When the city of Detroit comes to mind, what images pop up? No doubt images of Motown and historically great music come to mind. If you're a sports fan, then all the great teams like the Pistons in basketball, the Tigers in Baseball, maybe the Red Wings in Hockey, but probably not so much the Lions in football (unless Barry Sanders comes up in the conversation). Maybe the automotive industry is your first thought and its influence in big business over the years. There is some rich culture in Detroit, but there are other images that may come to mind as well: city corruption, crime, the dense population, among other things. Detroit is one of those cities that has a tough reputation and a negative perception about it, whether deserved or not.
It’s always great to talk to someone who actually lives in Detroit and knows what is going to possibly paint a different picture. Regardless of the past, whether good or bad, God seems to be up to something great in Detroit and it is something worthy of attention. God is connecting Arkansas with Detroit once again after Arkansas helped the Michigan convention begin fifty plus years ago. Wayne Parker is the Send City Missionary and the pastor of Merriman Road Baptist Church in Detroit and has been a big part of that reconnection. Wayne is a native of Detroit, deeply loves the city, and sees the city coming back to life.
Wayne has been involved in several church plants over the years but has been back in Detroit for several years now as the pastor the church where he grew up. When he moved back to Detroit there wasn’t much of a church planting culture among SBC churches, but he was determined to see it cultivated. Most of those churches were started by southern people moving to Detroit for the automotive industry and with that influx, they began southern SBC churches in Detroit. They became cultural enclaves for southern people in the city. There was not a strong desire to reach indigenous Detroiters for the purpose of reaching the city with the gospel.
When Detroit was named as a Send City by the North American Mission Board, Wayne and some other pastors began to pray and map out a strategy for church planting in Detroit with indigenous people from Detroit. As a result of their prayers, 73 neighborhoods were identified where God might begin new expressions of the church to reach the massive numbers of people without a relationship with God. It has been a spiritually dark place where even in many of the existing churches the biblical gospel was hard to find. They were either strongly liberal with a weak emphasis on clear biblical orthodoxy or a health and wealth view of the gospel that is also contrary to scripture. There has been much to overcome for the gospel to take root in that city.
Wayne and other church leaders prayed big and dreamed big for different regions of the city and the 73 specific neighborhoods where God might do some big things. After identifying these 73 neighborhoods, the next big question was, “Where do we find 73 planters for those neighborhoods?” It would be improbable that 73 planters would come to Detroit to plant from outside of Detroit. They realized the only thing they had to offer in this journey was prayer. No man-made strategy would fix this. No human ingenuity would solve this problem. So, they began to pray Luke 10:2 together at 10:02 am each day, that God would raise up planters from Detroit. God is answering this prayer. They now have 53 planters working in 53 of the 73 neighborhoods and only three of those planters came from outside Detroit. Many times when Wayne has met with a new potential planter, the planter expressed a call to one of those 73 identified and prayer covered neighborhoods.
God wants his kingdom expanded and lost people found even more than his church does. Strategies and plans are great, and they are needed when God begins to move, but strategies alone will not create a significant kingdom movement. The church must dream big and pray big to see God do what only God can do. Wayne Parker and other church leaders like him are praying big things for Detroit and God is answering those prayers in God-like ways.
Pray for Detroit. Pray for its people. Pray for the established churches and the new plants going to work there. Pray for those 73 neighborhoods and beyond that God would continue to do great things in this city.