Monday, September 25, 2006

SHARE ~ Stuck in an Elevator

A Moment to Consider

Stuck in an Elevator

From; The Daily Encourager dlangerfeld@HarrisburgBaptist.org

"Always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).

When Jenny signed up for evangelism training last December,
she didn't know she'd get such immediate practical experience.
Her unexpected opportunity came when she was trapped in an
elevator in the hotel where the conference was being held.

She was confined in the small space with ten other people
(including Ashley and Jessica from her youth group and one of
their sponsors). Jenny, who was standing next to an airline
pilot from South Africa, began to talk with him about her faith
in God.

When he had a question, Ashley and Jessica showed him
Bible verses. Before the doors of the elevator opened ninety
minutes later, the man had prayed to accept Jesus as his
Savior.

The young women didn't see him again, but left a Bible and a
note for him at the front desk of the hotel. When Jenny got
home from the conference, she found an e-mail from the pilot.
He wrote that the young women who had chosen to share with
him would never know how much he needed to receive Jesus.

Opportunities to share our faith are not always planned out. In
fact, most times they are not. They're unexpected, orchestrated
by God. The person you sit next to in class. An old friend
who sends you an e-mail. A relative you see once a year at a
family reunion. Or even a stranger on an airplane, in a store ...
or stuck in an elevator.

God uses Scripture to change people's lives. Romans 10:17
tells us that "faith comes from hearing the message." Your
responsibility is to share what the Bible says, then stand back.
Let the Holy Spirit do the convincing and convicting.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

- Have I ever found myself in an unplanned situation in which
I was able to speak to someone about my faith? Do I think
that was just a coincidence?

- If I were in such a situation, would I be ready to share what
Christ has done for me? (1 Peter 3:15)

- How can I prepare myself?

- Have I ever prayed that God would bring across my path
someone who needs him? Am I willing to offer that prayer?

Harvey and June Schneider
Servant Soldiers Ministries
Daphne, Alabama

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As we work in unity for the renewal of the church...

History reveals to us that every renewal movement has in it several elements.

I note these to include at least six of the following expressions: (1) Evangelical, (2) Charismatic, (3) Catholic, (4) Centrist, (5) Moderate, and, (6) Traditional. The real danger that we face now is how to keep these various expressions together as we work in unity for the renewal of the church. In the Protestant mainline there are often several different groups working for renewal at the same time. This development has real strength in it but it also allows for the spirit of the sect to raise its ugly head as well. Proper latitude is clearly called for among all those who pray and work for renewal.

I believe that a reform movement that embraces these various elements, with love for Christ and his kingdom that follows hard after the first and second great commandment, (that is love for God and love for one’s neighbor), will be the kind of movement that leads to deep ecclesiastical and cultural renewal. This renewal is the kind that could make a real difference a generation from now. Perseverance and patience is obviously called for by those who engage in this process. In this case, we must remind ourselves that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

John Armstrong

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PRAYER ~ ReInventing Prayer Meeting

How to Lead a Powerful Prayer Meeting

And the Place Was ShakenMany of you have been reading John Franklin's recently published And the Place Was Shaken: How to Lead a Powerful Prayer Meeting. This was a very needed and anticipated book. I wanted to remind you that the entire Dynamic Prayer Meeting Guide - Overview and Handouts (29-pages) is available as a complimentary download.

These one-page handouts are what John gave out each week as he took his church through a 26-week process of learning about a God-centered prayer meeting.


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Are You REALLY Ready for Sunday Guests?



With all our emphasis on praying for and caring about and sharing Christ with not-yet-beleivers, do we actually expect any of them to walk into a weekend service?

Some congregations have grown accustomed to few visitors and even fewer who return!

This book is a gentle but to-the-point guide that will help you prepare your people and your property for weekend guests, more of whom will return for more of Christ! ===Click headline to access book nformation . . .

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Loving Our Communities to Christ -- is all about Compassionate Leadership

Recently Dr. Paul Cedar spoke on a national conference call to leaders across the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. He himself has been living out the theme of being a compassionate leader all of his life. Dr. Cedar shared from 1 Peter 5, verse 2, and emphsized the being "eager to serve, but not lording over others (cf. Mt. 20), but rather being an example to the flock of God with the right heart. It was refreshing and challenging as silence fell over the nation-wide conference call. I thought to myself, ouch! He struck our nerve, and we've been caught! Or so it would seemed.

