Premise: the vast majority of our church planting resources need to be invested in planting churches in Alpha Cities. If this premise is true then we need a way in the CRC to come together (churches, classes, agencies, synod, and our partners) and discern how to create a church plating movement that focuses on Alpha Cities.
CRC Home Missions is part of a group called the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship (CPLF). This group comes together a couple of times a year and studies trends in North America in the area of demographics, church planting, culture shifts and more. The last gathering was held last week. The focus of this gathering was on Alpha Cities. Alpha cites are cities that have great influence worldwide in shaping culture, values, and life. They are the frontier of new ideas and innovation. As Tim Keller said at this gathering, “Cities are the place where culture is formed, therefore, if you care about how human life is lived, you need to go to the city.”
Alpha cities are more than simply places where culture is formed, they are the place that people are moving to live. This is especially true among younger people. While many people obviously live outside the city the appeal of the city, the life of the city, and all that can be found there is gaining ascendency. The books that are reflecting this change have been coming out steadily in the last couple of years. They have titles like, The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, The End of the Suburbs, Triumph of the City and Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.
Given the vast movement of people to cities and the impact they have on the world at large (some have argued that the day of the city-state is beginning, while the day of the nation-state is in decline), a central theme of this past CPLF was the need for the church in North America to focus its efforts on Alpha cities. The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is focusing most of its resources planting churches in the 32 Alpha Cities of Canada and the U.S. Groups like City-to-City are similarly focusing their efforts on Alpha Cities. While both of these organizations believe we need to plant churches everywhere, they hold that we need to focus our attention on Alpha Cities.
Part of such a focus is a focus on diverse church planting. This diversity is of age, gender, ethnicity, race and also nationality. The nations are coming to our cities from a strong Nigerian community in Houston, Texas to a large Haitian Community in Montreal (The largest immigrant population in Canada is Asian, the largest immigrant population in the U.S. is Hispanic.). To enter into this world of Alpha Cities means entering into a world of great diversity that we both celebrate and in which we need to learn how to live.
The CRC has long been a rural/suburban church. We have been more apt to leave cities than find ways to engage them. When we’ve been involved in church planting over the past decade the focus has been church plants that spring up locally through churches and classes. CRHM’s main role has been providing support, training, coaching, and some financial resources. We have not imagined in the past coming together as churches, classes, and regions and thinking about what the most strategic way we can plant churches to impact North America and beyond. Is it time to do just that: to come together (churches, classes, regions, partners) and dream, think, strategize and plan about how to impact Alpha Cities through church planting? Or is the CRC:
--too deeply imbedded in our rural/suburban place to engage the city?
--too fragmented and focused on our own areas to have a bi-national strategy to plant churches?
--too fearful of the cities to deeply engage them?
--too unwilling to make the sacrifices financially (it is very expensive to plant in the city) and culturally to engage Alpha cities?