"We simply must stop giving excuses for not doing what God wants us to do for the city. Repentance comes to mind. Anything that keeps us from going from a Church in the city to a Church for the city, must be discarded."
Scott Sittig, member of New Hope leadership team.
The church I have the privilege of leading is called New Hope. This multicultural, 21 yr old church has been located in the city of Rochester since its inception. It was founded as an outreach to city dwellers in all of their diversity. It is average in size, generous in giving, diverse in appearance, and hospitable in character.
Within the New Hope leadership has been this Holy discontent. There has been an uneasiness that has been stirred. Its not a programatic problem or a resouces issue, but something more profound and soulish. It is echoed in the subversive questions that our leaders and ministry coordinators are asking. "Who are we called to minister among?" "How can we use more of resources to those in need outside the New Hope family?" "Is this all there is?" "Do our hearts break for the things that break God's heart?". Questions that come from the hearts of leaders that are being touched by God to truly be people of God for the city.
All over the United States, this process of moving away from just being a church in the city, to being a church for the city is being played out. God is calling churches away from the self-centered and safe model of just existing for the sake of ourselves, to existing to fulfill the mission of Jesus in the cities in which we live. These churches, like New Hope, are heeding the warning given in Scripture to "hear what the spirit says to the churches".
A church for the city sees its primary role to be a blessing of the community by being a faithful witness to the love, generosity, hospitality, and liberation of God. It is centered around the person and mission of Jesus. The mission field is the city and the church for the city feels called not only to be present, but to be vital members of the city-community. Mission is not a program, but the essence of the church for the city.
Last night, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, New Hope. like hundreds of other churches around the country began to surrender to this call. Three specific actions were identified as vital for our process of change.
1. Repentance: Repentance is the act of "changing one's mind" or turning away from something in order to be or do what God is calling. We repented of simply being a church in the city. We repented that our engagement with the City has been for our self-interest above the interest of the community at large. We repent that we have heard this call over the past 20 years, and have not always been obedient.
2. Resources: Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Lk 12:34). Our budgets and expenditures are not merely organizational documents, but reveal our priorities. The church for the city bugets its resources to be a blessing to the community. It does not neglect the faithful proclamation of God's Word, or fellowship with God's people in order to serve the community, but demands both relevance and reverence in all that it does. The Church for the City must critically examine its use of resources. In many churches, our budget shapes our mission (what we decide to spend determines what we do). The Church for the City allows the mission to shape our budget (What we are called to do deterimines how we spend).
3. Recognition: There are many members of New Hope who already see themselves as missionaries in the communities. Members who volunteer a community organizations, intentionally and missionally work in not-for-profit and governmental agencies, and specifically live in areas of the region due to a calling to the people of that region. The Church for the city has begun, but we fail to see it. Its not the outcome of a program but the passion and practices of a people in love with God who is in love with the city. The axiom that "What is celebrated gets done" means that if we want to develop a culture or expectation where people see themselves as a blessing to the city, we must recognize and celebrate it within our midst.
Is your church located in the city, but its ministries are not geared to be a blessing for the city? If your church were to go away today, would anyone other than the members feel its loss? God's spirit is moving!
Hear what the spirit is saying to the churches,
May God bless you today,
Pastor M Traylor