Most think of Grand Rapids as a bastion of Dutch Reformed identity. Again, the reality is somewhat different than the image. Right now, about 20% of the population is of Dutch ancestry, 80% is not. Sadly, while the Dutch (my own heritage, if the name doesn’t make it obvious) still represent a good part of the Reformed in the city, many have not done well at reaching beyond the walls of their churches. The tradition has many great strengths, but one of its weaknesses is that it tends to be a fairly insular ethnic community: Dutch Reformed family, Dutch Reformed church, Dutch Reformed schools, Dutch Reformed businesses.
But within the Dutch Reformed community, not all is well. The RCA and CRC, once strong, now face bleak futures as they increasingly embrace theological error and immorality, and pressure remaining faithful ministers and congregations to do the same. Some of these pastors are among the most encouraging and appreciative of the church planting effort. The smaller stream of hyper-Calvinism, legalistic pietism, and half-way covenant church doctrine also needs a vital evangelical Reformed witness.
Of course, there are solid evangelical and Reformed churches here, but almost all of them are in a suburban ring, outside Grand Rapids proper. The inner west-side community where our building (formerly a Latvian Catholic Church) is located has not seen an evangelical church presence for about 50 years–and only older people remember it. This was historically the Roman Catholic, non-Dutch sector of the city. Today, it is a mix of poverty, urban gentrification, and university and college campuses, including a Michigan State University medical school within walking distance of the church. There is also a growing Hispanic population nearby. By and large the heart of the city has a decidedly secular, post-Christian culture. So there’s a need.
—Gabriel Fluhrer, “Church Planting in Grand Rapids?”