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Photo credit: laughlin via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: laughlin via Foter.com / CC BY

Motown’s time as a bright light in our nation seemed to be over.  The city was bankrupt.  The crime rate was the highest in the nation.  The unemployment rate was reported to be as high as 50%.

Detroit was in the doldrums.

But now, things are seeming to have changed.  Detroit is making a comeback, and this grand experiment is drawing conclusions which have applications for all of us as we relate to our own cities.

God is apparently blessing that broken down community, and as Christians who are working to seek the welfare of the city, we need to understand the kinds of initiatives which require our skills.  We have to learn how to help our own communities.

Here are ways that the Motor City is bursting out of depression and flourishing in ways no one thought possible:

Innovative Church Planting

In an economy which has had to work very hard to come out of bankruptcy, church planters are learning (sometimes the hard way) that we can’t do church how we always have.  They simply can’t sustain large mega-churches which do not truly empower their people to bold with the gospel and serve the community.

City Church Detroit is an example of the new types of church planting which has begun to happen.  Rather than buying a building for “worship services”, they are buying a building which is for feeding the homeless, freeing people with addictions, and educating the community… and by the way, they also meet there for their church meetings.

That is a really great model for utilizing a resource center instead of a traditional church building.

What it means for you:

Don’t be content to do church the way it’s always been done.  Older models fit for older times, but our cities have changed, and so have our people.  We must be willing to do the very difficult work of applying biblical principles in ways which maintain the integrity of the Scriptures, while also adapting to the culture as we develop our forms.

Don't be content to do #church the way it's always been done. Click To Tweet

Novelty Manufacturing

Shinola is a new manufacturing company.  But I like to call it “novelty” manufacturing.

They’re not mass producing cars, steel, or any remnants of the industrial revolution anymore.  Shinola hand-makes watches, leather accessories, and bicycles.

And they are almost single-handedly changing the manufacturing scene in Detroit through high job creation, and streaming much needed revenue.

What it means for you:

Shinola’s forward thinking and understanding of the marketplace shows us all what innovation really is.  We have to consider where our industry used to be, and what direction it’s heading for the future.  Shinola understood that the people want authenticity, so they hand-make their products.  We must learn what the customers of the 21st century truly want and give it to them in new ways.

Entrepreneurial Support

Ponyride is the creator of large collaborative workspaces, as an high-level incubator of sorts.  Through their services, entrepreneurs can obtain a cheaper office space than leasing their own building, and they work right down the hall or across the commons to hundreds of other startups.  The excitement seems to overflow with all the innovators and visionaries able to freely discuss ideas.

The product is creativity in business and the ability to move forward with more resources at hand.  More entrepreneurs are able to succeed.

In Detroit today, you can see all kinds of entrepreneurial support like this.

What it means for you:

Entrepreneurship is vital to our economies.  New business means new revenue, new jobs, and new products.

Find ways to support entrepreneurism in your city – whether it’s investing in your brother’s startup, helping with word-of-mouth advertisement or even starting a business yourself.

Tech Startups

With the low cost of living, and the recent buzz for new technologies, it’s no surprise that people are calling Detroit the New Silicon Valley.  Software engineers and web designers are moving to Detroit to develop their business somewhere where the odds of success are higher.

What it means for you:

Understand the industries which are booming in your city.  If you’re an entrepreneur, be open-minded as you look for your next idea.  If you’re a consumer, support the efforts made locally to change the world.

New #business means new revenue, new jobs, and new products. Click To Tweet

Environmental Revitalization

Locally farmed urban gardens are cropping up everywhere, which are supplying chefs with fresh, locally-grown products.  Major corporations are making renewed efforts to “go green”.  Detroit is also planting large numbers of trees.

What it means for you:

I hope that the application here is self-evident.  Take care of the environment in your city.  Take part in urban gardens and community gardens.  Participate in other local sustainability efforts.

Sustaining Culture

Photo credit: russteaches via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: russteaches via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Detroit has a rich history of culture from Henry Ford to Aretha Franklin to Diego Rivera to Eminem leading the way.

Today, there is an exploding artistic culture with new murals and galleries popping up all the time.  Take a look at Detroit Artists Market for an example of the new hip scene.

New artisans are beginning their work in Detroit with around 75 new restaurants a year, all sorts of interior designers, coffee shops, urban craft shops, and more.

What it means for you:

Contributing to the culture is so important when it comes to city revitalization.  Add your art, artisan skills, music, writings, social commentary, and help build a heritage to pass down to the next generation.

New City Planning Initiatives

Among the new initiatives to improve the city are an M-1 railway system, more condos and hotels, and a new hockey arena for the beloved Red Wings.

What it means for you:

It’s these types of upgrades which give more people access to different parts of the city (railway system), more beautiful housing (condos and hotels), and more excitement put toward leisure in the community (hockey arena).

If you are a civic leader, keep in mind what will bring buzz to your city.  If you are an everyday citizen, participate in smaller neighborhood-based planning initiatives to improve your area.

Improvement in Living Conditions

Detroit’s crime rate dropped 20% in the last decade.  Housing is generally cheaper than most large cities, but payrolls are going up with 50,000 skilled immigrant workers being brought into the city.

What it means for you:

Living conditions are improving in Detroit, but that does not mean that they are improving in all our cities.  Look for ways to help the poor and the needy.  Use your home to be hospitable, and take care of strangers.

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