Subj:   NPPN - ARTICLE #30 - CITY-REACHING

Date:   10/18/1999 8:18:47 PM Central Daylight Time

From:  phil@nppn.org (Phil Miglioratti)

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NATIONAL PASTORS’ PRAYER NETWORK - US

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A Ministry Network Of The Mission America Coalition

 

OUR VISION-

Identify And Encourage Pastors’ Prayer Groups In Cities And Communities Across America...2,000 By Year-End 2000...So That...Pastors Lead Their People Into Praying For And Sharing Christ With Everyone In Our Nation.

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#030  SEVEN REASONS CITY-REACHING MAKES SENSE

by Chuck Singletary (Gost205@aol.com)

NOTE: The following definition of "city-reaching" was introduced by Dr. Jack Dennison, President and Founder of Citi-Reach International (CRI). It will be the working definition of city-reaching used in this paper:

"City-reaching is the on-going process of mobilizing the whole Body of Christ in a city to strategically focus all its resources on reaching the whole city with the whole gospel. City-reaching is a Great Commission/Great Commandment commitment. It brings to bear all of the theory, practice, research, and delivery systems of Church Growth in a dynamic synergy, focusing the full capabilities and resources of the Church on reaching the city."

INTRODUCTION: As a city-reaching enthusiast, it is tempting to think that this is the "only way to go" though for me as a 65 year old, that idea leaves me little time to work with the new paradigm. Maybe that is why I am "working like my hair is on fire"! There is certainly no compelling biblical precedent that would say we have to put all our energies in this direction. I tend to attribute the fact that so many Christian leaders are now advocating this as a better strategy to a "for such a time as this" phenomenon. City-reaching, as I have come to know it, incorporates so many sound biblical principles, that it is tempting to present the case on the basis of it’s being biblically obvious that we should have thought this way all along but I don’t present my case on that basis.

God seems to have been preparing His people world-wide for this and the timing just seems to be right. Hopefully, my own enthusiasm about what God is doing here in Birmingham, Alabama will not too greatly cloud the case.

Dr. C. Peter Wagner says this about city-reaching : "Once two or three cities have been significantly impacted by the city-reaching strategy, there will be a virtual explosion of interest in city-reaching." That’s strong!

Jim Herrington says this: "City-reaching is the most significant innovation of the Church in this decade and will become the prominent paradigm of the next decade." The only thing I would change about Jim’s statement is that every time you see the word "decade", you should change it to "century"!

The interest now being generated by George Otis, Jr.’s research on "community transformation", is illustrious of the enthusiasm that is generated by God producing living, breathing testimonies of His grace and power at work in good measure. By the way, this paper is being written sometime after Jack Dennison produced his working definition of city-reaching. I would not be a bit surprised if Jack, now that CRI has established such a strong working partnership with George Otis, Jr and the Sentinel Group, would modify his definition to add the emphasis: " city-reaching moving to the point of total community transformation."

Here’s why I think city-reaching makes a whole lot of sense and is not just the latest fad as a new strategy to reach the world for Christ:

1.         THE GLOBAL PRAYER MOVEMENT SEEMS TO BE DIRECTING GODLY MEN AND WOMEN ALL

OVER THE WORLD TO VIEW "END TIME HARVEST" THROUGH A DIFFERENT SET OF LENSES

THAN EVER BEFORE.

For centuries, Spirit-filled men and women have labored diligently and fervently but with no where near the sense of expectation of "closure" that we now all seem to have. Why and how would God adjust so many leaders’ view of reality so significantly in such a major paradigm shift virtually simultaneously if it were not a "God thing"? No human being, groups of human beings, organizations, etc are orchestrating all of this. It is happening supernaturally and God simply seems to be allowing us to apply some modicum of analysis and tracking to what is going on.

2.         WHILE IT MAY NOT BE BIBLICALLY DIRECTED OR PRESCRIBED, IT IS BIBLICALLY

CONSISTENT WITH THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF GOD.

