By: Adam Muhtaseb
I often get the question, “Why in the world would you go there?” Whenever I inform someone that I am planting a church with a team from Imago Dei Church in the middle of Baltimore city, their replies and questions are varied, yet strangely, fairly consistent. Questions follow like, “Why in the world would you willingly put your families’ lives at risk to enter that hopeless place?” Or they reply with an endless barrage of news clippings displaying the record homicides currently occurring in Baltimore city. I even had a friend who upon hearing I was going to Baltimore forwarded me a link to the purchasing site of a bulletproof vest. The responses to our decision to plant a church in Baltimore fluctuate from hilarious to exhausting to palm in face. Very few of the Christians in our lives comprehend the logic of sacrificing one’s earthly life, or even making it slightly more uncomfortable, to fulfill the Great Commission. It seems the common syncretism of American prosperity and biblical Christianity comes to an impasse as soon as one’s comfort, safety or luxury is replaced with gospel sacrifice.
However, if there’s one thing that I have learned at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, it’s that the gospel is a message so glorious, so powerful, so permeating that it is worth risking one’s own life to bring it to a people that have yet to experience its wonder – no matter the cost. As followers of Jesus we should, as Count Nicolaus Von Zinzendorf said, “Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.” Men like Jim Elliot, William Taylor and Adoniram Judson would have been (and many were) scoffed at for “wasting their lives” on a hopeless and desolate mission field. Yet history has only begun to reveal what we will see in eternity. A life sacrificed for the gospel is a very little sacrifice in the totality of eternity. Therefore, our team, my family and I are moving to Baltimore city to plant a gospel-centered, Bible-preaching church in one of the murder and drug capitals of America. We will preach the gospel, die and be forgotten on this earth for the glory of Jesus Christ.
As we pursue this endeavor, we covet your prayers. Here are some specific ways you can be praying for us: We are praying for a third elder on our team that adds to our church’s diversity in ethnicity, in age and in gifting. We are also praying for the financial support required to start a self-sustaining church in the city. Please also pray that our gospel community would be so unique and so potent that the people of Baltimore would be compelled to hear the gospel upon seeing our love for one another. Finally, thank God for the 14 people on our team who are committed to making Jesus known in the city.
Future students of Southeastern, as I look at the mission field ahead and reflect on my time as a seminary student in the past, one prevailing thought comes to mind: Use this time. Many pastors have chopped at trees with a dull axe for decades. Take this season to sharpen your axe. Time invested now will create a more fruitful leader later. Ask more questions than you give answers, boldly ask professors to meet with you, serve faithfully in your local church and cherish this time of unknown service to the Lord as a means to be sharpened into Christ-likeness. Prepare to preach the gospel well, die and then be forgotten for the glory of Jesus Christ.