I just finished six years on the board of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. My term ended with the PDP’s annual meeting, where civic leaders describe the state of downtown. There are many good things going on downtown, but there are also many hurting people. This means there are many, many ways for the church to care for the city and share the faith.
When I started at the church ten years ago, I’d see an occasional article with predictions of a resurgent downtown. At last it’s true. There’s been $8.5 billion in new construction within a half mile of the church over the last ten years. $300 million worth of projects are underway right now. There are condos, apartments, restaurants, and all kinds of new businesses. One signature project, Lumière, with 86 new residences, is half a block away.
The challenge for us is that a resurgent downtown no longer thinks it needs the church. So how do we reach it?
My understanding of this started with my classes and experiences in mission. Missionaries must do at least two things—care for people and share the Gospel. They must get to know the people they hope to reach, learn their language, live and work with them, and make a difference in their community. And after all that, hopefully they’ve built a relationship out of which they can share the Gospel.
Ten years ago, I imagined that the beauty of the church building, the church’s programs, or even my preaching would bring people to faith. But slowly I’ve learned to repent of those ideas.