Urban Hinterlands: Planting the Gospel in Uncool Places by Sean Benesh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this teeny 94 page paperback, Sean Benesh, developer of Urban Strategy and Training for TEAM, Church planter, and accomplished author, gently challenges a modern trend in church planting. Instead of automatically going into the sexy city and mod midtown, the author writes "about church planting in seemingly unlivable places" (44); "in cities or neighborhoods that many have written off. Uncool. Unappealing. Unlivable. Sketchy" (77); "to begin shifting our attention toward uncool neighborhoods and cities" (79). That's the book in a nutshell, yet the shelves and chiffoniers of this essay are filled in with personal stories, facts, figures and rationale.
Though Benesh is primarily focusing on church planters rethinking where they are called to go, nevertheless this little manual is a valuable re-assessment for those pastoring and ministering in established, older churches. Many of the questions he wants church planters to ask themselves turn out to be good questions for pastors of settled congregations to reflect on as well. To paraphrase some of his queries, what is the history of this place where our church meets? Is our community in transition, and if so, from what to where? Why does God find this place special? How can I love this place "as is"?
"Urban Hinterlands" is a very easy read that challenges ambitions and assumptions. It also gives valuable urban information to help readers make better decisions. Not only should this book fall into the hands of church planters and church planter wannabes, it should also be picked up and worked through by those ministering in churches that have been around for a while. I recommend the book.
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