A new resource for congregations of all sizes in all places, The Little Church in the Big City: A Small Church Approach to Big City Challenges is a new resource for ALL churches of ALL sizes in ALL places. This resource was endorsed by Rev. Don Ng, former President of ABC-USA and pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco, Rev. Steve Bils, Executive Minister of ABCCPC, Rev. Alfred Centeno, former Area Minister for the Hispanic Convencion, and Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple in Oakland California and professor at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California. Take a close look at these resources and pass the word to others.
After 18 years of researching churches, I designed a curriculum unlike any other. There are 8 challenges. Each challenge takes 8-10 weeks. Each one will provide a way for 3 small groups in your congregation to discuss important issues such as indifference, betrayal, homosexuality, racism, immigration, pluralism, polarization, and ideology vs theology AND will guide your church to fulfill the great commission and the two greatest commandments (love God and love your neighbor).
Buy the Introduction and Challenge 1 - 9 on Amazon.com. Read them. Make an appointment with your pastor. Ask him or her to use this series in your church!
The Great Commission: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Greatest Commandments: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).
This curriculum uses a ‘small church approach’ to ‘big city’ challenges which will help you improve relationships both inside and outside of the church. By design, small groups nourish relationships. This curriculum allows and encourages outsiders to be in a group, thus, inviting them into the conversation. This book instructs pastors and leaders in how to set up this series in their church. Here is the link to get you started:
CHURCHES IN CRISIS
Challenge 1: Indifference
The Loving Way
Are you concerned about indifference in your church? Churches are in crisis today largely due to indifference and isolation. Pastors are afraid to share with other pastors that they are losing members. Denominational leaders are at a loss. Pastors are stymied, out of ideas, and overwhelmed. Many churches are struggling especially those who serve the least of these in the inner cities. Though some churches send mission groups to Mexico, Haiti, or Belize, rare are those who help churches in the inner city. When churches of all sizes in all places work together to advance the kingdom of God, they bring glory to God whereas indifference, apathy, complacency, and a lack of concern does not. Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to confront indifference.
THE CALL TO SEEK
Challenge 2: Betrayal
The Essential Way
CHOOSING TO SEEK
Congregations rarely suspect members or leaders of betrayal but many who have been hurt by the church rarely attend. After Jesus’ crucifixion, all of the disciples either abandoned, doubted, or denied they knew him. Many feel abandoned by those they trusted. Many wrestle with doubts about their faith. Due to a decline in membership, many churches have been closing at an alarming rate. Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to confront feelings of betrayal.
THE CALL TO RESPOND
Challenge 3: Homosexuality
The Integral Way
CHOOSING TO RESPOND
Is your church confused about homosexuality? The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage has disheartened many who believe homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle or a sin. Churches are divided on this issue. Liberal churches have become welcoming and affirming of homosexuals and many have ordained homosexual pastors. How are conservative evangelical churches confronting this issue? In fact, how is your church responding to heterosexual couples who decide to live together, bear or adopt children, buy a home, and continue to remain unmarried? Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to respond to a difficult issue that is dividing families as well as churches.
THE CALL TO COMMIT
Challenge 4: Racism
The Incarnational Way
CHOOSING TO COMMIT
Does your church welcome people of another race? Often churches claim to be friendly and welcoming simply because they greet people at the door and offer a welcome packet or gift. Is this what Jesus had in mind when he said to love your neighbor? Most protestant churches in America are divided by race or ethnicity. Some do not even reflect the community where their church is located. Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to commit to loving neighbors of different races and ethnicities.
THE CALL TO CONNECT
Challenge 5: Immigrants
The Dynamic Way
CHOOSING TO CONNECT
How do your members feel about legal immigrants or refugees? God promised to bless all nations through Abraham and Jesus asked his disciples to go into all the world and share God’s good news to one and all. Immigrants are pouring into America. Some are Christians fleeing persecution. Many have ties to family and friends in their homeland. Churches in the inner city are perfectly located to reach “strangers in a foreign land.” Sadly, many newcomers are being harassed, bullied, and even killed. Unfortunately, many have discovered that the American city is a dangerous place to live and work. Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to connect with immigrants and protect them.
THE CALL TO CARE
Challenge 6: Pluralism
The Missional Way
CHOOSING TO CARE
Are you concerned about pluralism seeping into the church? In this new age of tolerance, many wonder if all faiths lead to God. God set boundaries of belief for his people. Does your church know those boundaries? Have you prepared your congregation to share God’s good news with their multi-ethnic and multi-faith neighbors? At Pentecost, God made a way for the early church to reach neighbors who spoke a different language. How are you actively and effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with those of a different faith, with a different language, and from a different culture? Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to care about those who believe differently.
THE CALL TO COOPERATE
Challenge 7: Polarization
The Relational Way
CHOOSING TO COOPERATE
Is your church conservative or liberal? The last national presidential election highlighted America’s conservative/liberal divide. America continues to be hopelessly divided. Denominations are separating over conservative and liberal ideas. What are those ideas? Why are we divided? How can either side be obedient to Jesus who prayed to the father that his church be united as one body (John 17)? Is it possible with God’s help to listen to those who do not agree and love them? Is it possible to agree on the essentials yet collaborate with those who disagree otherwise? Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to cooperate with those on the opposite side of the aisle.
CHURCHES CALLED TO SHARE GOD’S GOOD NEWS
Challenge 8: Ideology/Theology
The Redemptive Way
CHOOSING TO SHARE GOD’S GOOD NEWS
How did Jesus accomplish what he proclaimed? Did he open a food bank? Did he start a non-profit? Did he send out requests for support? Did he open a hospital or a daycare center? Did he ask for tax exempt status? Did he organize a protest march? This last challenge focuses on six questions your church should be able to answer in order to share the good news of Jesus Christ. 1) Who is God? 2) Who am I? 3) Why is there suffering in the world? 4) Why is there evil in the world? 5) Why do I need a Savior? 6) Why am I a Christian? Dr. Bennett has crafted a unique approach that will stimulate your congregation to restore God’s true purpose for your church.
You can also find Rev. Dr. Marilyn Bennett on LinkedIn.