Mission 360°: Why is so much emphasis being given to urban mission at the moment?
Gary Krause: Well, the quick answer is that most people in the world now live in cities. More than 100 years ago Ellen White said the church had neglected the cities, and I’m afraid that didn’t change in a hurry.
M360: What are Life Hope Centers?
GK: That’s the name we’re giving to centers of influence that we hope to see in cities all over the world. It’s a concept that comes from Ellen White, who had a vision to “establish in all our cities small plants which shall be centers of influence.”
The idea is simple—start wholistic ministry centers in urban areas to connect the church to needs in the community. Ellen White envisaged centers including things such as lifestyle education, treatment rooms, bookstores/reading rooms, restaurants, literature ministry, lectures, instructions on preparing wholesome food, etc.
Today’s Life Hope Centers may look different and offer some different services and ministries, but the principle remains the same—to connect with people’s needs. In doing this, they’re modeling the approach of Jesus, which Ellen White summarizes:
The Saviour mingled among people as One who desired their good.
M360: How big are Life Hope Centers?
GK: Ellen White opposed setting up huge urban institutions that would tie up the church’s resources and personnel in just a few places. She felt that urban ministry should be distributed among many smaller centers.
“It is through the social relations that Christianity comes in contact with the world,” she wrote. Life Hope Centers provide an opportunity for building that type of contact. She also urged Adventists to “strive to place themselves where they will come in direct contact with those needing help.” That’s exactly what Life Hope Centers do.
M360: What sort of building does a Life Hope Center require?
GK: In some parts of the world it may just be a rented room in a downtown area. In other places it may be more sophisticated. In some locations it might be a church hall. The shape or size of the center isn’t so important—as long as it provides a platform for reaching out and meeting the needs of the surrounding community.
M360: Could my local church be a Life Hope Center?
GK: Absolutely. If it’s located in an urban area it can be a springboard for community-based ministry. Of course, for many people in urban communities today the four walls of a church building are a looming barrier. In many cases a neutral space might be needed. But many churches could provide a base from which to reach out into the community and meet people where they are.
Unfortunately, many churches tend to spend more time and resources focusing on inward needs rather than on the community. A church that’s following Christ’s Method will focus outward, training and inspiring church members to mingle, show sympathy, meet needs, win confidence, and invite people to follow Jesus. If your church can do that, it can be a Life Hope Center.
M360: How is the Office of Adventist Mission helping establish Life Hope Centers?
GK: We’re providing some financial assistance, as well as on-going support for marketing, resources, and programming. We’re developing a smorgasbord of expertly designed curricula that Life Hope Center leaders can download free from the Web. They include seminars on everything from cardiac health to birthing companion training—complete with PowerPoint slides, teacher notes, work sheets, etc. We’re also adding many useful tools such as instructions on how to perform community assessment. There will be guides on how to plan various community events, and so much more. Everything can be adapted for the local context.
In addition, we’ll have Website design for local centers, templates for signage and branding, flyers, newspaper advertisements—all professionally designed to help local leaders put their center “on the map.”
Where possible we want Life Hope Centers to have the same branding, but their look, style, and flavor will be shaped to local situations. Whatever their shape and size, the underlying philosophy and principles of operation will be consistent.
M360: How will they be financed and staffed?
GK: Apart from any help we or other church entities give to these centers, the goal is for them to become self-sustaining financially. So where possible, they should be linked to some type of revenue-generating enterprise, such as a medical or dental clinic.
They utilize local Adventist workers, Global Mission pioneers, and volunteers—and partner with church departments, institutions, and lay organizations.
Church members can often feel frustrated with lack of opportunities to serve in ministry. Life Hope Centers provide an opportunity for involvement in ways that suit their gifts and interests. A church businessperson may never preach an evangelistic sermon, but she could run seminars on managing finances. Young people can run games and activities for community kids a few hours a week. The list goes on and on.
M360: So Life Hope Centers will be involved in all sorts of good things, but what’s the ultimate goal?
GK: We want every center to have a plan to connect people in the community to Adventist small groups and urban church planting initiatives. This is key. We’re not talking about just setting up more social service centers—as important as they are. Our care for the community is never conditional on people becoming Adventists—we’ll still mingle, show sympathy, and minister to needs even if people never show any interest in our beliefs. But it’s our goal to lead people to Jesus and to become baptized members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The 1989 Global Strategy document, the blueprint for the church’s Global Mission initiative, referred to the growing urban areas as just one of the church’s biggest mission challenges. Today it’s our biggest challenge.
Life Hope Centers provide an opportunity for wholistic ministry following the example of Jesus. They provide a springboard for all entities of the church to partner together in ministry to urban communities.
To connect with people in Manhattan, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has established a center of influence called Life Hope Center Bryant Park.
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