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The Challenges of Urban Ministry

Christ the Center is pleased to welcome Bill Snodgrass and Erica Bucey to discuss the challenges of urban ministry. Rev. Snodgrass is pastor of Grace Fellowship OPC in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Erica serves as the Director of Development at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in Philadelphia. Bill and Erica talk about the particular challenges churches and para-church ministries face in urban contexts and how a reformed theology offers lasting hope in the sovereign God.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

To clarify a point concerning which I was unclear in the interview, Dr. Bob Emberger of the Whosoever Gospel Mission has a D. Min degree from Westminster Theological Seminary (1993). His M. Div is from Biblical Theological Seminary.

Camden Bucey

10 years ago

Another challenge comes from certain theologies within the reformed community. The tendency toward transformationalism or mild social gospels often arises in urban contexts.

Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

Agreed, Camden ! Those are some of the many voices to which people are exposed, which we mentioned during the interview. By the way, I may offer my best effort at a Spanish word for eschatological: Siesta !

Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

Take the example of tutoring someone who cannot read. You can arrange for them to get help, you can transport them, and you can teach them. Any option takes time. You don’t make a program out of it, but rather, you engage in it as part of the ongoing work of making disciples as it impacts given individual situations. That is the spirituality of the church applied to what could to some become a transformational or social gospel agenda, on my view.

Camden Bucey

10 years ago

That’s a great point. I am continually perplexed by how the term “justice” gets stretched and cast in so many different ways. If we’re going to use the biblical words for justice to justify whatever social program we would like to do, why doesn’t it ever get used in its “judgment” sense? Would social gospel advocates ever preach a message akin to Acts 17?

Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

I have not heard one. I suppose what I am contending for is a robust spirituality of the church view that preserves the ministry of the Word and sacraments, while at the same time listening to what Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. If a person cannot read, our own use of the means of grace and growth in Christ will drive us to find ways to assist that person. That is not a program. It is love. No efforts toward so-called justice in earthly terms will produce a heavenly life of love, life in Christ produced by the Spirit of Christ. That is the true Spirituality of the church.

Camden Bucey

10 years ago

Well said.

Jeff Waddington

10 years ago

Folks

This was a good discussion. As a former urban pastor (Albany, NY and NYC), I would love to continue the discussion about how to present an ordinary means of grace ministry in an urban setting often hostile to it.

We should have Bill on again. I know he and I have had helpful discussions about this (helpful to me at least!) and I think our listeners would benefit. If we believe that the Reformed faith is the most biblical expression of Christianity (a view we have each come to by God’s grace), then it fits in the urban context.

Jeff

Camden Bucey

10 years ago

You don’t hear much about the ordinary means of grace in the city – let alone anywhere else!

Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

Well, let’s work toward making the ordinary common !

Benj

10 years ago

I recently read Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion, which contains an excellent history of the church’s urban mission in America beginning in the 19th century. I would be interested to know if any of the participants has come across this book and has an opinion of Dr. Olasky’s work.

Bill Snodgrass

10 years ago

Dear Benj:
I have not yet read the book. I looked at a review of it when you wrote what you did above. I have read some of Olasky’s essays in World mag. I will peek at the book. What did you want to say about it ?

Brett Mahlen

9 years ago

Bill sure caught me off guard dropping my name on this episode. As funny as it is, the Spanish word for eschatology is a cognate: escatología (es-cat-ol-o-GEE-ah).

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