Apr 25, 2009

Detroit is Nation's Most Dangerous City?

This just in, Detroit is America's number one most dangerous city. Despite that we have some brand new sports facilities like Comerica Park, Ford Field, casinos with newly built hotels recently added to their square footage, and a renewed interest in "culture", you might not be able to see over the horizon of shiny lights and special events long enough to actually realize what this latest headline from Forbes describes.

Its no wonder most folks who visit the "D" rarely see much of what goes on in the neighborhoods that sprawl out from the inner-city and encompass acres of blight, poverty, crime, and forgotten humanity. A flight in to Detroit Metro Airport, conveniently located in Romulus (although it has its own zip code), a zip down the freeway into the heart of downtown for a final four match, a superbowl, or a rock concert that epitomizes "Detroit Rock City", a few hours losing chump change at a nearby casino, and a flight out of dodge can highlight the concept that most may have of Detroit. Just because you've recently heard a renewed interest in the city from news reports of our former and infamaous Mayor Kwame, or the demise (which started how long ago?) of the Big Three automakers, doesn't mean that Detroit has suddenly become something of note, it still is quite frankly, forgotten. That is unless your a statistician. Then, it becomes a fun case study of how many hopeless souls are preying upon one another for survival.

I am curious of just how often people look at the city with an eye that sees the souls of men in need of something that promises more than social revitalization. Or, is it chance that someone would remember to pray for the junkie in the upper flat of an abandoned Highland Park home jamming needles into a collapsed vein? Better yet, could some business man who has made more than his share invest in buying out the local liquor store that specializes in the cross counter sale of "crack pipes" and "chore-boy?"

I wonder if the efforts of ministries in the communities of Detroit (and I do not say this empirically) see their efforts in light of the same efforts of the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day? Is it missions work when your efforts are only adding numbers to the role and making carbon copies of "ideal" church members who move up in the ranks through "minister" classes that award "certificates" to individuals who successfully progress through milestones, does this make them better equipped than others to minister? Do they know that they travel the world seeking to make converts and merely make them twice the sons of hell they are (Mat 23:15)?

Can we stop and see past statistics and headline-grabbing ministry methods for just a few minutes as we pray to see people as Jesus did? Can we look out on the masses of gang members and people raised like pit-bull terriers to survive as men and women with whom we are co-equal? Can we have compassion that sets our hearts aflame and breaks our pride long enough to see the distress and fatigue that is bearing loads down upon thousands of Detroiters daily? I can't help but to think of a scripture from Matthew that highlights the situation I see comparable to this blog post. The despair and burden that is illustrated with this passage likens the tired Jews, burdened with rote religion and doctrine to the very same types of folks who are poor and burdened with unrealistic ministries that sew seeds of death in communities that need seeds of life.

The NASB encapsulates it well, "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." (Mat 9:36)

And in the sentiment shown by Jesus in the passage above, we don't see a temporary fix, or a ministry that aims to restore the community to proper standing. NO! Heaven forbid we think the fix is the community first and then the soul, the soul that is converted will be the next laborer going off to the field. So few workers propagate the problem of too few workers. Matthew goes on to write, "Then He *said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 'Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'" (Mat 9:37-38)

I don't know if I made my point, but I'm satisfied with it, and now I'm going to bed. Feel free to openly criticize my banter! Its highly likely I'll publish any comments as such. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Praise God for your passion for Detroit. Everyone seemingly wants to let it burn and walk away like Jonah and Ninevah. But God will always answer back "should I not love the great city"?

Check out Tim Keller's work on city ministry. You have fellow believers on this matter. Gospel to the core! http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=23

Also check out a Detroit ministry that understands your issues. http://www.centraldetroitchristian.org/

In Christ Alone,

Anonymous said...

I find it easy to feel like Jeremiah at times, lamenting and discouraged over the people in my city. Not to mention family.

Be encouraged and steadfast as you labor for the Lord!

Praying to be a faithful laborer,
a sister in Detroit.

James said...

Hey Dip! Thank links for the sermon recommendation. I will definitely be checking into these.

Anonymous, thank you for your encouragement sister. It is good to hear from you. I suppose we must always remember that our labor is not in vain and that our grievance can be considered a sure sign the Lord is with us and that we are to tread on no matter what we feel!

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