Simply discussing the problems and issues facing America today, even from a Christian perspective, is not enough, said the leaders of two national organizations that recently announced a partnership to plant churches in Los Angeles, New York, and everywhere in between.
“We really don’t have to look much farther than social media and news outlets [to see] everything going on in our culture — the racism, the injustice…,” said Jeff Bennett, who is a Stadia executive for its U.S. Church Planting and South Region divisions. “We can talk about the injustices, we can talk about the discouragement we feel, or we could do something.”
Stadia, a church planting resource that has helped “hundreds of great leaders start new churches,” and World Impact, a ministry that “empowers the urban poor and incarcerated” recently held a “vision trip” in Los Angeles where Bennett along with World Impact National Director Bob Engel spoke to TogetherLA.net about the partnership.
They said that church planting, urban outreach and discipleship are action steps and answers to the questions many people in America are now asking in a tension filled, politically charged country. Prayer is an essential part, but not the only part, they said.
Bennett said he believes that currently many people are often asking, “What can I do? How can we impact culture? How can we change some of the things that just disgust us that are going on today? Is there something our churches can do?”
He followed the list of questions by saying that almost every American church is within 20 minutes of an urban, under-resourced community.
“There are people living in those communities who maybe your church isn’t going to reach, but that doesn’t take away the responsibility off of you to get the gospel out there,” Bennett said. “You’ve got great organizations like World Impact who are training up leaders who live in these communities, to go go back to these communities and reach their neighbors but they need our help. There are very practical things we can do, the church can do to make an impact in these communities. When we start to do that, that’s when we see culture change and communities change.”
When asked about the significance of the partnership, Engel said, “Souls. That’s always the first thing I think about. Souls are eternal, and yes, there are a lot of needs in the city. We do believe, first of all, that the church of the living God comes together and they’ve been given a steward of the gospel.
“The gospel becomes a power to transform someone from the inside,” he explained. “That transformation then brings them into community — we plant churches — that community then has been given the keys of the kingdom of God. Then, ultimately I believe, Stadia believes [that] true transformation is going to come when people are changed from the inside, gathered together as God’s people and then begin to use their gifts to transform their community around them.”
Engel said the partnership between Stadia and World Impact is “very critical if you just think about the kingdom of God.”
“The kingdom is churches, God’s people coming together to advance and expand His kingdom — can’t do it separately, you need to do it together — and so Stadia is so committed to God’s kingdom, planting churches, people coming to Christ, being discipled…,” he said. “That’s who we are amongst the urban poor and under-resourced communities and so it’s a beautiful marriage.
“When we think of LA together we also think of Stadia and World Impact together. We need to come together to move God’s kingdom forward.”