A City of Opportunity
Atlanta, known as the Empire State of the South, has transformed into a city of opportunity for men and women from across the nation. Its mild temperatures, relatively low cost of living, rich culture, and effervescent southern hospitality appeal to those seeking to reinvent themselves or simply start over. Natives are becoming harder to find as Atlanta has quickly become a home for transplants desiring to live within an emerging epicenter of art, culture, and innovation.
Atlanta is also a city that we love. We met here, got married here, and planted a church here. As long-time residents, we often get inundated with our daily routines and overlook the beauty of the city. It’s filled with fun attractions, trendy venues, and plenty of green spaces can be found around the city. There is never a dull moment and there’s always something to do. Although Atlanta is being thrust into the national spotlight as an ideal destination to live, work, and play, for us, it’s just home.
In the last 20 years, Atlanta has experienced a surge of residents throughout the metropolitan area. Many people have relocated from the Northeast or the West Coast seeking opportunities for a better quality of life. As the city’s population continues to increase, the number of de-churched and unchurched people in the city are increasing as well, many with little to no engagement with faith and the local church.
As a southern city, Atlanta often gets stereotyped as a place where the church is thriving; a quintessential bible belt community. It’s true, there are numerous healthy churches in the metropolitan area, but many churches are also in decline and struggling to remain relevant in their context. In Atlanta, church buildings dot the landscape as mere monuments of what once was–– a testament to the influence the church once had.
But God is at work in Atlanta. The city is ripe for revival!
There are many good reasons to move to Atlanta, but there are even greater reasons to plant a church in Atlanta. It’s a city where pleasure and pain live next door to one another yet rarely speak. Many people hang in Atlanta’s hot spots and overlook its hard spots. They see Atlanta’s potential while dangerously ignoring its history.
As the birthplace of the civil rights movement, Atlanta has played an integral role in the struggle for justice and equality. Though strides have been made, it’s still a city where racial segregation creates a fertile foundation for inequality and racial bias. It’s a city where gentrification disrupts and displaces many minority residents and further exacerbates the conditions of the poor. Atlanta needs the church to be a champion for justice, reconciliation, and unity.
Six years ago, when we planted Tri-Cities Church, we were reminded of our proximity to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. On launch Sunday, we noticed people were distracted–– not looking at the stage but staring out the window as the planes departed every couple of minutes. The world’s busiest airport has made Atlanta a hub for business and commerce. This has also created a hotbed for human trafficking–– an industry that generates millions of dollars and places many children at risk. This nefarious reality of Atlanta’s dark underbelly presents a great opportunity for the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who desperately need him.
Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. Urban sprawl is rapidly increasing the distance between the suburbs and the city. As a result, Atlanta no longer has a predictable “rush hour.” We have taken up a new mantra that characterizes our roadways: “Expect traffic.” Commute times are stealing quality time from families and Atlanta’s metropolitan area is being filled with bedroom communities. Progressively, real human connection and relationships are becoming a thing of the past. The church in Atlanta can be a catalyst to gather people and create a community for the glory of God and the common good of the city.
Atlanta is a city where followers of Jesus living with eyes wide open can’t help but see places around the city where God is at work. It’s a city where the harvest truly is plentiful. A city that is ripe for church planters who are willing to step out of its glamorous communities and into its grimy crevices to shine light in the midst of darkness. Atlanta is a city calling for church planters who have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!