Winter 2015

Passionate About Our Cities

EFCA leaders share their own urban dreams and realities.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

By Jordan Mogck

When my wife, Alex, and I got married, our first apartment was in inner-city Minneapolis. Our landlords were Christians and were loved by the neighborhood, and that gave us a level of comfort and purpose living with them.

When it came time to purchase a home, we thought we’d like to stay in the city. God gave us a crazy good deal on a home and we went for it. Planting our own roots in Minneapolis has increased our love for it. What began as a sense of purpose has also become our strong preference. I pray almost every day that our neighbors would taste God’s goodness through us.

One of our dreams is that we would have a city-wide church spread across households every few blocks. Each neighborhood would have contributing, cooperating, elder-like leaders.

A friend of mine describes his view of personal qualifications for an urban missionary:

  1. Frequently hears God and obeys.
  2. Able to affectionately share a table with lesbian friends.

I would add a few more:

  1. Has very few time commitments outside the neighborhood.
  2. Is all-in with a quirky interest or hobby.

Jordan Mogck is the EFCA ReachGlobal user experience designer.

Mexico City, Mexico

By Joshua Smith

There is always value in reading books about a city, but what really feeds the passion is getting to know the city itself—the people, the rhythms, the hopes and idols, the food, the art, the potential, the brokenness.

The city can wear you down, though, especially if you were not raised in that environment. I remember my first birthday in Mexico City. I told my wife that I just wanted to be alone with the family in our apartment. I was so tired of seeing people all the time everywhere. In the city you can’t escape concrete, people or activity. Sometimes you long for a plot of grass where your kids can play safely without being concerned about keeping a vigilant eye on them. The city offers some amazing benefits, but honestly, it can’t offer that.

At the same time, we probably live in the coolest place we will ever live—able to get a street taco or a well-made coffee all within a few blocks. We love being able to walk and develop relationships right where we live. What the city needs is genuine community, and what the gospel offers is genuine community—first with God and then with one another. As we live the gospel out together, we give the world a glimpse of the transformed community that God makes possible through Jesus. We give the city a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Joshua Smith is the ReachGlobal city team leader in Mexico City and is also planting/pastoring Comunidad Cristiana Roma in the middle of the city.

San Francisco, California

By Judy Brower

Essential qualities for those Christians who desire to have an impact on the city:

Respect—for all people as those created in the image of God.

Humility—that sees my need for what the people of the city have to offer me.

Confidence—in the power of the gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Willingness to pursue people—to the point of full-on immersion into their lives.

Patience—for walls to come down.

Walls are so thick against those who espouse or push moral standards that I must be determined to let grace be what I take a stand for, love be what I put on display, and my own personal relationship with Jesus be what I share until I sense those walls have come down.

By Neal Brower

The city demands a life offered in death to self (gifts, skills, bents, personality, etc.) for the incessant pursuing of all people—especially those least like us—that we might be there for those moments of breakthrough. Once more, and after that, once more, and then again, once more, until the sheer volume of shared life experiences has built the bridge over which people might cross over to life.

Neal and Judy Brower are disciplemakers in their neighborhood in San Francisco, where Neal also serves as superintendent of the EFCA Western District.

St. Louis, Missouri

By Rick Burke

Out of my 63 years on planet Earth, I have lived in the greater St. Louis metro area about 35 of those years. At this point, my main ministry is in the suburbs, but I still have a whole-city mentality. St. Louis remains one of the most violent cities in America, with a history of slavery and segregation. This past year, with the racial eruptions in Ferguson, it came to a head. My heart breaks over the state of this city.

Yet while we feel badly about our cities, what do we actually do about it? I lean toward the tactical. I think that the EFCA in the United States might re-consider how we are organized—targeting a few cities in each district, for greater synergy, strategy and communication; assigning associate superintendents to focus on urban church planting and city-wide evangelism and prayer. When I served with EFCA ReachGlobal in Europe, we restructured our whole organization based on a city theology.

Rick Burke is pastor of outreach ministries at First EFC in St. Louis, Missouri, where he has the privilege of encouraging local and global kingdom building.

London, England

By Matt and Kimberly Davis

The city is a laboratory for creative thinking and expression. This is certainly true of London. Our desire is for these amazingly gifted individuals to recognize their uniqueness in God’s creation. Once they understand that they were made and are loved by the Creator, and are equipped by Him to make a difference, then their creative expressions take on an entirely new perspective.

We care in a special way about creative expressions because we are a family of performers ourselves: musicians, vocalists, dancers, actors and directors. Kimberly has worked as a performing arts director for more than 20 years. Our kids play a wide variety of instruments, sing, dance and act. So our experience in the arts has provided a natural bridge into the London arts community.

