Through my work, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to cities all over the world to teach and equip leaders in transformational leadership. I enjoy experiencing what God is doing in places around the globe. However, there comes a point in all of my travels where I start to miss my hometown, Pittsburgh. I look forward with great anticipation to the moment in time where, shortly after my plane lands at the airport, I hop in my car and head toward my house. I know along the journey home that I’ll drive through the Fort Pitt tunnel and one of the most beautiful views in the entire world will come in sight. The exit of the tunnel opens right up into the heart of the downtown Pittsburgh city center where a sea of skyscrapers converge at the point at which three rivers come together. It takes my breath away every time I drive through the tunnel.
The view of Pittsburgh wasn’t always so extraordinary. The city was at one time considered to be the steel capital of the world, and there was so much smog in the air that it would have been virtually impossible to spot the skyline through the hovering layers of smoke. More than 100 years ago, Pittsburgh exploded in population growth as jobs were plentiful and barons of commerce made their millions. Immigrants flocked to Pittsburgh in droves from all over the world. Roads, bridges, railroads, barges, homes, schools, churches, and businesses flooded the area seemingly overnight. To this day, Pittsburgh is widely known as the City of Bridges. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, Pittsburgh began to experience a severe economic downturn as the steel industry started to decline. Many Pittsburghers experienced a loss of identity, and decades of population decline ensued as residents pursued employment opportunities elsewhere.
Many people chose to stay in Pittsburgh through all of the hard times, though, and something pretty remarkable started happening. Pittsburgh began to bounce back by choosing to reinvent itself. A renaissance began, and it was initiated and sustained by people of faith in Jesus. A renaissance is a process of transformation that results in a renewal of life or a rebirth in a place. An influential group of Christian leaders began gathering regularly to pray that God would do something amazing in Pittsburgh. The leaders prayed passionately and consistently that Pittsburgh would become known more for God than for steel. These faith leaders were all deeply connected in different economic, political, religious, and social sectors throughout the region. Over the course of time they began to formulate and implement strategic plans aimed at reinventing the city.
Christian leaders collaborating across the various sectors of society led to signs of hope throughout the region. Organizations like the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation gathered leaders from across the city to launch business, nonprofit, and local church initiatives aimed at moving the city forward. The landscape of the city began to change. These collaborative efforts have continued on for decades in Pittsburgh. Today, Pittsburgh is a city that is more known for God than for steel. Pittsburgh is known as a city where Christian leaders work together to participate in God’s redemptive mission in many creative ways. Pittsburgh is reinventing itself as a global hub for higher education, health care, technology, and innovation.
As a Christian pastor and leader in Pittsburgh, I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants who came before me. While the barons of industry played important roles in establishing Pittsburgh as an influential global presence, I’m talking more about the men and women who came together to pray and to see where God was at work in Pittsburgh even in the midst of massive economic and population decline. I am proud to be a Pittsburgher, and I am proud to carry the torch of renaissance forward into the next generation. The work is not done, though. There are still pockets of concentrated poverty in neighborhoods throughout the city. Some families in Pittsburgh are having a difficult time breaking cycles of generational poverty. Individual and systemic brokenness impacts too many people throughout the region.
Still, I am hopeful. Even though I see signs of need as I walk through the streets and neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, I see many signs of hope. God is constantly on the move in leading a remarkable work of transformation in the city. There are 90 neighborhoods within the city limits of Pittsburgh, each with their own unique characteristics. God is at work in all of them. We’ll explore several of these unique neighborhoods during the Pittsburgh city immersion course with Bakke Graduate University (BGU) from October 19-27, 2018. We will experience first hand the renaissance in progress across the region. We’ll learn about approaches that have impacted the community development initiatives in Pittsburgh, and we’ll visit sites and transformational leaders in key neighborhoods. We’ll learn from the places we visit where God is at work, and we’ll learn from each other as we share about our own unique experiences.
Will you join me in Pittsburgh in October? I know it is going to be an adventure as we experience the city renaissance in progress in Pittsburgh. When I went through the Doctor of Ministry program at BGU, I was blessed to have the opportunity to learn from leaders in cities around the world. Through the global connections that I made at BGU since graduating in 2012, the Lord has opened up opportunities for me travel to amazing cities in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Still, even after all of those travels, in my opinion remains that there is just no place like Pittsburgh. Yes, it is technically my home. But, it is more than that. It is a place where a wonderful expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ is underway. Pittsburgh has quite a story to tell, and I can’t wait for leaders from BGU to learn from what God is doing in Pittsburgh in October. For more information, please contact the email@example.com.
Dr. Bryan McCabe