Gospel is hardly a foreign word in the city of Detroit. Once an epicenter of the Gospel music industry, Detroit was home to many of the most famous Gospel singers of the last century—like the Detroiters, Della Reese and BeBe and CeCe Winans.
For generations arguably the most important American industry—automobiles—centered in Detroit. At one time companies based in the city employed one out of every six U.S. workers.
It’s the Big D. It’s Motor City. It’s Motown.
Today, as automobile assembly lines have slowed and the sounds of Gospel music have quieted, Detroit is searching. Recent years have brought 15 percent—or higher— unemployment. Between 2000 and 2010, the city lost a quarter of its population. Timemagazine called it “The Vanishing City.”
And then, there’s “The Vanishing Church.” Though church buildings can still be seen throughout the city, many that once housed some of the great Gospel voices in the country now sit virtually empty on Sunday mornings. Evangelicals make up only 10.4 percent of the population. With only one Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church for every 31,727 people, it’s one of the most underserved cities in North America.
Detroit-area Southern Baptists believe there is great potential in the city, though. Detroit pastor David Washington says the city’s recent woes have caused many to look for spiritual answers.
“I know when unemployment really started to kick in here in Detroit, we saw it in our church,” Washington said. “A lot of people had been hanging onto their material blessings. God brought an increase in our church, because all of a sudden those things that people had been counting on, the people realized there was no solid foundation there.”
Churches—from a variety of backgrounds—are beginning to come together for the purpose of evangelism and church planting in Detroit.
But Detroit Southern Baptists need partners to come alongside and help. With few local Baptists to help, Send North America: Detroit needs outside churches to provide prayer, people and resources for its efforts to push back lostness in Motown and the suburbs that surround it.
If you’d like to be a part of what God is doing through Send North America: Detroit, visit namb.net and click “Send Me.”
MEET DETROIT CITY MISSIONARY WAYNE PARKER