Deliverance…Really?

urban scene

“Now, you’re the leader of Deliverance Church, tell me what type of deliverance has occurred in your community?” That was the question an African-American pastor asked a fellow minister in an inner city metro region in North East USA. The pastor was in a seminary class I was teaching recently. He expressed exasperation at the so-called Deliverance Churches, or ministries, in low-income, crime infested urban areas where so little deliverance was evident. He lamented that some churches spend hours and hours in praise and worship, but the fruit of any change outside the church building can be hard to see. It got me thinking about inner cities and their relationship to unreached peoples.

Do we expect God to deliver the Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu refugees in our inner cities from darkness to light? Do we even know where they come from? We may see their unique clothing styles, smell their foods and hear their languages, but what do we know of their spiritual lives? Are we so focused on familiar inner city issues like homelessness, education and crime that we are blind to what new thing God may be doing by allowing minorities from countries that are hostile to the gospel to show up on our doorstep?

For my part, I have to admit that I don’t expect God to do much, if anything. Often when I’m driving through an inner city area, or perhaps walking by a ‘bad’ neighborhood, I’m concerned about my personal safety. I see men sitting on the sidewalk holding up cardboard placards with scratchy handwritten messages like “Please help. Need food”. I’m so self-preoccupied that I hardly give time to think about the individual in front of me, let alone the hundreds if not thousands of legal (and illegal) refugees and immigrants scattered within the community.

Urban pastor Tim Keller asked the following question to  a foundation executive, Fritz Kling, a couple years’ ago: “What could be more strategic and important than sewing revival in a world-class city like New York, which in turn shapes so much of the nation’s and world’s culture?”

Or perhaps we could rephrase this: What will bring deliverance both to inner city churches and to suburban Christians so that they may become witnesses to the new thing God is doing in our day with regard to the unreached who are now within our reach?

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