Are Church Planters Skirting Inner-City Life for the 'Sexy' Urban Mission Field?

Minister D.A. Horton Talks Church Planting, Urban Missions and Diversifying Churches & Seminaries

CP: Going back a bit to the issue of church planting becoming trendy, and maybe some ministers feeling intimidated by that inner-city wall… I'm wondering then, how organizations and networks can empower guys like yourself who are hungry to go back to the areas that they came from or to areas they feel are neglected?

 Horton: That's what I love about NAMB, is the fact that our national strategy is we're looking at 32 cities; five in Canada, 27 in the United States. … This is where God is gathering people, these are metroplexes that millions of people are gathering to. Here's the amount of churches to the population of people. Here's what it was in the '40s, here's what it is today. There is a huge gap. As the population of America has blown up, the amount of church attendees has plummeted.

So God is arousing the hearts of people that hear the plan that we have, and saying, "I want to go to one of these cities." We have a developmental system, a farm system that we want to plug students, young people, church planters, people who are curious about that, and we want to plug them into the system to develop them, to launch them, train them, resource them to go into these 32 cities.

CP: You're a minority in Christian leadership, so I'm guessing when other minorities see you, they are attracted to you. So when you travel, when you speak at different conferences and with different groups, what do you find are the needs being expressed by minority Christians?

Horton: I think one of the things that I hear a lot is there's a high level of hope. If they see a person of color, if they see a Latino, African American or Asian on the main stage at a conference, writing books, then they feel like there's a sense of ownership, like, "Man, we've made it." So there's a collective victory in that. At the same time, they're praying for opportunities. They feel like, "I'm not gonna be you. God has given you that space to leverage our voice in the conversation."

I feel a responsibility, and that's honestly what I sense. A deep burden in my soul is to see diversity within our denominational leadership, within our seminary faculty and administrative staff, in presidents' cabinets, and in leadership at our local churches. Fighting for that also allows me to build relationships with other brothers that are qualified, with other sisters that can serve in their credential. When I'm in a conversation, normally what happens is: "Man, can you move to Memphis?' or "Bro, look the Bronx is calling you" or "Brooklyn is calling you" or Seattle, whatever city or metroplex, they're saying, "D.A., this is where you need to be." I can say, "No, I know where God has called me. But I've got like 10 dudes that just ran through my mind when you told me." So then it's about networking, it's about letting them know I'm not the only one. That keeps me from tokenism. That keeps me from being the token minority, the token anchor. It keeps me from being the black voice, the brown voice, the yellow voice.

It allows me to be a voice as a believer first, who happens to be ethnically Hispanic. It allows me to cultivate that conversation so that people can say, "Who would you recommend?" And those are the conversations that I'm getting from the people who are empowered that are Anglo to say, "Well, who else is there besides you?" Are you kidding? Who else is there? Who's not out there. I begin to tell them, "I got guys all over the place, sisters all over the place that can be utilized for God's glory."

When those opportunities are opened up and those individuals that I recommended maximize it and come back and they're like, "Thank you." I'm like, "No, God is the one who's opened the door. You just do the same." Basically, all God's called me to do is be a door-holder for brothers and sisters of color to say we can lead, we can shepherd, we can serve alongside, we can contribute academically as well. Just give us an opportunity.