Posted by: Moses | July 11, 2010

Jared of the Hipsters

We went to his church in Center City and quite enjoyed the service. Hipster meets High Church done by Acts 29 = Liberti on South and Broad. We spoke to a few people in the congregation; most were believers of only a few years, most were women, and the average age was probably 23. The message was solid, focusing on community and humanity’s need for one another. “It is not good for man to be alone.” Afterward, the pastor, Jared, went to spend a bit of time with his kids before they went to bed, and we met up with him a couple hours later for drinks. We had an interesting and unexpectedly convicting discussion.

To prep you, you need to know that Philadelphia is massively fractured. Gentrifying (revitalization that drives lower income levels out) communities sit side by side with section 8 housing and lower income areas which in turn are right behind tourist shops next to upper-crust high rises. Everything is smashed together. Everything is divided. Socio-economics, race, income, beliefs all divide different neighborhoods in different ways.

Often churches have to pick between having a congregation that can actually sustain the church (but risking being ingrown and irrelevant) or being engaged with needs but with no resources to meet them. God is sovereign over both. Philadelphia presents unique challenges with its different communities, but also unique opportunities as both types of areas could feasibly be near enough together for a community church to bridge them. Molly and I have spent the past week or so looking for an area where a church could be sustainable and yet still truly be reaching out to the unloved and overlooked. As we were driving with a native a few days ago we thought we had found an area, a little south of Center City where a newly middle class neighborhood was smashed against one of the roughest sections of Philly. With stars in our eyes we were thinking of sustainability and real need all together.

As many of you know, Molly and I have two passions: preach the gospel to whomever we are near and to foster unity among the fractured mess that is protestantism. Tonight those two passions came into conflict. We thought we had found a place that seemed perfect where the gospel could go forth and both spiritual and temporal needs could be seen and met (passion 1). Then we met a pastor (and were informed of another) who served on either side of that area (passion 2). One served the lower income area, the other the up and coming hipsters. Though perhaps such a niche model might not be as biblical as one might hope, there were two gospel oriented churches serving that area. One is Dutch Reformed, the other is PCA. Our prime real estate was already taken.

My heart rebelled into jealousy at that news, flock envy if you will. (Odd, to covet something that can never be yours anyway but will always be Christ’s.) My heart figured a way, and my thoughts were instantly drawn to the denominationalism that I hate! Thoughts of, “Well yeah, there are some confessional churches here, but they refuse to submit to scripture and baptize professing believers. They need a real church.” “They don’t have it quite right, they’re aimed at just a small slice of the population, and their presentation of the gospel was not quite perfect.” Molly commented that if God’s grace were not at work in our second passion, we would go back and sell our elders on why there needed to be a reformed baptist church in that neighborhood. And suddenly we are miles away from the gospel, wallowing in pride and divisiveness because we liked a neighborhood where God was already at work spreading his word through a community that had grown from 5 to 300 in a year.

The pastor was nice enough: he showed us the ropes of S. Philly, told us a bit about some of the neighborhoods and some of the tensions. Perhaps there were some things in his ministry that I might personally have changed, but last time I checked Jesus didn’t call me or anyone else to Philadelphia to correct minor polity issues, gender issues, or philosophies of ministry. We are called to love and share the good news of Jesus.

The pastor even gave us some advice about how to prepare while we’re still in Greenville, reaching out where we are. But more than anything verbal that actually past over the table, I walk away from tonight deeply impressed by the Spirit of the depths of my depravity in actually grieving over the fact that the gospel was going forth there. How far from Philippians 1 where Paul expresses that “whether in envy or rivalry, I rejoice that the gospel is going forth.” Perhaps we will end up on the other side of Grad Hospital, perhaps we will settle on the less glamorous task of ministering in the blue color south-east. We don’t know yet, but we know that we will not choose to plant somewhere just because there isn’t a church of our exact stripe in that area. May the gospel go forth unhindered by denominational divisiveness. This is hard for my heart. I was really starting to set my heart into that community and that demographic. Pray for us, that God would lead us to where we are designed for and that we can joyfully join in the plural spread of the gospel by brothers in arms rather than divide over matters that are not the gospel. Pray that God would lead us to ground where we are not planting where others are already tilling, that we could be used to reach the unreached in the center of Philadelphia.

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Responses

  1. This is Great, Daniel!!! Most powerful post of yours I’ve read, really. Though you are perfectly faithful in writing insightful, informed, and intellectual thoughts, this one was closer to your heart, and it carried a specific birth-mark of grace-filled experience.

    I’ve learned more about your vision and Philly itself in this one post than much of your verbal explanations. That’s the power of grace-filled experience. 🙂 =)
    I’ll share this with the group tonight in case they haven’t read it.

  2. I need to connect you with a guy I met while in Memphis who is from Philly. He isn’t up there right now. He’s in texas. His name is Jeremy Korteweg. He goes to Epiphany in Philly. Good guy who has a good understanding of what the Gospel is and what it isn’t. If you look him up on fb and mention me, he’ll know who you are. Just tell him that you’re the guy looking to church plant in Philly. He would be a great resource and help for understanding and reaching Philly.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Jeremy, and Daniel, I will look him up on FB here in just a moment.


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