Many in our day think that it is no longer possible to have big, strong, vital, influential, mission-minded downtown congregations. Those who predict the end of downtown churches will point to the suburbanization of Anglo populations, the erosion of inherited institutional loyalties, the decline of public transportation, the lack of interest by a younger generation in Sunday evening worship, the deterioration of central city public school systems, the fear of crime, the closing of downtown department stores with the rise of shopping malls, and so on.
While much can be learned about the failures of various downtown churches, more can be learned about the successful experiences. Today's downtown church, therefore, must be competitive. Howard Edington has led a church that for a dozen years has excelled in offering an alternative to most of the lures in our society that compete for attention with the church. First Church is reaching new generations of people by being relevant to community needs, by becoming a credible partner with the government and the city, and by offering the good news with a message and program that is of the highest quality.