My friend Jon Lloyd and several other people from Robeson County have decided to plant a new church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was asked to contribute a column to their “Steel City Church” blog. ___________________________
I can’t tell you how inspired I am about Jon Lloyd’s vision for the Steel City Church. My soul soared just reading about the commitment so many people are making to start a church exactly where one needs to be started today, in the urban core of America. What an impressive example of Paul’s reminder to Timothy, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). This vision is bold! It is also an illustration of how the Bible is alive, not a dusty old book of history.
Jon and his team are modern day Nehemiahs. Nehemiah was living comfortably about 700 miles away from Jerusalem, a once great city now only a shell of its former greatness. Nehemiah begs his employer, the King, to allow him to return to Jerusalem to restore it. Pittsburgh, once the steel-making capital of the world, lies about 600 miles from Lumberton. Pittsburgh has experienced some economic transformation, but it is not the center of Christian activity that it once was.
In 1787 the Penn family donated the land to establish for the first Christian churches – Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and German Evangelical. Many later settlers in Pittsburgh came from Eastern Europe so large numbers of Orthodox churches-from Carpatho-Russsian Orthodox to Ukranian Orthodox sprang up. In 1843 the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh was established. Pittsburgh’s population peaked in about 1950 and today is less than half of its peak. Pittsburgh has more people who describe themselves as Christian than the average for America, and the vast majority of them are Catholic. Many are Christian in name only and do not read the Bible or commune daily with Jesus Christ. Clearly, “the fields are ripe for the harvest!” (John 4:35).
But, that doesn’t mean the pickings are easy. “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”’ (Matthew 9:37-38). We can thank the Lord that He has called and equipped these laborers and leaders.
As much as I love the idea of going, I know that it isn’t right for me, and many people will be in that situation. What can we do, though, to support this church plant? The Steel City Church website says we can pray, give, and come along. I submit that there may be a few additional options. We know that each of us is given at least one spiritual gift. Some who remain in Robeson County can offer discernment. We will have a perspective away from the immediate rush and crush of activity. When requested, we can provide discernment to the Steel City Church team about a variety of challenges they may be facing. Some here have the gift of administration. In the wired world in which we live many administrative activities no longer have to be completed on site. People here could, perhaps, maintain a website, field prayer requests, and facilitate communication. Some have the gift of encouragement. That gift can be used from anywhere in the world!
We are all busy with our own church activities, but Steel City Church is such a bold vision with such a high payoff for the Kingdom, that I challenge each of us to consider how we can stay connected to this ministry and provide it whatever support God enables within us. John and team, go with Godspeed, and our blessing.