It brings additional emphasis and meaning to literally hundreds of passages of scripture. The following are just a few hastily and randomly selected passages that begin to jump off the pages of scripture once you think in terms of this approach to reaching our cities: Genesis 1:28; II Samuel 10:12; Habakkuk 2:14; Matthew 5-7; Matthew 9;36-38; Matthew 28:18-20; John 17; Acts 1:8; 20:24-26; I Corinthians 12-15; Ephesians 4; Phiippians 3,4; I Timothy 2:4-6; Titus 1:5; II Peter 3:9-18; I John 5; Revelations 22.

3.         STRATEGICALLY SOUND:

I cannot explain why for so many years we have functioned with such poor strategies in seeking to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission and Great Commandment. Perhaps our stiff necks have caused us to "wander in the desert", so to speak. We have often developed good tactics and occasionally ,in a limited sort of way, good strategies but so often our efforts have been disjointed and did not foster the various members of the Body functioning in concert or harmony with the other members.

The two "irreducible minima" characteristics of the cities which George Otis has discovered in his research of cities which have experienced major community transformation are: 1. Comprehensive, pervasive, fervent prayer. 2. Dedicated, godly, persevering leadership. How could we have overlooked such obvious spiritual principles?

4.         FACILITATES MOBILIZATION AND A WARFARE MENTALITY.

We are just beginning to see this happening in Birmingham. As we seek to mobilize prayer, it become so much more the obvious of how badly we have neglected corporate prayer. As we begin to "pray with a purpose", we realize how under-focused our prayer efforts have been—in the areas of worship, intercession, praise, supplication and across the board. "Purposeless prayer" (I should define what I mean by that but it would take a whole paper to do that.) may sound super-spiritual but it isn’t. I am not suggesting "demanding prayer" but simply praying the will of God for our cities. In Birmingham, as we work strategically as well as tactically we are already seeing major progress in prayer mobilization in two specific areas: Among the pastoral community and among intercessors. We realize that there are many other components but we are simply trying to learn to walk before we try to run.

We have a long, long way to go but we would not be at all surprised (or disappointed!) to see God accelerate the process. We realize that those are only two components of the overall process but it is so encouraging to be moving in the right direction—facing lots of opposition from our faithful Enemy but boosted along by the Lord Himself in some bursts of progress that boggle our minds.

As we seek to mobilize the whole Church we begin to realize the enormous resources that God has already poured out upon us in abundance. Many of these are "rotting in barns", so to speak. Our city may be a little more guilty than most, but we have come to realize what poor stewardship we have been exercising with the resources God has already made available to us. That becomes obvious when we look at the task to be done, which is huge, but then begin to see how few of our already available resources are being used effectively. Little wonder when we pray for additional resources so fervently but don’t seem to see results.

As things are coming into better perspective, we are beginning to see the emergence of all kinds of mobilization teams: Teams devoted to prayer mobilization, evangelism mobilization, human resource mobilization, wealth mobilization, children’s ministries mobilization, youth ministries mobilization, and on and on.

5.         FORCES US TO EXEGETE OUR CITIES.

Actually, first of all, it forces us to exegete the Church. That has manifested itself in something so basic as just getting to know one another—by building relationships across denominational, racial, socio-economic, big-church—little-church barriers and all kinds of other distractions that tend to keep us from functioning as a unified team.

If you look at things from a "resource-to-opportunity" grid, when we began this process we didn’t even have a handle on the "resource" part of that equation much less the "opportunity" side. Amazingly, we had figured out how to co-exist in the same city by means of our all living, working, and playing in our own little worlds. We still don’t have a real good handle on either side of the "resource-to-opportunity" grid but we have a much better handle on the "resource" side of the fence. This puts us in a far more favorable position as we seek to get a better understanding of the Greater Birmingham Area which we desperately want to experience the sort of community transformation we are all praying and working toward.