Paul Cedar, along with his life long friend Ted Enstrom, who co-authored the book, were shining examples of what it means to be compassionate leaders. That's why God could trust them each with such profound responsibilities over the years. And we all say thank you to being men who love Jesus and let Him live through them to show us His ways in all of life. This is key to everything we do in Loving our Cmmunities to Christ !

The book speaks to us all, and is attracting young emerging leaders to take their places of calling and responsibility. May they, and all of us, continue to grow into "compassionate leadership."

Click on the book. Order it today. Buy several copies and give them away to those you're mentoring. Or start a Reading & Dialog (R&D) Group, and pray it into your lives. Walking with you all ~ Joe Walsh, Sacramento, CA - Capitol Fellowship Foundation

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time

The Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time

Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model  of All Time

"The more I read the Bible, the more evident it becomes that everything I have ever taught or written about effective leadership over the past 25 years, Jesus did to perfection. He is simply the greatest leadership role model of all time." Ken Blanchard

Effective leadership-whether on the job, in the community, at church or in the home-starts on the inside. Before you can hope to lead anyone else, you have to know who you are. Every leader must answer two critical questions: Whose are you going to be? Who are you going to be? One deals with your relationship to Christ. The other with your life purpose.

With simple yet profound principles from the life of Jesus, and dozens of stories and leadership examples from his life experiences, veteran author, speaker and leadership expert Ken Blanchard, guides readers through the process of discovering how to lead like Jesus. It really could be described as the process of aligning two internal domains-the heart and the head-and two external domains, the hands and the habits. These four dimensions of leadership form the outline for this very practical and transformational book===>Note: These four dimensions provide a preaching/teaching outline or prayer meeting template . . .

Download a FREE Discussion Guide to help you explore key concepts in each chapter.

About the New Work...
Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges will deepen concepts already explored in The Servant Leader and in Lead Like Jesus: Beginning the Journey Group Study. With Jesus as the role model, this book highlights the issues all of us confront with our E.G.O.'s when we Edge God Out and how Exalting God Only frees us to experience life in abundance. It emphasizes the importance of life role leadership as well as organizational leadership opportunities.

More...
Life role leadership is legacy leadership as we interact with those we serve in our families, our churches and our communities. Organizational leadership is seasonal leadership and calls us to practice succession planning as we serve those of the next generation in their recognizing and realizing their future plans and goals. This book also provides the wisdom of Blanchard and Hodges in a new developmental model called the Way of the Carpenter as they plumb the depths of the eighteen years of relative obscurity when Jesus learned and practiced the carpenter trade at the side of his earthly father, Joseph and how that relates to how we lead today.


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RESOURCE ~ Seeing Your Community As Jesus Does

Communities First

Christians and churches bring unique gifts to their neighborhoods and communities. Communities First, a new book from CRWRC, will help you engage with your community, influencing it in ways that make life better for everyone here and now. As a result, you will see your community respond and change in surprising and redemptive ways. The Church and God's Kingdom will grow.

Communities First was written by a team of people who share a common concern for the church of Jesus Christ. It is designed to teach Christians how to love their neighbors and transform their communities.

Churches today sponsor service projects, dispense benevolence funds, go on mission trips, give aid to relief organizations, begin social justice committees, and provide funding to social service agencies. These are signs that Christians want to love their neighbors. The purpose of Communities First is to provide both a framework and a set of tools to help Christians and churches mature in their knowledge and practice of loving their neighbors as themselves so that entire communities can be transformed.

The title for this project was chosen deliberately. These materials are meant to redirect a portion of a church’s time and resources from congregational self-service to effective engagement with a community.

Communities First will challenge you and your church to:

  • Discover what the Bible says about the church's responsibility to people who are poor and hungry.
  • See your community as Jesus does.
  • Move beyond giving handouts to helping people improve their lives.
  • Develop a common vision between the church, the community, and others for the future possibilities of your community.
  • Mentor and disciple people in poverty who want to make a life change.
  • Encourage neighborliness and a sense of community togetherness.
  • Help people work together for common goals.
  • Discover unfair laws and work to change them.

