I grew up in Miami and, after graduating from college, I returned to Miami where I immediately began serving in my home church (First Baptist Church of Coral Park), helping out with the youth ministry, preaching twice a week, and serving in a limited capacity in the leadership team. That one brief year of ministry was a glorious season of life as God confirmed his calling on my life for gospel ministry through the church. I was blessed and sent off to seminary in Louisville, Ky., and the prayer in my heart was and continues to be, “Lord, bring me back.”
A few years ago Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., preached a convocation address which was later featured in the seminary’s magazine, entitled, “Memphis, Miami, Milan and Mumbai: Why Every Christian Needs to Be Globally Minded” (Southern Seminary Magazine 8:1 [Winter 2012]: pp. 32-34.). In it he calls for a change of mind-set when it comes to mission in the 21st century.
“[W]e need a generation that is ready for Miami, a city that represents postmodern, multi-ethnic America. The Miami metro area is the fourth largest population center in the U.S., and only 12 percent of the citizens identify as non-Hispanic whites. The population consists of 65 percent Hispanics and 20 percent African-Americans.
“Miami is the capital of international banking for North America, and is the international capital for Latin and Hispanic entertainment. When you arrive at the Miami airport, the signs are in Spanish and the subtitles are in in English. This is America, and this is the future.
“Southern Baptists did well in Miami when the city looked like Memphis with a beach. But Miami is now the Buenos Aires of the American peninsula. There are little more than 150,000 evangelical believers within the 7 million inhabitants.
“We must understand that as Miami is now, so also much of America will soon be, for this is the shape of the American future. We need a generation ready to go, risk and live dangerously in a city that is very different from what our forefathers in the Southern Baptist Convention could have foreseen. We need a generation ready for Miami.”
This is a very perceptive analysis and a call for many to join the ranks. The only quibble I have with it — and maybe this is my Cuban bias coming out — is that I would call Miami the “Havana of the American peninsula.” I mean no offense to my Argentine brothers!
I have a heart for Miami. While I realize heaven is my real home and in this life I will always feel as a stranger and exile (Heb. 11:13; cf. Eph. 2:19 Heb. 13:14), there is something noble and right about love for a city, especially an evangelistic love for one’s people. As Paul readily points out God has “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). I believe this not only underscores God’s sovereign concern of nations and socio-political entities, but it implicitly speaks to his meticulous placement of individuals within those geographic locations and boundaries. God has specially placed us in our own blocks, communities, and cities. The call on us is to be salt and light to those around us (Matt. 5:13, 14).
Miami needs what every other city needs. We need churches that have a high view of God, that seek above all else to have a God-centered ministry and aim at glorifying and pleasing him. We need churches that have an accurate view of man: self-worshipping sinners who have no hope but the cleansing and justifying blood of Christ. And we need church leaders with a high view of Scripture as God’s inerrant and ever-relevant word to his people and who are committed to preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard, in their book Why Cities Matter, make their case: “The city is more important than ever. Right now, more people live in cities than at any other time in human history. Never before has the majority of the world’s population been an urban population” (15). Along the same lines Albert Mohler sees in this a great opportunity for the church:
“If the Christian church does not learn new modes of urban ministry, we will find ourselves on the outside looking in. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must call a new generation of committed Christians into these teeming cities… [T]here really is no choice.”
I’m thankful for the many churches already doing faithful gospel work in Miami. I’m not sure what the Lord will ultimately call me to, but I want to be part of a generation ready for Miami. In the words of Count Zinzendorf, we need a generation of those who would “preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.” We also need a generation ready to preach, die, and be forgotten in Miami.
* * * * *
The title is adapted from Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. Eire followed it up with Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy. I’ve yet to read it, but I’m sure it’ll be as provocatively funny as the first.