Praying together with a common objective on our hearts has focused our energies and has left "living in our own little worlds" with a loosely defined set of goals and objectives as an unacceptable alternative. We have a deep sense of conviction that bringing our worlds together will accelerate the spread of the gospel and bring much glory to God.

6.         IT FORCES US TO MOVE FROM THE CHURCH IN THE CITY BEING A NICE THEORETICAL CONSTRUCT TO BECOMING A FUNCTIONAL REALITY. It forces us to deal with the type biblical ecclesiology that facilitates Kingdom living. It forces us to have a different set of Church Growth lenses. Again, in retrospect, it is amazing to me that we let happen to the Church in America what has happened in the last century. There has been no unified accountability for the churches in America for the cities of America. Essentially there has been no recognition of the validity of a Church dedicated to reaching a city. Some may yet question that validity. But the hard reality is that the growth and development of individual congregations has been a very autonomous matter even in connectional churches.

The relationship between congregations has tended to be competitive rather than cooperative, partnering relationships where we linked arms together to try to reach the lost for Christ. In the first place, there has been no defined leadership for the Church in cities. We have often prayed fervently for revival and we may have even tried to meet the conditions of revival but, in essence, "every man was doing what was right in his own eyes". If we didn’t agree with one another, we just isolated ourselves from one another enough, perhaps forming another denomination, to not have to deal with those disagreements. At best, we opted for "love at a distance".

One obvious manifestation of the downside of this is that the churches in a city which grew vigorously often grew primarily as a result of transfer growth. Another obvious manifestation is that the pastors and shepherds of a city typically have not gotten to know one another very well, which often led to less than redemptive relationships and created confusion not just for the sheep but, worse yet, for the lost.

Next to the emergence of a prayer emphasis in Birmingham, I consider the emergence of a defined city leadership team as the single most "defining moment" in our passionate desire to see our city experience total community transformation. We do have leadership now. We do have accountability. Someone is available to answer the leadership questions that abound throughout the city. There is a focal point of responsibility to develop evangelistic strategies and tactics that are efficacious. Now, if issues come up such as came up in Acts 6 in the early church, there is someone who can resolve any particular issue that impedes the growth and expansion of the Church.

If you will allow me to apply the insights gained from Dr. Ralph Winters’ well known study of the historical advancement of the Christian Church, the application becomes clear in cities. Dr. Winters suggests that throughout Church history, there have been two basic structures through which He accomplishes His redemptive purposes. If my memory serves me right, the terms he uses to try to describe this phenomenon are borrowed from anthropology. He refers to one structure as a "modality", which would be descriptive of the local church type expression. Stable, localized, elected leadership, nurture-oriented, family (cradle to the grave) oriented, etc.

The other structure he calls a "sodality"—mobile, apostolic in function, outreach oriented, bringing into existence that which does not already exist, pioneering, limited in the age spectrum (i.e., not many 65 year olds!). Feeding into and accountable to the modality.

The two are interdependent. Dr. Winter goes on to demonstrate this phenomenon at work throughout Church history using both scripture and historical treatises such as Kenneth Scott Latourette’s seven volume historical account of the growth and expansion of the Church beginning with Judaism right up to the present—or mid-20th century.

Dr. Winters proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Church of Jesus Christ has advanced the most rapidly and healthily and with the most staying power when there has been a dynamic tension and sense of interdependence between the two structures. He pointed out various dark times in the history of the Church when that has not been in play because one of the other or both sides of the structure became carnal or downright corrupt.

7.         IT FACILITATES THE EMERGENCE OF A "COMBINED ARMS TEAM".

How beautiful it is when the brethren dwell together in unity. When each part does its own part in harmony with the others in a high sense of interdependence. I think it was Win Arn who produced a great Church Growth film on a symphony rehearsal and subsequent performance. It was inspiring to see all of the various musicians and instruments guided into the final production. The result was fantastic and the application was not lost on anyone who could understand how important it is in a local church for the various parts to each accomplish their own particular function in harmony with the others. To my knowledge, none of us applied that to the City Church and so we, as Church Growth consultants in my case, went about trying to help churches on an individual, disconnected basis.

