Category Archives: mission

Loving the City

Over the past few years my heart as a pastor has been driven by several things, one of which is a call for the church and Christians to love their city. God loves the city. In the book of Jonah, God three times refers to Nineveh as “that great city.” Nehemiah is commissioned to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Much of Paul’s missionary work was centered around cities. In Revelation 21, John describes heaven as a great city. I believe this also means coming alongside and supporting what is already happening in your city. This can be a large city, like Charlotte, or a small town. Size doesn’t really matter, what matters is loving and investing in the community God has placed you. Often times our churches’ outreach programs are based around events and activities the church produces and invites the city to come to. This can be very effective and in some communities may be the only thing going. The church is providing a valuable and needed service to its community. In so doing relationships are built, Jesus is introduced and disciples can be developed. Fantastic. However, the church should not limit itself to planning and producing insular events and activities. So often, cities and towns, even neighborhoods are producing and promoting community events that are healthy and vibrant. In these situations, the church has a great opportunity to come alongside, invest in and support what is already happening in their city. The goal should not be to “take over” or “christianize” these events, but to love our community, love our city and be a part of investing in our cities. From there, relationships are built, Jesus is introduced and disciples can be developed.

Over the last year, the church I pastor, Ephesus Church, has not produced any singular outreach events, but through something we call the 1:8 Initiative (Acts 1:8) we have come alongside several great community events. Our local neighborhood, Wilmore, put on Wilmore Day in the Spring. We had access to free inflatable games for the kids and a sound system that we set up and ran throughout the event to support what our neighborhood was doing. Throughout the spring and summer the other neighborhood we straddle, South End, held a monthly Gallery Crawl. We became a stop on the Gallery Crawl each month showing local artists work and having local musicians play live. Our goal was not to create a “safe” alternative to the Gallery Crawl, but to support and be a part of what South End was doing. By the end of the season we developed great support and relationships with the organizers as they realized our heart to be a part of what was already happening and not create something separate. This fall we’re loving the city of Charlotte by supporting the local NFL team the Carolina Panthers. Ephesus is only a few blocks south of Bank of America Stadium (the home of the Panthers). Last season was the first time Ephesus was its current space and the church saw the crowds and parking issues as a challenge to be overcome on home game days. This year, the church saw it as an opportunity to love the city. For the home opener, the church planned a tailgate party to celebrate the Panthers in lieu of church service that day. A young man in the church designed and produced a great looking magnet with the Panthers’ schedule on it, a bit about the church and an invitation to the tailgate party. These were passed all around the neighborhood and on opening day several folks from the neighborhood came out to eat hot dogs, play cornhole and watch the game or for some, walk a few blocks and go to the game. Throughout the season the church has continued to support the Panthers, watching the pre-game after service and watching the game together during the monthly potluck. It’s fun to watch football, but it’s also great to be a church that Loves the City! The local Fox news channel felt this was a pretty cool thing too, you can see the story they ran here.

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Tim Keller on the Missional Church

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has much to say on the missional church. In a short article that he wrote he sums it up very well…

[W]hat makes a small group missional? A ‘missional’ small group is not necessarily one which is doing some kind of specific ‘evangelism’ program (though that is to be recommended). Rather, 1) if its members love and talk positively about the city/neighborhood, 2) if they speak in language that is not filled with pious tribal or technical terms and phrases, nor disdainful and embattled language, 3) if in their bible study they apply the gospel to the core concerns and stories of the people of the culture, 4)if they are obviously interested in and engaged with the literature and art and thought of the surrounding culture and can discuss it both appreciatively and yet critically, 5) if they exhibit deep concern for the poor and generosity with their money and purity and respect with regard to [the] opposite sex, and show humility toward people of other races and cultures, 6) they do not bash other Christians and churches-then seekers and non-believing people from the city A) will be invited and B) will come and will stay as they explore spiritual issues. If these marks are not there it will only be able to include believers or traditional, “Christianized” people.

Certainly a challenge to me as I process how I preach sermons and how I interact with those around me. You’ll notice not once does he say compromise or water-down the Gospel. But stand firm in the Gospel while loving those who are still doubters. I’m challenged, I hope you are too.

