World Evangelism: The Inner-City Church

By Leslie Diestelkamp

All over the nation, with a few delightful exceptions, there is a tendency to flee the inner cities. Churches are moving out to the suburbs. Large, attractive and well-preserved buildings are being abandoned or sold to some denominational groups. And the reason is race! The older neighborhoods are being filled with non-white people and the white folks who used to live in the apartments are now moving to the more fashionable homes in the suburbs. So, instead of driving back to the old meeting place, or instead of just starting new congregations in the suburban areas, brethren are moving whole congregations out, deserting the multitudes who now surround the old church building.,

But why should they do this? Why not, rather, make a determined effort to reach the multitudes that have moved into our old neighborhoods? The gospel was not of Caucasian origin nor is it effective only for salvation for people with lily-white skins. In fact, those people of other races who now predominate the inner-cities are loved as much by the Lord as we. And, they may indeed be more receptive to the truth and appreciative of the gospel grace of God than are the sophisticated suburbanites.

But some brethren will say, “We have invited them to come and we have made those welcome who did attend our services, but we can~t seem to really reach them for significant teaching and for obedience.” In this regard I beg consideration of the following:

1. A hundred times in the last generation or two you invited the white people near the meeting iiouse. How many come? Even though only a few came, you kept trying, and gradually a few were won. Then dont expect the new neighbors–of another race to be more easily reached or more quickly responsive.

2. When you were trying to reach the former white neighbors you didnt call in a black preacher, did you? So now, if you want to reach non-white people, dont depend entirely upon white preachers.

3. Be sure all are considered equal. Dont allow a “white side” and a “black side” to develop in the seating arrangements. Treat the non-white people as neither superior nor inferior. Sit by them, sing with them, take your wife and children when you visit them and urge them to visit your home. Use those who are Christians in the public service just as you do others.

4. Be patient. Remember, the old white congregation didnt grow up in a year. It took one, two, or three decades, didnt it, and even then most of the “additions” were Christians who moved to the city from rural areas. So it will take time under these different circumstances, but it can be done.

5. Be firm and steadfast regarding truth. It is a pity that many white brethren who oppose sponsoring church arrangements and church support of human institutions seem willing to concede these departures to black people. Consequently many faithful brethren are content to let unsound brethren evangelize and teach those of other races. I have even heard of v.4 one strong, faithful, inner-city church that bag considered giving their old building to unsound brethren — just because they happen to be black and may be willing to take over the work in that inner-city area. These white brethren would not consider giving their building to unsound white people. But we have not done our duty just because we turn the building over to black brethren. We must maintain truth and fidelity.

It is indeed gratifying to notice that a few inner-city congregations have become fully integrated and that in doing so they sacrificed no scriptural truth. Some have thus become truly unified, fruitfully victorious and significantly happy in real brotherhood. I hope many more will enthusiastically follow the game wise and scriptural way soon.

September 14, 1972