El Paso: This week I read a series of articles by Robert Dilday for the Religious Herald reprinted by the Baptist Standard on downtown ministry. As the pastor of an historic downtown church I read the articles with keen interest. Dilday, in his series of articles, identified a handful of thriving congregations that have found great fruitfulness and effectiveness through ministry in the downtown community of a large urban center.
I particularly resonated with the motto of Third Baptist Church in the heart of St. Louis which states: “Third Baptist Church Is in the City for Good.” The double meaning of the motto captured my imagination immediately. In essence this great church declared to its community we are staying put–we are here for good. In addition, the church shouted to its neighbors, “we are here for GOOD” or in other words to seek the good of the city and its citizens.
In recent days, our church has rallied around the slogan “for the heart of the city.” Our mission revolves around touching and transforming the “heart” of the city of El Paso. I consider it a great honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of maintain the light of the gospel in the heart of the city.
Having served downtown now for two years I am gaining a greater and deeper understanding about the challenges face in the heart of the city. Many of our neighbor churches are struggling for identity and survival. Downtown is not for the weak of heart. Leaders in downtown ministries must claim their place of service by being “strong and courageous.” They must be willing to fight off “fear and discouragement” at nearly every turn, but without doubt some of the greatest opportunities for Kingdom work can be found downtown.
I take to heart the words of Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon when he wrote:
“Seek the peace of the city…”
This is a cause worth living for!