To order Communities First and the accompanying workbooks, click here



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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CARE ~ Neighborhood Transformation

Real Hope in Chicago

Real Hope in Chicago is Wayne Gordon's inspiring account of how people, white and black, rich and poor, old and young, worked together to transform a decaying neighborhood into a place where love is lived out in practical and miraculous ways. It offers an exciting model for interracial cooperation, urban-suburban church partnering--and real hope for the inner cities of our nation.

When Wayne Gordon and his wife started a Bible study for high school kids in North Lawndale, Chicago, people warned them that a white couple moving into a black neighborhood as a recipe for disaster. That was twenty-five years ago. Today, what began as the Gordons' seedling Bible study has become the Lawndale Community Church. It has a staff of 150, has renovated more than 100 local apartments, has helped more than 50 young people graduate from college, runs a medical clinic that treated 50,000 patients in 1994, and has become a vital part of rebuilding an inner-city neighborhood into a community of faith and hope. Real Hope in Chicago is Wayne Gordon's inspiring account of how people, white and black, rich and poor, old and young, worked together to transform a decaying neighborhood into a place where love is lived out in practical and miraculous ways. It offers an exciting model for interracial cooperation, urban-suburban church partnering--and real hope for the inner cities of our nation===>Click headline to access more information . . .

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PRAYER ~ Halloween Prayer Booth

Scare-on-the-Square
Rock Festival
Another servant evangelism project launched, in fact, by the former Unity minister who came to Christ as a result of our presence at Pineknot (see above), is held in conjunction with our city’s annual Halloween “Scare-on-the-Square” festival. The festival includes booths in the historic downtown square where vendors are encouraged to supply free candy for children to counter risky house-to-house trick-or-treating by kids. Children and adults are encouraged to dress up in their halloween costumes and enjoy the celebration which attracts thousands and has become a staple in the community calendar.

We rented a booth, called it “Prayer-on-the-Square”, provided free coffee and candy, and took prayer requests from witches and ghouls. We had no idea how successful it would be, or even if there would be any takers at all, and were pleasantly surprised to gather almost 200 prayer forms in just three hours, which we prayed over during our following weeknight home-group meetings. Every person who stopped by our booth to ask what we were doing heard our “we-just-want-to-show-God’s-love-in-a-practical-way.” Without a single exception those who visited our booth expressed appreciation for our willingness to pray for them.

This coming Halloween we hope to be more trusting and better prepared to pray with our community.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

PRAYER ~ The Holy Spirit and Praying for the Lost

The Holy Spirit and Praying for the Lost

“The New Testament portrays each person of the Trinity as deeply involved in our prayers: we approach the Father through the Son and are empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. The apostles exhort us to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18, Jude 20), and the key verses explaining the Holy Spirit’s role in our prayers are found in Romans 8:26-27: ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us… because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.’” Mell Winger

As you labor faithfully in prayer for the lost, keep in mind that you have a supernatural prayer partner who is helping you. You are never alone as you pray. Many of you have been praying for years regarding lost family members. We have personally seen several come to Christ through prayer but it sometimes took years! God worked in some very hard cases, but we watched the Holy Spirit remove spiritual blindness one by one. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world and in our families or work environments, even when things seem otherwise. In fact, the lost cannot be reached without the dynamic working of the Holy Spirit in a life. And we cannot pray without the help of the Holy Spirit, because He helps us to hit the mark as we intercede for the lost! Jack Hayford gives the following definition of intercession:

“Lexicons show the root idea of this word to be, ‘to light upon by chance, to meet accidentally.’ So it expresses a fortuitous and unplanned encounter of two parties. That definition seems pointless unless we take into consideration God’s (strategy) for prayer,.. The Holy Spirit is active in 1) bringing to mind people or circumstances we ought to pray for, and 2) giving rise to prayer that exactly hits the mark. That is, God Himself knows where hearts cry for His intervention, and the Holy Spirit prompts prayer to release the workings of His hand for them.”

