As Christians, how do we think about our city, our involvement in it, and our commitment to its welfare? After all, we are building Christ’s church and are aliens in this world. Are we really called to build cities and seek the welfare of those cities? How does God intend us to live in community? Should we invest our time, talents and resources into our communities… or mainly our churches?
A mentor of mine once said:
“Tie one hand to Scriptures and tie your other to your culture.”
He was essentially telling me how important it is to first calibrate our minds according to the principles and patterns given to us in the biblical text. Then we can move into our culture and seek out the questions they are asking. Our goal is to understand and engage with our culture, but we must do so with biblically trained minds.
We must continually renew our minds around Scripture while simultaneously engaging in our neighborhoods, cities and cultures. We are to go to all nations, baptizing them into the family while teaching them Christ’s principles so that the world may know God’s plan.
What Should the Church Actually Do in Our Cities?
Today, our American churches should be benefactor communities and truly be a benefit to our cities and seek their welfare. Instead, many are focused on making their own budgets and tokenly engaging in international mission while engaging even less with the local city. For churches to benefit their cities requires a renewed understanding of the centrality of the church in God’s economy, for this is God’s welfare distribution system.
The Church is meant to be a family, seen as glad and generous people, finding favor in their community.1 We are to build Christ’s Church according to His administration, where our people live skillful lives, engage in good occupations and meet pressing needs.2
“And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.” – Titus 3:14
In his letter to Titus, Paul was concerned with Titus teaching the people to devote themselves to good works. Our churches today need to follow this pattern: establish our people in the teachings of Christ,3 engage in our communities and cultures, devote ourselves to good works, and meet pressing needs.
How will you know the pressing needs of your city? How will you devote your church to good works? How will you be productive in the community? We have been asking these questions for many years in our local church network and here are some of our conclusions:
Being Devoted to Good Works
- Begins with living peaceful and quiet lives that are attractive and healthy.4
- Practicing hospitality toward strangers and helping those who can’t meet their own needs.5
- Developing more dialogue on our work in the city, not dissension, and not antagonizing through political activism.
- Older men/women should mentor younger men/women in developing lifestyles of good works.6
Meeting Pressing Needs
We have an initiative in my local church called Re:Build, where everyone in our network of churches is expected to participate in the process of helping people rebuild their lives in the community.
- Life Skill Development
- Hosting: Some people will live with our families
- Hospitality/Openness/Family meals: Some people will integrate into our churches
- Support: A support team is needed to help these individuals be “resourced” (i.e. budgeting, transportation, employment, parenting, cooking, cleaning, etc.)
- Faith Development
- Some will need older men/women to teach them the first principles of Christ
- Education and Lifework Development
- Develop good work skills
- Education and career guidance (i.e. resume help)
Being Productive in Community
- We should choose jobs based on a comprehensive view of our lifework.
- Job opportunities should be considered based on the strategy of the local church, not primarily on location and pay rate.
- We should think of our homes as a base for our lifework, for the faint-hearted, and practice generosity out of our homes. People of the community should say, “that’s where those glad and generous people live!”
- Our business owners should engage with the city, seeking its welfare with its products and people.
- Submission to employers isn’t passive. It requires engagement in a way that will bring praise from your employer and other colleagues. People should say, “that’s where that glad and generous person works!”
- Honoring people and kings implies giving respect and honor to them, giving them value in your service.
As the church engages with the community, we must continually remain curious about the pressing needs of our neighborhoods and cities. Our world is continually changing and every neighborhood is different, staying involved and asking questions is the beginning.
The church must understand that globalization and urbanization are changing our world. Today’s cities are key in our global world and the church needs to impact the city. Consider this video below created by New Life AG Church in Chennai, India. Rev. Chadwick Mohan (English Service Lead Pastor) and New Life AG Church are ministry partners in the BILD Network and this video is an expression of their understanding of how they need to be seeking the welfare of their city.
The Church is God’s plan and we are to wholeheartedly engage with our cities. Our church families need to devote their lives to good works, meet pressing needs and engage in good occupations. As our hearts align with our cities, the world will see a people that live with a hope that is attractive and generous.
How do churches train their people to live by these principles and do more then just attend church? It starts by training the leaders. The Antioch School is designed to lay a foundation of biblical principles for leaders. This training takes place in the context of your church, with a core of gaining competencies in the biblical principles while being mentored, following the Paul-Timothy model. School is not about academics or degrees, it is about the lifelong pursuit of wisdom.7 This pursuit of wisdom is needed for all people no matter their station in life, and it all starts with the leaders.
The Antioch School is designed for churches to train their leaders in pursuing wisdom, which is the wholehearted pursuit of seeking the welfare of our cities. Now is the time for the church to train her leaders in the first century, biblical principles.
1 Acts 2:46-47 2 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; Titus 3:14 3 Titus 2:1 4 1 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 1:15 5 1 Timothy 5; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 6 Titus 2, 3; 1 Timothy 5 7 Albeit the Antioch School is accredited, granting Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degrees.