FENTON, Mich. – In the midst of Detroit’s financial bankruptcy, there is a much greater void – a spiritual bankruptcy.
Detroit has had international impact for decades. Over several generations, Detroit has set the pace for American culture through its industry, music, sports and much more. The world has changed because of Detroit. Nevertheless, we now ponder what has happened to this great city.
Even amid good things that are happening in Detroit, the city sits under a cloud of financial failure. The snapshot of failure is captured in the tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, thousands of homeless residents, decades of corrupt politics and failing city services.
These images are a physical manifestation of the spiritual bankruptcy that exists in Detroit, images illustrating a decades-long spiritual void now consumed by sin and in a spiraling decline.
What has led to such spiritual bankruptcy? Why would any individual desire to live in such a place? How can we explain the great need to see the darkness eradicated in such a city of spiritual blight?
How can Detroit recover from spiritual bankruptcy? Let me propose three godly steps to spiritual renewal in Detroit.
- Recognize the crisis: Unlike many areas of our country, Detroit has never experienced a spiritual awakening. The Detroit metro area suffers a hopelessness that flows from either a lack of spiritual awareness or an inability of more than 100 religious groups to reach the masses. Those groups range from the evangelical, to high church and mainline groups, to extreme cults.
- Mobilize prayer warriors: The light of the Good News of Jesus can only shine brightly in Detroit with the support of prayer warriors. Prayer battalions of believers can attack the spiritual forces not of this world. This spiritual battle requires many hours of prayer.
- Follow God’s recovery plan: As Jesus looked down on Jerusalem, He cried tears of hurt and disappointment at the spiritual bankruptcy He identified. Viewing Detroit, I see two parts of God’s plan for recovery from spiritual bankruptcy.
First, start new churches. God’s chosen instrument to reach and disciple people is the local church. Statistics show the greatest evangelistic impact we can have in any community is starting a new church. In spite of how desolate and how dark Detroit seems to be, the only way to turn on the light is to reach the people with the message of Jesus Christ. There are dozens of locations throughout the Detroit metro area where we have identified the great need for the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must adopt God’s plan for recovery from spiritual bankruptcy by planting evangelistic, Bible-teaching churches throughout the area. This will require church starters who are passionate about reaching people who are without Christ. Those church starters must have tender hearts and a resilient spirit to reach out to those very hard to impact.
Second, see new life for established churches. The word “revitalization” is more than just a fad. Established churches must be revitalized or Detroit never will recover from its spiritual bankruptcy. Although not every church in decline or on a plateau will be revitalized, many can be transformed. This will require men willing to invest their lives in the process of turning churches toward growth and health.
A powerful move of the Holy Spirit is essential to Detroit’s recovery. We must send the most gifted, God-called church planters – men who are servant leaders, entrepreneurial leaders and evangelistic leaders who love the lost at all cost. We must send men who are called and willing to join the spiritual battle to push back the lostness in this great city. They will start churches of all sizes, among all language groups, among all ethnicities. These will be men called to go beyond the convenient and comfortable, to sacrifice the unimaginable.
We need partners dedicated to an end vision of healthy, reproducing churches. We need individuals and churches willing to pray unceasingly to reach Detroit. We need partners committed to giving long-term financial support to these new churches and their pastors.
Will you accept the call to join us in Detroit as we walk with God, seeking this city’s spiritual recovery? Will you commit as an individual or church to be a part of the battalion of prayer warriors covering Detroit in prayer for its salvation? Will you partner as an individual or church to support the leaders sacrificing to minister in Detroit?
My prayer is that untold thousands of committed believers will join us in reaching this great city for Christ. Are you willing to be one of those committed to make a difference in Detroit? I pray you are!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bobby Gilstrap is lead missionary and executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.)