Are all Churches Planted Equal?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." —The Declaration of Independence

The ideal of equal access is fundamental to American democracy. In 1776 these words were coined by the founders of this country indicating that all men had the opportunity to pursue their God given destiny and that there were no barriers for doing so. When the forefathers said "all men are created equal" they only meant European white males. Such is the case in many instances today. We know that there are many areas of education, politics, economics, and the justice system where the balance of power and opportunity is unequal. 

After 7 years of planting my church in Los Angeles, I have had the opportunity to be in many diverse evangelical circles. One of the things that I have had a difficult time with is the idea that church planting for some is not balanced. More directly, if you are planting a church and you are a person of color often times you are dong so at a disadvantage in comparison to your white counterparts. As with anything, we find ways to make it work. Most urban pastors that I know have had to be bi-vocational by necessity and not necessarily by choice. When you have a small neighborhood church in under-resourced communities, the income of your parishioners don't allow you the opportunity to engage in full-time ministry. 

When I planted my church in 2007 I was a middle school principal. I have had to use the income from my secular job to finance my church plant. I often wondered if I had been fully supported  like my white counterparts who plant churches how much further along we would have been in ministry. I will admit that the effectiveness of our church has been very impactful. We have seen new converts, baptisms, and life transformation. Our process has been very slow though. 

The question that I wrestle with is why can't urban pastors be afforded the same amount of investment by denominations that others receive. The resources needed to impact under-resourced communities are much different than suburban areas. If I were to plant a church in the suburbs of Los Angeles, the socio-economic level of that church would be completely different than that of a church in Watts or Compton. I could plant a 300 member size church in the suburb and be in full-time ministry with resources generated from that church. To plant a 300 member church in an urban area while being bi-vocational is unheard of and if it were to happen it would take more than five years to do so. 

Do we really believe in planting gospel centered churches by raising up leaders from the community with the calling and qualifications that any other person outside the community has. If I could plant again I would do it full time without having to hold two and three outside jobs to make it happen. 

I challenge my denominational leaders of mainline evangelical organizations who have a heart for community transformation to invest in the urban pastors. We are just as qualified, called, and equipped to do the work of ministry in the cities God has called us to as well. We need more resources, support, and financial backing just like your suburban church models. If you really believe in the power of the gospel, then you would agree that your investment in these urban men and women will yield a return of Kingdom converts. Equality says you everybody should get the same thing across the board assuming that the playing field is leveled. Equity recognizes that everyone is not starting from the same place an says each person should get what they need to be successful. 

Peter Watts