Recently, I finished an excellent book by Darrin Patrick called, Church Planter. In the book, Darrin speaks to not only church planters, but every person who calls themselves “pastor” – those new and seasoned. His intent is to equip leaders to be biblical pastors, carrying and imitating the mantle of Christ, thus bringing biblical and whole-life transformation to the cities where their churches reside. The book is an amazing read, that will definitely challenge your relationship with Christ and the calling Christ has given you to pastor others – be it students or adults.
I want to share some of Darrin’s thoughts on the influence churches have concerning city transformation. He writes the following (pg. 225-238):
“We desire not just to have great churches but to have better cities. ‘Would your city weep if your church did not exist?’ … a church [is] not just in the city but for the city.”
“It is strange the way many Christians give so much money every year to foreign mission efforts without ever considering the need to be a missionary right in their own neighborhoods. What would happen if we actually started seeing ourselves as missionaries to the people who live around us by being good neighbors? What would it be like if everyone in the neighborhood knew that if there was a need for peacemaking, kindness, hospitality, or refuge, they could come to our residence to find it?”
“… we can actually contribute to the cultural goods of the city by involving ourselves in the soil of what makes the city the city…This is the heart of what it means to be a Christian in culture: to participate in the creation and development of God-glorying relationships, organizations, academics, guilds, and businesses.”
“Many in the city will be more likely to listen to the message of the church because the members have invested themselves so deeply in the city. We can go from simply protesting all that is wrong in the city to actually bringing righteousness to the city. We can move from being among the many who are recognized as problem-finders in the city to being the ones who are recognized as problem-solvers in the city.”
“(1 Peter 2:9-12) … This means that when we encounter culture, we seek to be a blessing to the people in the culture. We have a unique and distinct identity as those who have been showered by grace; therefore we will seek to shower the city with grace as we sacrificially serve and work in it … (Jeremiah 29:7) So Jeremiah is not just saying that we should seek the spiritual welfare of the city, but also the financial and social welfare of the city.”
“The good news of the gospel is that we do not have to compromise biblical truth to be a blessing to the city … we can enter into the culture of the city and become agents of transformation. Being a blessing to the city means we take seriously the problems of the city. The gospel does not just need to be in word but also in deed.”
“What would happen if strong godly men and women were emboldened to use their gifts in the church, knowing that God is able to draw straight lines with crooked sticks? What if pastors were actually qualified in their character? What would happen if God’s people actually had someone to look at and imitate?
What if God’s people realized that the role of the pastor is to equip them to do ministry instead of doing ministry for them? How many nonprofits would be started by God’s people to address the broken areas of the city? How many at-risk children would be tutored, and how many fatherless teens would be mentored? How many single moms would be supported? How many immigrants would look to the church as a place of help and hope? How much more of God’s grace would we understand if we sacrificially served the poor and the marginalized? How many lost, broken people would cease being their own savior and trust in Jesus?”
To change cities, we need to change neighborhoods. This means we need to start with our own first. How is your neighborhood being transformed by your church and/or your youth group?