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Transformational Urban Leadership

Ray Bakke


 There are some wonderful resources for city reaching on the website This week I have copied some of the conversation from one of their regular conference calls, featuring a discussion with Ray Bakke about urban leadership. I felt his comments on the limitations of denominations and his wisdom about building relationships on a level playing field were especially helpful. 

 Transformational Urban Leadership-July 19, 2001

 City Impact Roundtable-Conference Call

 Glenn introduced Ray Bakke, who has served as a pastor of an urban Chicago church, a professor of urban ministries, the leader of the International Lausanne Committeefs City Focus and the President and Founder of International Urban Associates. Ray is the foremost expert today in the field of Urban Missiology. Currently his focus is on the Asian/Pacific Rim. He is teaching a Doctor of Ministry Program through the Trans-Pacific Alliance (Carey Theological College, Northwest Graduate School, and Asia Graduate School) entitled, "Transforming the Global City."

 Glenn began: "Ray, today as never before, the mission focus in the US and abroad has become the City. It would help to frame our conversation if you could briefly discuss the shift in missions focus for the church that you see needing to take place today."

 Ray: "The Lausanne Conference in 1974 described several worlds of challenge, Muslim world, Buddhist world, urban world. I was asked to lead the urban area. It led me to change my focus – we are moving toward a world of interconnected cities and states. Jacobs wrote that when a city gets to a million it becomes international. Mission needs to go beyond the black; many of these cities are yellow and brown, and not just poor. We decided to bring together "best practices" and commend them as models. The city church is inventing many signs of hope in cities. We want to create learning centers. There are many challenges, i.e. jungle people are now the needy in large cities. We are failing to teach what needs to be done. We need an R&D movement. We want to help reduce the brain drain. 80% of the world's Christian are not in the west. Just as a mall has more than one entrance, we need to offer educational opportunities around the world."

 Glenn asked: "Could you briefly describe the difference between transformational and transactional leadership in the city?"

 Ray: "Definitions come from James McGregor Burns. Transformational would be someone like Moses, Daniel, Paul – a holy discontent and having a vision for a transformed city. Transformational leaders are planting churches that have the potential to transform their cities, even economically in some places, extending to leveraged banks under the lordship of Christ. We don't want to build traditional churches, but are seeking churches to transform the place as well as the persons. An example cited was Cairo, Egypt, a work called the "Willow Creek of the middle east," with a prayer service of approximately 10,000. They have re-built the garbage dump, added schools, hospitals. A Lutheran woman has built over 200 houses. To have a  sustainable church, you have to not just teach them to fish, but create a pond that they own."

Ray continued: "Transactional leaders are those who keep organizations function well, quietly serving in the background. He recommended Classic Studies in Leadership by Burns. There are 410 cities of over a million.

Phil Miglioratti: "One of the things I've seen in Chicago where Jim Queen is working through denominational systems – that it is a difficult road with many roadblocks."

Ray: Denominations aren't going away, and new ones are coming along as well. Denominations are families of the kingdom of God; they come with baggage, some great history, some tough stuff. Most of the churches significantly developed in the city have denominational history. On the other hand, every one of them has had to counter the culture of its own denomination. For example, Methodism circulates pastors every 5 years, so Floyd Flake had to request exemption to remain. Wayne Gordon left his denomination; now his budget is bigger than all 63 denominational churches in Chicago combined. The denomination couldn't visualize what could be done. Denominations tend to move out to good neighborhoods; they have no etheology of place. Often church "growth" is really transfer from other churches. The pastor needs to have one arm around the congregation and the other around the place. You have to work with police departments and school systems, work at community, see shalom as a value."

 Phil: "Who are some authors trying to turn that around?"

 Ray: "Ortiz and Harvey wrote a massive work from Intervarsity on urban mission. It's very solid. If you want to get stuff I've written, go to The Word in Life Study Bible gives you the city texts and you can work with Biblical Theology of the city. Lupton on re-neighboring.

 Eric Swanson, Urban Church Network: "With the sense of abandonment of the urban neighborhood, are there any good models of suburban churches?"

 Ray: Suburbs are no longer the escape from the city but the extension of the city. We are now advising don't abandon the suburb.  Just because the white church left doesn't mean the Spirit left. Come back with a spirit of partnership. Maybe instead of planting a new church, you need to send a few members to an existing, dying church there. White people are 13% of the earth, and America is 4% of the earth. It's time for us to model helping churches of color. We donft tell them what to do, but research and joint venture with them. We are seeing it on the east side of Seattle. It happened in Chicago with Western Springs Baptist Church, creating a joint venture health center. There are a lot of wrong reasons for getting back into the city. Now that stadiums are being built, the suburbs are rediscovering the city. It would be a tragedy if we just jumped back into those neighborhoods and gentrified them, removing the people who stayed there. Don't come in to start stuff, but to listen, learn and help. ECOM in the Ranier Valley, Pastor Harvey Drake, has a number of vital partnerships. University Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia has been a good example. The common denominator is relationship between senior pastors. Often the senior pastor sends out a lieutenant to meet with the senior pastor of the urban church, creating an un-level situation at the beginning.

 Randy Honaker, Dayton: "We've worked with some inner city churches, and find it difficult to break into that culture - unreturned calls and mail. Do you have any practical suggestions on how to get involved?"

Ray: "It is hard to speak to a specific situation, but your name is legion. In almost every city, there is a suspicion of outsiders. Many of the pastors are bi-vocational, and probably can't handle the mail and phone. There is also some level of threat – they haven't had the sophisticated level of training; perhaps there is some fear of getting into a relationship. Come in low profile, go for relationships one at a time, taking the time to serve them, join there stuff, be quiet, donft sell stuff. Don't expect them to join your program. Glenn mentioned one great example – Philadelphia, where college students are brought in to help offer services to the city. When I go to speak in a city, I call the historical society, asking for their six best books on the city. I.e. Ohio, where black cities are feeling marginalized. Ask for master's theses which have been written on the cities. In Pittsburgh I got some of the best books on the city's history and brought them to a pastors meeting. Freeways have bulldozed black communities. Study the history of public housing. Do your homework; find out why cities have festering problems. With sensitivity, study urban literature to learn where a city has been."



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