Yesterday, someone asked the question, “How is it that we have 1300 churches in the inner city and lead the nation in murders?” Honestly, this is not the first time I’ve heard this question raised, although the city in which it speaks of has changed over the years that I’ve heard it. It is also not a question in which the solution does not apply to just that specific city. There are many cities that are facing similar issues with murder and other crimes. It is a question that many people of faith ask when it comes to wondering how it is that there are so many churches, yet there seems to be no marked difference in the culture where the Church is present.
My initial response to this question probably should have been qualified, but it partly spoke to the issue that I believe is the reason why many churches do not see a change in the culture where the church is heavily present. My initial response was that “the Church has missed its mission.” I have spoken about this before and have shared some of the research that has validated it. According to David Kinneman and Gabe Lyons of The Barna Group, they have determined that many outside the Church see them as being “hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too political, too focused on converts, sheltered, and judgmental.”
Okay, so you may be asking yourself as you read this, what does any of that have to do with the initial question of why it is that 1300 churches in the inner city have the highest murder rate in the nation. The answer is evident in the above stated indictment against the Church. What does each of the accusations say about the church? There’s a lack of love being expressed by the Church in the communities in which they exist.
As someone who is becoming more acutely aware that there is a problem on the mountain of Faith/Religion, I honestly believe that when Christ says they will know you are y disciples by your love, that love has not truly been seen in the inner city in the way it needs to be seen. I believe there needs to be two mountains in particular, working together to turn things around, not just in the particular city that the initial question was raised, but in many of the cities where similar struggles are being manifested. The mountains of Faith and Family both need to have an expression of love that causes those who have little or no value for life to discover its worth.
In Baltimore City, MD, there is the presence of gang violence. It has become home to notorious gangs such as MS-13 and the Black Guerilla Family (BGF). Consider also that while the number of jailed juveniles declined, according to one report; A more recent one announced a new state of the art detention facility being built, not to mention that many of these youths are graduating to adult facilities.
The number of homeless youths in Baltimore are conservatively estimated at 1400 and growing. It was previously thought that the number was significantly lower. With all of this, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the issue of the foster care issue, fatherlessness, or the unemployment rate that is faced in the city.
There is also high drug usage and addiction. In fact, ABC News recently reported that Baltimore is the US Capital for Heroin use. A January report showed that abortion rates declined in 2014 with an estimated 926,200 abortions being performed in the state of Maryland. Although this report did not give a city by city breakdown of how many were performed, consider the comparison to the entire city population in Baltimore in the same year was only 623,711 people and has been in a steady decline since the 1970’s.
With all that Baltimore and many other cities face, I wholeheartedly believe that the mountains of Faith and Family hold the key that unlocks to door to bringing sanity and breathing life back into them. However, it is not merely faith in the sense that people need to come to church. Rather, it is that the Church needs to be the Church, evidenced in a proper display of love. As the Church begin to minister and administer love appropriately, to families that are broken, lost, in desperation for hope and solutions that cannot be found by natural mean, they will see healing and restoration come back to them. As families find help that speaks to their most urgent of needs, which in many cases is not reflected in any of the things listed earlier in this blog that were the seen as the reason why many do not seek the Church; then and only then will there be a shift in the culture where these churches are.
It is my prayer and my belief that when the Church acknowledges this, they will see revival, reformation, and transformation within the communities. I am going out on a limb and prophesying today that those churches in the city who devote their resources and attention to this mission above any other, will see the neighborhoods where they are present come alive.
QUESTION: Do you believe that a city with the highest crime rate in the nation can be changed by faith and love?