NEWS | Uptown Baptist Church pastor Michael Allen has been named Send City coordinator for Chicago by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He succeeds IBSA’s Tim Cotler, who moved from the local coordinator position to a Midwest regional role in NAMB’s church planting strategy that targets 32 major metropolitan areas in North America.
The local “Send” strategy committee identified 184 areas and people groups in Chicagoland that need churches. The city itself has 77 neighborhoods. Allen says his goal is to plant 77 new churches, one in each of those neighborhoods, in the next five years.
Allen has a big job ahead of him, helping coordinate the work of churches and church planting partners, including IBSA.
“Just as Allen has adopted Chicago as his hometown, his heart is to invite a new generation of Southern Baptists to adopt Chicagoland as their mission field,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for church planting.
“It’s like what politicians say about Iowa,” Allen said. “All roads to the White House go through Iowa. Chicago is like that when it comes to church planting. We’re such a key crossroads of our country and the world. Just about any ethnic group you want to reach with the gospel, you name it, they’re here.”
Allen has served as pastor of Uptown Baptist Church since 2005. He will continue as senior pastor at the church, whose work among an eclectic population includes weekly outreach to homeless and hungry people, as well as those living in high-rise condominiums on Lake Michigan.
“Our neighborhood is the most diverse in Chicago,” Allen said, “in any way you want to measure diversity, whether it’s educated and uneducated, rich and poor and then the various ethnic groups—those who are living in multi-million dollar homes and those living on the streets. [Uptown Church is] right in the middle of all of that, and it gives me a great learning perspective.”
Allen was born in Jamaica but moved to Florida with his family when he was 9. He first moved to Chicago to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also became the first African-American staff member of Chicago’s famous Moody Church, pastored by Erwin Lutzer.
After three years on staff at Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston, Allen returned to Chicago. He was also a NAMB missionary there while serving as pastor at Uptown.
Chicagoland is the third-largest metro area among NAMB’s 32 Send cities, topped only by New York and Los Angeles. With 308 Southern Baptist churches in the metro’s four associations, Chicagoland has only one SBC congregation for every 32,000 residents.
-Reporting by Illinois Baptist and NAMB