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Some more thoughts on being missional

I’ve become a part of an online community at goideation.org. It’s mostly tech and worship leaders but opens up a lot of great discussions, you should check it out. I just posted this question below on their forum, any thoughts would be very cool…

Heading into a strategic/creative planning meeting tomorrow so I’m pondering this an awful lot. Now I know every city and community is different, but I’m just curious what are people finding to be the so-called “keys” to their community and/or city? What ways have you discovered to be missional to where God has put your church? We’re in a vibrant, urban center so the typical children’s ministry and catchy mailer/sermon series isn’t enough. We’re working on drilling down to where this young, mostly single, affluent crowd God has surrounded us with is going to discover Jesus in a way that fits the context of their seeming affluence and non-perceived need for Jesus. Good times! Not looking for ideas that will necessarily fit our context, I’d just like to see what God is revealing to folks in other places and how you discovered it. Thanks!

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Matt Chandler brings a smackdown…in a nice way

I don’t often just post a link to other blogs/articles etc. but this one is too good to pass on. Matt Chandler pastors a large church in Dallas that has seen phenomenal growth while being focused on content as opposed to flash. I was convicted reading this article in ways I didn’t realize were inside me. What’s your true motivation? Why do you pursue what you pursue? Are the motives what they should be? Matt Chandler challenges us in this post.

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Missed opportunities

I just finished reading a piece in the most recent issue of Relevant Magazine by Adam Smith. I’ve become a huge fan of Adam’s listening to him on the Relevant Podcast, truly one of the funniest things out there. If you don’t subscribe go to itunes now and subscribe. Next to the Ephesus Church podcast, it’s one of the best audio excursions out there! Adam recently moved to New Zealand to explore some new opportunities in life, but he has continued to Skype into the podcast and write for Relevant. This month he recounts a recent occurrence in his life after moving to New Zealand. He was at a bus stop when a young (very) couple sat down next to him. She was crying and the guy was trying to get Adam to talk. Adam relates how he had no desire to talk with them or get involved in the situation. The guy continues to prod and eventually Adam talks with him and learns of the difficult situation they’re in. What Adam honestly admits is that he didn’t want to, and didn’t do much for them and struggled with that reality afterward. He says he can quickly give to a worthy cause, or buy clothing that supports the right causes in the world but when God put opportunity right in front of him he shied away. This struck me to the core. How true of so many of us who claim to be Christians. We’ll give money, drink fair trade coffee and avoid Nikes but when it’s right in front of us, we can’t be bothered, don’t want to be bothered. I struggle with this constantly. I’m working on it. God has called me and Ephesus to Charlotte. There is very wealthy communities in this city and there are extremely downtrodden communities, what am I going to do to be hands-on with both? It can’t just be a check or an exhorting word from the pulpit. It has to be life…. Very soon at Ephesus we’ll be introducing you to the Hyaets Community in West Charlotte. One of our attenders, Anna, is living out Jesus right in the neighborhood. Actions are speaking. I’m praying I’ll get out of my self-induced bunker and live and work with the people God has called us to in Charlotte. I’m praying that the vision God has given for Ephesus will happen. He’s called us to reach those who are more fortunate and then leverage the available resources to impact, in a HANDS-ON way, those not as fortunate. It’s the model of the New Testament church. It’s also the model the founder of our Foursquare movement, Aimee Semple McPherson, lived out at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles during the Depression. Through Angelus Temple, the affluent of Los Angeles, including movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, used what they had to feed and clothe so many affected by the poor economic times. In fact the food banks and commisarys of Angelus Temple fed and clothed more than the City of Los Angeles or any other government agency of the time. Today, the Dream Center and Angelus Temple continue this very hands-on Christian lifestyle. It’s encouraging and challenging to be reminded this kind of Christian lifestyle is a part of our denominational heritage.

I saw myself so clearly in Adam’s story of the bus stop (he’s a former pastor). I’m praying God will increase my boldness. I’m looking forward to plugging in with Anna and Hyaets and what they’re doing in West Charlotte. Pick up a copy of the most recent issue of Relevant and be challenged in what you are REALLY doing to be Jesus to this world and our community.

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