them; but many others have approached us. The dream of a racially unified church resonates.
What Laura and I experienced today was essentially confirming for me, but this is the first time Laura has been able to see with her own eyes what I saw 2 weeks ago. But Laura is definitely very passionate about both racial unity and mercy ministries, which gives us both a certain feeling of inevitability about this opportunity. I find myself praying more and more for God to send other leaders with us when I realize that, in my heart at least, I already see myself as sent.
What’s next for us? We hope to be ready to sign on the dotted line in the next few weeks. After that, the timeline looks like this:
1. Finish seminary this summer.
2. Sell our house in Lousiville
3. Buy a house/move to Cincinnati
4. Begin to network with local pastors and leaders to discover who God has called to be a part of the core group.
5. Launch the church when there is adequate financial and human resources.
So….. do you want to move to Cincinnati?