Posted on May 12 2017
Three catalytic questions:
No one church or ministry, no matter how large, can make a dent in the lostness, pain, and brokenness of a city or a region on their own.
In churches—and I don’t mean large churches only—we tend to want to concentrate on what WE can do. Sometimes we can even come to believe that our church or our ministry is the only one out there doing good.
But if we become aware of the extent to which our communities have been damaged, we realize that this is a job bigger than any of us. We start asking new questions: questions about how we could have greater impact.
If the church is going to positively affect, and even transform our communities, we’re going to need to make a fundamental paradigm shift in how we approach ministry.
True community transformation will not succeed if all we do is add programs to our existing paradigm. What we’ve been doing in church ministry up to now has been good, but it isn’t big enough. Much of the church’s engagement in the community in the past has focused on benevolence, not really transformation.
By transformation we mean shifting the needle in the spiritual, social, and cultural dimensions of city. Transformation will not happen unless we harness the collective capacity of the Kingdom in the regions we serve. When Jesus paid the price for redemption, the full price for both personal salvation and cosmic restoration was established. The key to our personal salvation, we know, is in the revelation of God’s love revealed through His Son. The key to the restoration of creation is in us as the redeemed children of God, now co-laboring with Christ to affect the transformation.
All of creation yearns for the revelation of the sons of God. Rom 8:19
The tendency we see in many unity movements is shared activity without shared goals or outcomes. Churches might be willing to work together in a show of church-to-church bridge-building—and that’s a good thing—but it’s only so much busywork if they’re not consciously working toward the same goals and outcomes. This can take a very positive desire to transform disintegrating cities and turn it into more frustration and exhaustion.
Defining shared outcomes empowers collaborative action by the churches in communities. Collaborative sharing in mission does not require congregations to make long-term organizational commitments to one another in activity, but rather to the shared outcome. Each role player can determine their contributions and activities within the framework of their own unique convictions. Although the approach to actions might differ, all are working together to achieve the same outcome.
What will it take to create a prolonged and sustainable unity movement within the Church that would transform whole regions for the Kingdom?
Establish a process, in which we can facilitate engagement between churches and ministries on three levels, represented by the terms connect, collaborate, and celebrate.
Focus on a simple but comprehensive framework, which would include spiritual, social, cultural objectives goals and outcomes for the city. Think of your city as if it were a person, and ask yourself, ‘How could we more effectively minister to this entity?’ This could be formulated by simply asking and answering the following three questions.
Get a baseline, and then work towards a unified consensus in each one of these areas. These goals can be measured on a consistent basis, which ensures that progress can be celebrated and realigned as deemed necessary.
Perhaps you have heard the African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Your environment, the context in which you live, has a powerful influence on your worldview, your beliefs, your values, and even on your behavior. You are a product of the culture you grew up in.
There can be only one answer: It takes the Church to raise a village!
Christianity is a comprehensive, life-giving framework of truth that, when embraced, will have a redemptive effect on the culture.
A healthy Church, will bring health to every component of its society.
A spiritual challenge:
Own the lostness of your village.
Estimate the number or percentage of unsaved people in your region/ or the evangelical presence, and see them as the group you’re dedicated to reaching.
A social challenge:
Own the pain of your region.
In what ways are people hurting in your area? For many, the breakdown of family, what’s all the social implications this brings, will be their primary focus.
A cultural challenge:
Own the brokenness of your region.
What are the things that are broken in your area? Here, we contend with institutional components of society that define the way we do life. These constitute the cultural dynamic of the region. Education. The government. The justice system. Business. Arts and Media. What do these areas represent and what causes misalignment with Kingdom life and represents brokenness in the city? These spheres, when functioning well, form the basis of a healthy community. This is the work that we as God’s people are called to do.
Toward the end of His life, Jesus prayed this to His Father:
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4, NIV)
Alan Platt is leader of Doxa Deo Church in Pretoria South Africa, a 30,000 strong city transformation church. He also leads City Changers, inspiring city leaders around the world. Alan will be speaking at the Transformational Church Track and in the plenary sessions.