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Summer 2006 Rapport: Leading Diverse Churches

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Felicito Bagunu (M.Div. 2004) is the teaching and creative design pastor at Sheffield Family Life Center (SFLC) a multi-racial, 6,000-member church in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Dr. George Westlake Jr., senior pastor, is a member of the AGTS Board of Directors.

In 2001, our church dedicated its new 3,200-seat worship center in the same downtown location it had been since 1952. In an article in the Kansas City Star entitled, “Urban Miracle,” our senior pastor, Dr. George Westlake Jr., said, “I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where it says to run to the suburbs and leave the city to the devil!”

We never considered building anywhere else. Church growth experts told us that a project of this size was not feasible in the inner city or that the church would need to be made up of either all white or middle-class black congregants. Nevertheless, half of congregants come from the community and half from the suburbs. (People drive from as far as 40 miles away.) Forty percent of the congregation is white, 40% is African-American and 20% is Hispanic.

The community has taken notice of SFLC’s commitment to diversity as well as its commitment to the inner city. The Star article quoted Ed Schober, a senior vice president with Bank of America, the church’s lending institution, “The easiest thing for Sheffield to have done was to have abandoned that site. We felt it was a courageous thing for them to do to stay. We were struck by the fact that Sheffield has made a strong commitment to the inner-city community.”

Moreover, SFLC has made a unique commitment to diversity. By building in the inner city, they proved to the entire community that God is neither Jew nor Greek, white nor black, Hispanic nor Asian, rich nor poor educated nor uneducated.

“We have Ph.Ds sitting next to people who come from housing projects,” said Pastor Westlake.
We are continually amazed at what God is doing!

Updated: Monday, July 24, 2006 11:01 AM

 

 

 
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