Light is Released as We Partner with the Holy Spirit in Prayer

“Blindness, deception, confusion, doubt - these are some of the strategies Satan uses to keep people in spiritual darkness and prevent them from experiencing Christ’s love and forgiveness. The Bible calls Satan our adversary (I Peter 5:8), because he opposes the work of God. He is called a thief in John 10:10, because his goal is to destroy life and rob people of their spiritual inheritance. In other words, Satan is doing everything in his power to keep people in his kingdom of darkness and apart from life in Christ.” Terry Gooding

Light is released as an intercessor prays for the lost. Dick Eastman, the international president of Every Home for Christ, had a vision several years ago that shows forth this truth. He saw a big arena with thousands of people of all ages and races standing before a judge’s bench. An angel had a gigantic book - the book of Life (Rev. 20:12-15). Each person had a list that they brought to the judge. They were intercessors! One older intercessor presented her list with many names. Dick asked the Lord how she could get so many names on her list and he showed him why. In this vision he suddenly saw the elderly intercessor on her knees in a village in India near a small hut. A man brought a gospel booklet to the lost man in that dark hut, but he immediately threw it on the table. The intercessor began to fervently pray. As she prayed, the darkness in the hut began to move upward. Instantly the man picked up the booklet, read it and accepted the Lord into his life! A beam of light suddenly entered the hut and flowed into the man’s heart. The darkness vanished! The intercessor then put his name on her list and then went to another hut to pray. This is a visual example of how we can partner with the Holy Spirit in prayer for the salvation of souls.

Every Home for Christ has distributed gospel literature house-to-house to 2.2 billion people in 191 countries. More than 27.8 million decisions for Christ have resulted! God is at work in the hearts of the lost as we partner with the Holy Spirit in prayer.

How the Holy Spirit is Working in the World

“In Ephesians 2:1-2, the apostle describes the lost as being ‘under his (Satan’s) control’. The unbeliever’s spiritual condition is such that until that darkness is removed, he cannot see the light. Thus, the darkness must be dealt with at a supernatural level, usually through prayer.” Dick Eastman

The whole world is in spiritual darkness but as we pray and partner with the Holy Spirit, that spiritual darkness is lifted. As we travel to other nations, intercession is one of our main strategies to remove this darkness and prepare the area for salvation. It is pointless to try to evangelize a city or region without first bathing that area in intensive intercession. The Holy Spirit is our partner, and He is deeply involved in reaching the lost as we pray.

* The Holy Spirit convicts - John 16:8 - “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”

* The Holy Spirit witnesses to Christ - John 15:26 - “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”

* The Holy Spirit invites individuals to salvation - Revelation 22:17- “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

* The Holy Spirit regenerates - John 3:3-6 - “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’”

How to Partner in Prayer with the Holy Spirit

“True prayer is prayer in the Spirit; that is, the prayer the Spirit inspires and directs. When we come into God’s presence we should recognize ‘our infirmity,’ our ignorance of what we should pray for or how we should pray for it, and in the consciousness of our utter inability to pray aright we should look up to the Holy Spirit, casting ourselves utterly upon Him to direct our prayers, to lead out our desires and to guide our utterance of them.” R. A. Torrey

I encourage you to come before God in silent prayer. Expect the Holy Spirit to speak to you and help you to pray for the lost. He teaches us how to pray. Ask Him to bring the names of individuals you know who do not know Christ. He will bring them to your mind as you wait on Him. Then take a piece of paper or your prayer journal, and write down these names. Begin to partner with the Holy Spirit and pray the following for each one of them. You may want to pray this for your city as well. The Holy Spirit will guide and direct you as you pray. He will help you to pray on target prayers for each individual.

* Pray that He will soften the hearts of the unsaved - Psalm 95:7-8 - “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Many have hard hearts but the Holy Spirit is able to soften them through prayer.

* Pray that the spiritual blindness will be removed - II Corinthians 4:4 - “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan has blinded the minds of the lost, but the Holy Spirit can lift that blindness.

* Pray that their minds will understand truth - Ephesians 4:18 - “They are darkened in their understanding and separate from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” The Holy Spirit is able to open their eyes to see, remove the darkness and cause them to understand.

* Pray that they will repent and turn to God - Acts 3:19 - “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The Holy Spirit is able to bring men and women to repentance.