NOTE. The accomplishments of the Church Growth movement have been criticized high and low—often quite unfairly and without the critics having done their homework. But even the most enthusiastic practitioners were disappointed in many cases. (My response has always been, "What would things have looked like today in the American Church without the herculean efforts on the part of the leaders of this movement? My answer, with full acknowledgement of the less than ideal application of the principles of Church Growth, is: "A lot worse than we are right now!")

But the point of the illustration is to be able to ask the question: "What if we apply the truths of that phenomenon on a city level?" I believe with all of my heart that as do begin to make just such an application, we are going to have our minds boggled at just how beautiful the Body of Christ can be!

Having a military background makes me like the "combined arms team" illustration and since Paul used the military quite often as analogous to the Body, I feel free to do so. I loved observing my friend and classmate, Norman Schwarzkopf, head up the combined arms team the free world put together in the Gulf War. How beautiful to see how effectively it functioned to win the war—at least in a limited sense of that word.

How much more beautiful it is to me, to see the Church of Jesus Christ, under the leadership of our Lord. "Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God; Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we. One in hope and doctrine, one in charity."

It gets downright exciting as you begin to look at our task in cities that way. Mobilization issues become obvious. We are in no skirmish—we are in all-out war! Need for accountability becomes obvious. Need for partnerships becomes obvious. Legitimacy and value of specialization become obvious. The need and value of particularity becomes obvious.

In Birmingham, as we seek to mobilize the Church, we think in terms of a resident team and a non-resident team. We think in terms of "teaching elders" and "ruling elders" (although some are a little uncomfortable with that terminology as applied to "city elders"—but the functions are undeniable.)

Recently, we had a leadership orientation in the context of a 28 hour retreat for some of the leaders of the Church here in Birmingham. It was led by CitiReach International (CRI), key leaders of our non-resident team. Though we had planned it to simply be a mid-course, vision clarification and instructional time, it turned out to be much more than that. We, at the stage of development we entered the meeting, were using a "servant leadership team", which some had jokingly referred to as a "hastily organized posse"! The point being that these leaders had not been fully authenticated by the other leaders of the city (though they were deeply appreciated for their labors of love).

But, lo and behold, we discovered that we were about to have a baby born! A Church was born. A fully recognized leadership team was selected and installed. We all felt like God had done something special right before our eyes. It was a "God thing"! We all felt privileged to have been there in the delivery room!

Sensing before the meeting that this might happen, I had previously asked the praise and worship leader to be prepared to end our meeting with, "Rise Up Oh Men of God", "Onward Christian Soldiers", and "Like A Mighty Army Moves the Church of God" (I since learned that is not a separate hymn but just the second verse of "Onward Christian Soldiers"!). As it turns out, we didn’t actually end that way because so many had to leave before we concluded but in our hearts these hymns express how we feel.

No announcements were made in the Birmingham News, no evening TV coverage, many dedicated pastors of the city, highly committed to reaching our city for Christ don’t even know about this yet, but it was a very defining moment. In my opinion, a major milestone has been completed.

IN CONCLUSION: In America and in many countries around the world, there are many suffering without the good news of Jesus Christ. In many countries of the world and in America, the Church is not "moving like a mighty army" but I believe with all my heart that it is God’s will for it to so move. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Our pastor, Dr. Frank Barker, Jr., founding pastor of for Briarwood Presbyterian Church for the past 40 years and now the senior member of the leadership team of The Church of Birmingham leadership team, gave his last sermon as pastor of the Briarwood this morning. It was a great message with a great closing admonition: "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus, going on before; Christ, the royal Master leads against the foe, forward into battle see His banners go!" Let it be, Lord!

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