Leadership On The Block

A Rolling Stone review of Stevie Wonder's album, Songs in The Keys of Life, from December 1976 goes on and on about the freshness of the music and the new discoveries that lay in wait around every musical note. It also says that this is also one of the record's annoyances — it has no focus or coherence. Today, this work of art is considered a classic and its influence among generations of musicians is obvious. In the moment, it was kind of annoying. It didn't seem coherent. The sound just couldn't be figured out.

Welcome to the world of the home grown, not ready for prime time, inner-city church planter. The one who, because of his experience, is a world of new discoveries and a source of frustration to those who are on the front end of the church planting movement in our day. Our brothers are fascinated and frustrated by what they feel but can't authentically express themselves. So, it must lack focus.

Don’t get me wrong; I am all about the kingdom. Every nation, tribe, and tongue is a marvelous picture of God’s design and I am all about that! I also believe that in the here and now the under-resourced but over-qualified indigenous, on the block leader is hard for the process to spot. What follows are a few ways reasons I believe this to be so.


The inner city has always been a place of creative expression and creation. It has to be. When a people are forced to do with out they always seem to find something special with in. this new expression and creation, the one from with in, is a wonderful and pure and precious gift that when finally noticed is appreciated but not supported. At least not in its original form. Why, because it is rooted in a particular place. The same is true of church planting and church planters. The vision for a new expression of god's big church is usually pure and rooted in a place. So while it still needs to operate inside of the same tried and true biblical framework, the way it works itself out is full of freedom and new discovery. It always seems as if it lacks focus and coherence if the ones in a position to help brings this god given dream to life are from outside the particular place. Always.

The process can't see the hustle.

The church planting industry is always on the look out for the next superstar. The one with all the right credentials and the right ecclesiological pedigree. The one with the banging blog and the right jeans. I get it. But, what about the man who god called late in life, or the one who was called out of a difficult and dark circumstance? What the man that god has rescued from the fire but isn't in a place where seminary is an option? What about the man that although he may lack the technical training but has the hustle necessary to be effective in inner-city ministry? Who is going to assess and support him?

This post is not going to provide all the answers and it may not even make much sense, you see, I am one of those late in life holy ghost hustlers running around trying to see the hood get saved. I have also benefited from the wise counsel and sound correction of men who have done what I am trying to do. I know I am blessed. Somebody who understands that pure and precious place where creativity is breathed on spotted me. Some of my brothers may not have that person in their life. This has got to change. We need more movements led by men who understand the expressive freshness of the under-resourced but over-qualified indigenous, on the block leader. The struggle is real. May the lord continue to bless the work of those who spend themselves unearthing diamonds.



Rich Rivera