* Pray for workers to be sent to the harvest field - Matthew 9:38 - “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The Holy Spirit is able to touch the hearts of workers, causing them to go into the harvest to share the good news of the gospel.

“Could it be that our prayers are essential to gathering in the harvest? Our intercession may well cultivate the soil of the hearts of the lost to receive the gospel seed (Mark 4:8). They also may battle against the enemy as he comes to snatch away the seed (Mark 4:14-15). And they may help lift the darkness away from the eyes of unbelievers (Acts 26:17-18), so they can see the glorious light of the gospel (II Corinthians 4:3-4). Nothing should motivate us to pray for the harvest more than the knowledge that multitudes may receive Christ because we prayed. What greater joy could there be than knowing that our prayers helped lift the darkness so the lost might see the Light? Someday we may find, indeed, that heaven is populated with multitudes of our answered prayers.” Dick Eastman

Together in the Harvest,
Debbie Przybylski, Intercessors Arise
deb@intercessorsarise.org
www.intercessorsarise.org

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

CARE ~ 'Paint the Town' links churches & schools

'Paint the Town' links churches, NYC schools
By Norm Miller

Click to download Hi-Res Photo
NEW YORK CITY (BP)--Usually associated with the color red, the phrase paint the town holds connotations of celebratory revelry. Since 2004, Southern Baptist volunteers have celebrated the love of Christ and reveled in the joy of ministry as part of New Hope New Yorkís Paint the Town initiative.

The North American Mission Board sponsored New Hope New York as part of its Strategic Focus Cities emphasis, and Paint the Town evolved from that.

"Paint the Town was not something New Hope New York dreamed up; it came about because that was the expressed need," said Eric Hoenigmann, executive director of Paint the Town.

As Hoenigmann cooked hot dogs at a Paint the Town block party in Queens Aug. 15, he told Baptist Press that New Hope New York leaders attempted to contact the presidents of all five of New York City's boroughs with the desire to impact their communities in a positive way, offering whatever general services/ministries each borough might need.

The timing of that request "ìwas something God laid out; He put that in place," said Hoenigmann, who added that the Bronx borough president - the only one to respond to New Hope New Yorkís offer -- had already been contacted by a middle school principal whose facilities were in dire need of fresh paint.

Thus, Paint the Town was born, and the Bronx middle school -- five stories high, the size of a city block, and about a hundred years old -- was its pilot project, drawing more than 500 volunteers from 17 different states.

At a block party celebrating the completion of the project, the borough president declared it New Hope New York day in the Bronx. Soon after that came the request to repeat the project elsewhere in New York the following summer.

In 2005, volunteers planned to paint six schools, but completed 10 because ìthe volunteers who came did such great work and painted so quickly, they started running out of walls to paint," Hoenigmann said.

"Their ministry impacted about 8,000 students, not counting the faculties and staffs," he said.

Recounting what one school principal said about Paint the Townís significance, Hoenigmann said that about 90 percent of the students qualify for financial aid. Living below the national poverty level, he said these students endure disadvantaged home lives in downtrodden neighborhoods===>Click headline to access compelte article . . .


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Is Prayer Evangelism Effective?

Outreach : Your Source For Church Communication & Outreach Tools

Secrets of Healthy Churches by Thom Rainer:


Healthy Churches emphasize corporate prayer and church prayer ministries. They do more than give lip service to the importance of prayer. My team and I once worked with a church of 250 that had someone praying in an intercessory prayer room every hour of every day. That means 168 members (67%) committed to pray in that room one hour of every week. Since the leadership of that church began emphasizing prayer three years ago, attendance has more than doubled.

Another common element in healthy churches’ prayer ministries is that members pray for non-Christians by name. Theya re unashamed and unafraid to be vocal about the greatest need any person could have: salvation through Jesus Christ. (Outreach magazine, 9-10/06}



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Monday, September 04, 2006

CARE ~ Research Your Community

North America People Groups Project


(IMB) Based on 2000 census data, this website, powered by the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, offers national origin data on people living in the U.S....
[Website] | [Religious Congregations and Membership 2000 - The 3 largest religious bodies in the U.S. are Catholics (62 million), Southern Baptists (20 million), and United Methodists (10 million)]


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CARE ~ Multicultural Communities Challenge the Church

Emerging multicultural communities challenge the church
by Fred Rajan
Church Executive - April 2006
Becoming a multicultural congregation is not as simple as carrying out a program in sequential order. It takes intentionality and initiative.