God is glorified by the use of His gifts. When these gifts are used alongside others to serve, reach, challenge and encourage the city, transformation occurs in unique and beautiful ways.

Matt and Kimberly Davis have served on the EFCA ReachGlobal London City Team since 2013, and Matt is city team leader.

Austin, Texas

By Rob Harrell

I have lived in Austin since 1986 and loved the city from the beginning. But something remarkable began to happen in the mid-1990s: Pastors across the city started meeting in small groups, which provided the relational equity to love our city together—as one Church in Austin.

About seven years ago, 10 pastors also formed a strategic council, to help engage Austin in conversations and actions in four areas: spiritual awareness, acts of service, cooperative church planting and accountability to address the lostness of our city. Each of the original 10 pastors, including myself, gives 10 percent of his time to this effort.

Because of my more narrow doctrinal distinctives, I almost missed the movement in the beginning. I was so cessationist in my theology then (believing that the sign gifts are not for today) that I didn’t participate in the “March for Jesus” in the early ’90s—one way our city’s pastors rallied together. I am no longer a cessationist, nor do I make the sign gifts a test for fellowship. In our city, the world view of charismatic/noncharismatic is no longer a relevant topic. We all want to be Word- and Spirit-balanced.

We want to live John 17 unity, so that the world which is Austin might see that the Father sent Jesus.

Rob Harrell is senior pastor of Austin Oaks Church (EFCA).

Los Angeles, California

By Sarah Yetter

I love raising my kids in a community where my neighbors know us and talk to us from their porches and balconies. I love, absolutely love, sharing life and resources with people from so many walks of life. What I learn from my neighbors is tremendous; what my kids learn, too, is invaluable.

When we moved into a new house that the church had bought a block away, my then 7-year-old asked, “Isn’t Paul coming to live with us now that we have more room?” Paul is a homeless guy we often greet and talk to in the neighborhood. I’m thankful that it was natural for Sam to think in these terms and that his little heart is open to life and needs around him.

Some of what I love about the city is also what makes city life hard. Noise, need and raw humanity can make a life of quiet trust in Jesus a challenge. Being a minority in my neighborhood can make me feel like I’m living life and raising my kids in a fishbowl. And life close to abject poverty can be heart-wrenching. I don’t always pray like a warrior. Sometimes I just hurt over it.

Read more of her story about ministry in Los Angeles at EFCA Now.

Sarah R. Yetter is co-director of the S.A.Y. Yes! youth center in Pico Union and co-founder of the Nehemiah and Emmaus Community Houses, which she and her husband, Pastor Scott Yetter, direct. These ministries are part of First EFC of Los Angeles, where Scott and Sarah have been on staff since 2000. They live with their four children in the Emmaus House.

West Orange, New Jersey

By Zach Guyton

Because of our proximity to Newark (10 minutes) and New York City (25 minutes), we are a diverse and international community, with nearly 50,000 people living within a 1-mile radius of our church. We’re urban, yes, but we are not inner city. Yet.

Historically, evangelicals in America have not been on the forefront of urban ministry nor right in the heart of it when good communities start to deteriorate. I’m excited that my church can be part of the stop-gap, if you will, for West Orange.

The reality is that one-third of the boys in my neighborhood will likely be on probation, parole or incarcerated before they’re 30. The town reached out to us six years ago and asked, “What can you do to help?” The mayor helped us start a 501c3 and get a grant to add part-time staff for our youth programs. We now have 400-plus kids hearing the gospel.

My hope is in the power of the gospel—not just preached but lived out, incarnated within a church. We have a lot more to do, yes, but we’re on the forefront to stem the tide of our community’s decline.

Zach Guyton has served as senior pastor of Bethany Church (EFCA) in West Orange, New Jersey, since 2001.

Berlin, Germany

By Katie Dudgeon

Cities are magnetic forces that can swallow up people with passivity and denial, or they can heighten our sense of God and unleash His creativity from the inside out. I want to see people in Berlin collide with Christians in such a way that they are forced to consider the ancient message of Christ as more than history.

Sometimes we take a fairly mechanical view of the city and get stuck on the structure, the systems or the scale of it all. But the city is just full of people: people who are similar to us and people who are different from us and thousands in between.

Don’t give up on the city. You may not have warm fuzzies when you think about the metropolitan area near you, but you might be surprised by all it can teach you if you are willing to listen. With a little tenacity and a soft spot for people, you can break past the outer edges of a city and begin to experience it from within.

Katie Dudgeon is the assistant team leader for ReachGlobal in Berlin. She is often spotted chasing the bus or tram in Friedrichshain—her neighborhood in the former East Berlin.

Read another story about EFCA ministry in the city at EFCA Now.