This week we will be part of a global gathering of emerging urban underground ministry leaders who are coming together as part of a roundtable event. Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, USA has generously allowed us to gatecrash their event and in fact has even put some of us on the speaking schedule. Like me, my good friend Olgalvaro from Brasil, and others. Somebody counted 39 nations. It is one of the most exciting mission movements I have seen, involving a generation of young people serving the poorest and most difficult areas of their cities, usually without funds and without encouragement. Often enduring the ridicule of churches more wealthy and respectable.
This movement has, at least in my corner of the room, been supported from the beginning by a small number of organizations, namely the Church Multiplication Center of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (which closed down 6 years ago), Dawn Ministries International (which has also ceased), Church Mission Society and the Underground Railroad network which started around 1996. Now there are other groups kicking in all over the world which is great.
A little history. For the past 15 years I have been a part of a movement of young people from alternative sub-cultures deciding to follow Jesus. We started out in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco living among really weird people who we came to love and serve. That was the mid nineties and we soon discovered there were other churches and ministries starting up like ours in other places.
In 1998 I starting working for the Baptist General Convention of Texas as a church planter in their Church Multiplication Center. My boss was E.B. Brooks who shared my passion for the generation of lost youth. He was greatly supportive and the BGCT loved what we were doing in Austin and beyond. Actually, they allowed us to travel the country in our RV helping to start churches in all the cities where there was a significant population of young pierced, tattooed alternatives who would never make it into one of their typical [cheesy] suburban or uptight urban churches. In 2000 they supported us to travel beyond USA into Europe which became our new base. We did not call ourselves missionaries because in the Southern Baptist world, missionaries are the people who join IMB and we were instead with the BGCT. So I was a 'consultant' for BGCT and we started The Boaz Project as a way of bridging the new churches with the old. E.B. has since retired but he still prays for us and cheers us on. The BGCT no longer have us on their radar and since we have found funding from other sources, we have only a relational connection that I try to maintain. I wish they knew what great things they helped to start.