I live in a place where women take their morning run in full makeup. A place where girls ride bikes in dresses and heals (I wish I was making this up; I'm not.) I live in a city where theme parks and the entertainment industry thrives, and our communities become more superficial because of it. In the heart of Downtown Orlando you should not go out any night of the week without high heels and a dress on (the higher and shorter the better) or you will be seriously under dressed.
My city is the 3rd Worst Place to be Homeless, the 6th Most Stressful City and Most Dangerous City for Driving. I know that once a month our Mayor does a "State of Downtown" address. People who want to know what's going on in Downtown Orlando are there. I also know that on Sunday mornings locals are at the Lake Eola Farmer's market or at any of the numerous restaurants that serve a post-hangover brunch. Sunday morning culture involves waking up late, lingering over good food, and connecting with neighbors. The few people who don't have hangovers on a Sunday morning probably were working in the numerous service industry jobs until 4:00 in the morning to serve those that do.
And then there’s the sizable homosexual population that only reluctantly is welcomed by local churches. And another community—the green/vegan/hipster community—that looks with skepticism on the message of Christ. We have to reach them too.
What does that tell me about church planting in Downtown? It tells me that a traditional Sunday morning service won't work. And does it really make sense to take people away from so many great relationship-building opportunities anyway? It tells me that church planters will have a long road ahead to see lost people engaged in genuine Biblical community.
Chances are you city is not identical to mine. Perhaps your target demographic is older or younger or richer or poorer. Perhaps there are a lot of migrant workers, or hunters, or politicians in your community. What do you know about them? Are you connecting with them? What's the best way to reach them? Are other churches in the area succeeding, failing, or maintaining?
I've poured the past three years of my life into seeing Downtown Orlando transformed to the glory of God. Before I moved here I was constantly traveling to the city to gauge the culture. Soon I'll finally be part of a core group, seeking to plant a relevant church Downtown, and I hope my experience in coming to understand our city makes a helpful contribution to our effort to minister to a lost and dying world.
So, how well do you know your city?
(Be sure to read the second post in this series here.)