Fueled by the rise in immigration and the high birth rate among people of color, our nation is becoming more and more multicultural. That’s accentuated as the United States, at the end of the year, crosses the 30 million population mark. In fact, one in four persons we meet today is a person of color. It’s been predicted that by the year 2050, the majority of the nation’s population will be people of color.

In response to this demographic change, schools, hospitals, work places, restaurants and shopping centers are making an intentional effort to meet the needs of the diverse population.

When communities change, so must churches. Churches in the U.S. are unique in that they are rooted in an immigrant heritage. When our forefathers and foremothers came to this new world, they established congregations to meet their unique cultural and linguistic needs. Christianity became not only diverse in worship, theology, and governance, but it became a sending church. We sent missionaries to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and birthed missions and ministries around the globe.

Today the mission field of our churches is not only across the world but also around the corner. As once homogeneous communities become multicultural, churches must respond. Many denominations in the U. S. are making intentional plans to reach people of color.
===>Click headline to access complete article . .

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Christians should love, not forsake, the nation's cities

Christians should love, not forsake, the nation's cities

By Pastor Mark Driscoll
Special to The Seattle Times

Several news stories in recent months have focused on the rapidly increasing density and diversity in Seattle. Examples include Mayor Greg Nickels' aggressive plan to increase the city's population by 60 percent in the next 34 years, the need for increased transportation infrastructure and the easing of some code restrictions on things such as building height. We've also read that families and the middle class are fleeing the city as urban-housing costs soar.

Such issues raise questions for Christians such as myself who live in the city: How does God feel about cities? How does God relate to cities? How should Christians feel about and relate to our city?

First, the God of the Bible loves cities. The Bible opens with a beautiful paradise — not unlike Seattle on one of our glorious summer days. It says our first parents lived in harmony with God, each other and creation, which God gave them to steward. The Bible closes with a vision of heaven as a city filled with people.

Second, God uses cities. This may seem paradoxical, since cities have long been seen as havens for violent crime, sexual sin and drug abuse. But that's just the point. Sin is more visible in cities because of the population density. And because sin is more visible, so, too, is the need for God. The rawness of the city makes it exactly the kind of place that God would use to convince people of their need for him.

Third, the God of the Bible intends for Christians to love their cities. While many people seek God in the wilderness, the vision of heaven as a city means God is also to be found working amid urban chaos. God can be found in the building of a skyscraper as easily as in the climbing of a mountain.

Historically, Christianity has been an urban religion. A reading of the history book of early Christianity, Acts, reveals that the worship of Jesus spread almost exclusively from major city to major city, bypassing suburban and rural areas. Historians such as Rodney Stark (co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University) and Wayne Meeks (Woolsey professor emeritus of religious studies at Yale University) say that by A.D. 300, roughly half of the people living in major Roman cities were Christian, while more than 90 percent of those living in the countryside were still pagan.

Rather than fleeing cities, as many Christians do today, they should love them and work to improve them. Early Christians loved their cities because they are what some sociologists call the "womb of culture." Our city houses most of the area's major universities, political centers, courts, media outlets, publishers, entertainment companies, sports stadiums, concert venues, art galleries and theater companies. Cities create the culture that is disseminated to the suburban and rural areas. It is both foolish and hypocritical for Christians to flee cities and then complain about the culture that emanates from them. The answer is for Christians to love cities, move to cities, pray for cities and serve cities.

As Seattle wrestles with what it means to be a great city, Christians are presented with a valuable opportunity to help. We won't always agree with each other, of course; that's the nature of diversity. But we will be working, as Christians are called to do, from the biblical vision in Isaiah and Revelation for a city with great density and diversity liberated from the many urban flaws created by human sinfulness.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is founder of the nondenominational Mars Hill Church in Ballard. He and four other columnists — the Rev. Patrick J. Howell, Rabbi Mark S. Glickman, the Rev. Patricia L. Hunter and Aziz Junejo — take turns writing for the Faith & Values page. Readers may send feedback to faithpage@seattletimes.com

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