Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From Pastor Jason: Ten Interesting Facts About San Jose and Becoming What Our City Needs

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The past few months our elder team has been reading through Pastor Timothy Keller’s book, “Center Church.” His emphasis is not only focused on developing healthy and gospel-centered churches, but more precisely on how church ought to be developed with respect to cities. After all, the story of Christianity begins in a garden (Genesis 2:8) but will end, in a manner of speaking, in a city (Revelation 21:10). Keller writes, “every church can and must become a church for its particular city–whether that city is a great metropolis, a university town, or a village.” Over the past few years many people have asked, what is the direction of Dwell? Or what is our mission as a church? These are really good questions. And aside from the fundamental aspects of worshiping Jesus and preaching the gospel–from the pulpit, the dinner table, and the cubicle–I think Keller has nailed our direction and mission on the head. We need to become a church for the people of San Jose. That’s what we’ve been up to. That’s what we are doing now. That’s what we will keep doing.
San Jose is diverse, innovative, creative, and beautiful … in my mind, unlike any other city on the planet. And so it seems fitting that an important step toward becoming a church for our city is actually knowing the city. Two key reports are helpful when attempting to gain a firm grasp on the demographics of this the capital of Silicon Valley. First is a 2010 presentation done by the city of San Jose. (You can view and download a pdf version of that presentation here.) And second is the Association of Religious Data Archives’ (or ARDA) latest report on religious life in Santa Clara County. (Their 2010 findings can be viewed here.) Having viewed each of these reports I thought it would be helpful to highlight ten interesting facts about our city.
  1. There are 1.8 million people in Santa Clara County.
  2. More than half of the folks in San Jose speak a language other than English at home.
  3. 39% of San Joseans were born in another country.
  4. San Jose is “a city of thirds” … roughly 30% Asian, 30% Hispanic, and 30% White.
  5. Half of the housing units in San Jose cost at least half a million dollars.
  6. Households without children in San Jose are the majority.
  7. We are getting older, but we’re still pretty young (35.2 median age).
  8. 150,000 people in Santa Clara County identify with Evangelicalism.
  9. Nearly half a million people are Catholic in the county.
  10. Over half the population in Santa Clara County do not claim any of the 236 religious groups in the Arda assessment.
This is my city. This is your city. This is the city God has called us to love, enjoy, dwell in, and with whom to share his good news. It can be a bit overwhelming to take this on as a whole. That’s a lot of people to think about. That’s a lot of information to consider. How can we possibly become a church for 1.8 million people from countless different countries and whose spiritual condition is incredibly tricky to calculate? The answer is simple: one person at a time. To be sure neither you nor I know all of these people. But we work with a few of them. We say hi to a couple of them when they’re walking into their apartment. That one guy exchanges a pleasantry or two with you every morning at the coffee shop. You sit together on the PTA board with that couple. All of these are good places to begin. Because after all the church is not a building, a service, an event, nor even a gospel group … it’s God’s people awake to his direction and mission in this world. Therefore everyday, individually and collectively, we have the thrilling privilege and responsibility to become the church our city needs, to the glory of God.
Peace …
Pastor Jason

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