Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Why Plant in Austin?

It's not infrequent that I get the question, "Why churchplant in Austin? After all, Texas is saturated with churches." The last place on earth I ever thought I would consider planting a church would be in Texas. However, I have discerned at least six reasons why AUSTIN, texas is a compelling and strategic place to plant a new church: 1) Make Disciples ∙ 2) City Ministry ∙ 3) Strategic Value ∙ 4) Theological Distinctives ∙ 5) Missional Potential ∙ 6) Churchplanting Movement

Make Disciples. First, unlike most of Texas, Austin is predominately un and de-churched, with 80-85% not attending church at all. The percentage of unbelief in the gospel is, no doubt, even higher. Many of the urban churches are mainline denominations that have compromised the gospel of Christ (see below). Therefore, the sheer number of outsiders to the gospel of Christ are reason enough for numerous Christ-centered, missional churchplants. New disciples.

City Ministry. Second, to our knowledge there is not a city centre church to serve the needs of the city or to accommodate the rising population of Austin from an evangelical, church-planting perspective. Although there are many churches located downtown, many of these churches are not evangelical, but are mainline churches that have aggressively embraced pluralism. These churches, along with a couple of evangelical churches, however, have collaborated to meet the social needs of the city. Thus, there is a great need for an evangelical city centre church that seeks the eternal good of Austin. City Transformation.

Strategic Value. Third, the strategic kingdom value of planting in Austin cannot be overestimated. Richard Florida has ranked Austin as number two in the top U. S. cities of the Creative class. The Creative class is comprised of high-tech, bohemian-artists, and the educational elite. It is the strongest economic class in the U.S. in comparison to the working and service classes. Austin reflects this description well: high-tech (Motorola, Dell, AMD), bohemian (Austin City Limits, Blanton Museum, 6th Street), and educational elites (University of Texas, etc.) The contributions of this class are not purely economical, but also foster creativity, tolerance, and education wherever they arise. If this class can be reached with the gospel, their cultural and economical capital make them strategic people to redemptively engage the needs of the city, people who can be agents of ethnic, economical and spiritual reconciliation.

However, the societal contributions of the Creative class are not all positive. Although they possess a tolerant attitude, they are rather unconscious of their negative economic and social impact upon the working and service classes, which frequently affects minorities. In general, this class of people is not aware that they are an economic and social class. They are individualistic and merit-driven, which is what makes them succeed in their work. Moreover, their tolerance often only extends to the religious and ethnic elites, those with whom they work, not the minority poor. Due to their indifference and general lack of interest in contributing to social ills, the income gap arises around the booming creative centers, making them potential agents of social, ethnic and spiritual reconciliation. Redemption of Peoples and Cultures.

Missional Potential. The tolerance and economic potential of the creative class draw immigrants from around the world. From 1990-2000, Austin added 85,907 foreign born people to its population, increasing the previous population by 56%. In addition, there are approximately 115 countries represented at the University of Texas in the 4,500 international students who are enrolled. The nations are flooding this city. The population of Austin is divided between White (70%), Hispanic (30% of any race), Black (7%) and Other (13%) ethnic groups. The international population of Austin is on the rise, making the city a strategic center for missional activity and leadership development for the nations. World Missions Launchpad.

Theological Distinctives. Fourth, apart from the Austin Stone Community Church, I am not aware of a Reformed, Missional, Baptist church in Austin with a vision for the city and beyond. Some suburban churches are doing a fine job planting churches in the burbs, but do not have a significant presence in the city. Others are located close to the UT campus with a vision for reaching the student population, but we have not discovered a Reformed city centre church that seeks to promote a Kuyperian vision—the supremacy of Christ over every square inch of society, that seeks the redemption of peoples and cultures through Christ for the glory of God. Thus, the unique confluence of Reformed theology, Baptist sacrament, and Missional identity make another compelling case for this church plant. Reformed in doctrine. Baptist in sacrament. Missional in nature.

Churchplanting Movement. With the population of Austin doubling by 2025 to upwards of two million, there is a rising need for city centre churches that have a commitment to the supremacy of Christ and the good of the city. Coming alongside the long-term vision of The Austin Stone, this churchplant will strategically complement the vision of a churchplanting movement in Texas and beyond of solid churches that devoted to the supremacy of Christ and the transformation of communities, cities, peoples and cultures.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Searching for a Home

Yesterday we roamed the city of Austin looking for a home. If you've ever looked to purchase a home, you know that the initial buzz of becoming a homeowner quickly wears off when faced with the number-crunching and tricks of the real estate trade. Starting at 9:30 AM and ending the day at 7:30 PM, we were weary by the time we made it to our friend's house, where we are staying...and this morning we will do it all over again!

When will we move? Fall, Spring, never? Where will we move? East, South, North, Central Austin? Somewhere else? As we continue to walk by faith in our journey towards churchplanting in Austin, I am poignantly reminded that our home is nowhere to be found, or at least the form of our home.

If home is where the heart is, then we will have to wait until the end of the age to kick up our feet. Abraham's life is a parable of this reality. He left his family, home, and culture to obey a call from God which was pretty unclear--"go to a land I will show you." Of course, as with everything with the eternally faithful and covenantal God, it wasn't without a promise: "And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." If Abraham obeyed, God would thrill his heart by making it a conduit of divine blessing...for the whole world. In short, Abraham was promised everything, the universe, if he would follow God.

Our search for a home is no different. The world we walk is our inheritance, but in rare form. God in Christ is redeeming it, peoples and cultures, through the Spirit in partnership with the people of Abraham. The heavenly blessings promised to Abraham are breaking into this curse-ridden world, transforming families, homes, cultures and cities. This is the gospel. This is the promise to Abraham and to my family. It is his promise to you, wherever you go. You are insufficient, but have been called to go and collect on an inheritance purchased by the death of Jesus. Ready this world for the world that is come, his Kingdom, by denying your sufficiency and the satisfaction of home with four walls. Accept the sufficiency of Christ to give you a multi-dimensional home, a new heavens and earth, where the world will be your couch and the universe your ottoman...and until then long for home, home with Christ and his new creation.