Reclaiming Culture One City At a Time

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Deuteronomy 28:13 says that we are to become the head, not the tail. This can only happen when the collective local church serves the community in humility and through the love of Christ.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified… ” (John 4:39).

Can a city or community be impacted for Christ? Can it be transformed?

The answer to that lies with the level of maturity of Christians in a community which is measured in love, unity and prayer.

Jesus spent three years with his disciples, and yet after three years they thought the way to deal with people different from themselves or were adversarial was to call down fire from heaven. 

But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village—Luke 9:51-56.

The disciples modeled what the church does today. We condemn people who are different or hold different views or condemn them for acting like people who do not know God. The church has often tried to change culture by controlling it, instead of loving it.  Instead, Jesus calls us to love people and build bridges into their lives. Yes, it even means, God forbid—gays, adulterers and even liberals—yes, anyone different from ourselves. Jesus loves them too, even in their sin. That is hard for us to model in the body of Christ. We all struggle to love those very different from ourselves.

In 2011 we had a conference at Harvard and the speakers were protested on campus by radical gays. Instead of reacting to them, God made a way for me and another leader to meet with them. First, we listened to what they had to say. Afterwards, they let us share with them why their assessment of us was incorrect. Lastly, we upheld the relationship even though we had differing views. They left the meeting with a 180 degree different viewpoint than when they walked into our meeting. Did they get saved? No. Did they have a different view of us than before they met us? Yes. Was there a bridge built? Yes. God can water that kind of relationship building and he has actually done so since then.

“I catch them; the Lord cleans them.”

That is what Larry Poland, President of MasterMedia said at one of our conferences. He serves executives in Hollywood and New York. He said, “You know, it is amazing how scripts change once there is a heart change.” We are not the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Our role is to love and share. That’s it. Then love some more.

Jesus and Samaritan Woman

Let’s discover how Jesus did it. Please read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman:

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink, ’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband, ’  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Then they went out of the city and came to Him—(John 4:9-30, NKJV).

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world”—John 4:39-42.

Here is what Jesus did.

  1. He listened and engaged in conversation.
  2. He spoke into her life.
  3. He gave her information and spoke prophetically.

He did not give her the Four Laws.

He did not condemn her.

  • Her life was impacted by his speaking into her life.
  • She shared her experience with others.
  • The citizens of the city invited Jesus to stay for two days.

Many believed in Jesus!

That is your formula for community impact.

There is a Grassroots Movement

Church leaders, business leaders and intercessors are joining together in a collective effort to impact their city and community for Christ in Santa Rosa, Calif., they call Together in Christ. Their simple strategy of praying together, caring—expressed by solving problems in the community that government simply cannot afford to address, and then sharing the love of Christ in their community is proving to be both effective and sustainable. This has been going on for more than 18 years, but it wasn’t until the marketplace got involved that leaders began to see real breakthrough in what they were doing. Today, this initiative has more than 60 churches involved, many of whom also partner with men and women in the marketplace for the purpose of impacting their city. Thousands of residents are being touched directly. The least and the last, the hurting and the hopeless, the isolated and the insulated are all seeing the gospel in action and are responding. The city’s crime rates are improving while the regional, state and national trends are heading the opposite direction. Recently, the city of Santa Rosa was recognized nationally as an “All American City.” Now, city leaders are looking to Together in Christ as a partner in solving problems and seizing opportunities in the city.

Deuteronomy 28:13 says that we are to become the head, not the tail. This can only happen when the collective local church serves the community in humility and through the love of Christ.

There is a grassroots movement taking place across the United States right now. It involves the formation of community-based Christian coalitions made up of local churches, workplace leaders and intercessors who desire to see change in their communities.  For the last 10 years I have been traveling nationally and internationally and have watched this take place. When God wants something started, He puts it into the heart of His people and you begin to hear others begin similar initiatives. These initiatives now have a common thread to them.

In March of 2005 I was speaking in a conference in Red Deer, Canada. There were about 1,000 people in the audience when Cindy Jacobs made her way to the podium. Cindy is known for her prophetic ministry to nations and individuals. This was the second time Cindy has spoken over me, but never in a public setting like this. In that statement she said “God was going to give me a model for city transformation that would be replicated around the world but it would first begin in my own hometown.” It would be several years after that when I would discover what that model was. Today I see that model being used in no less than 30 cities across the United States and also in other nations. If we are going to reclaim culture, I believe local community transformation movements must be a part of that. It will mean that the seven cultural mountains will be affected on a localized level through these coalitions.

City Transformation “Trinity”

I believe there is a community transformation “trinity” of relationships that is key to community transformation.  I believe three groups of people are vital to bringing change to the spiritual climate in a city or community: (1) intercessors, who are called to intercede for the city; (2) pastors and nuclear church leaders who have a vision for their cities; and (3) workplace  leaders who want to use their marketplace influence for change within their communities. These are men and women called to impact their cities through their spheres of influence in the seven specific cultural mountains.

In 2003, the Lord began to impress upon me that I was to start bringing the workplace leaders and ministries together in the city of Atlanta for a vision of transforming the city. We partnered with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in April 2004 to host a workplace conference for the city. However, nothing really sparked any ongoing initiatives from that meeting.

I continued to meet with the workplace ministries, but nothing seemed to be happening. I kept trying to find intercessors in the city, but I was unsuccessful. Finally, I got to know Alistair Petrie when I had him speak at our international conference in October 2004. Alistair is an authority and researcher on city transformation. When I shared my frustration with him, he said, “Oh, you need to meet Jacquie Tyre. She is one of your key city intercessors.” I met with Jacquie, and things immediately began to happen. I began connecting with some of the city church leaders.

A short time later, in February 2005, Graham Power, founder of Transformation Africa and the Global Day of Prayer, came through town. I was asked to host a meeting for Graham to share the vision of the Global Day of Prayer. Up to this point, the city had not made any decisions about joining this initiative; but that day about 100 leaders in the city came to hear Graham and by the end of the meeting made a commitment to hold an Atlanta Global Day of Prayer. Things started moving fast. Within 30 days $225,000 was raised, a 20,000-seat venue was reserved and the city began coming together. However, we have learned that events are not what changes a city, but they are merely the catalyst to get leaders working together toward a common goal in the city.

I believe the reason that all this happened is because these three groups of people came together in a unified effort to impact our city—intercessors, apostolic nuclear church leaders and workplace leaders.

I find that God is using workplace leaders to be the catalyst to bring the three core groups of people together more and more. Perhaps this is because workplace leaders don’t have turf issues to wrestle with like local church leaders. I also discovered that not every local church pastor has a heart for their city. If a pastor has the gift and office of pastor, he often is more consumed with the needs of his local congregation. It is only when the pastor has a more “apostolic” view of his community and exhibits a desire to impact the community at large that they are willing to be involved in such an effort.

What is Required for City and Community Transformation?

There are four key ingredients required among its Christian leaders to see a city transformed. These include prayer, humility, unity and knowledge of God’s ways. Let’s discuss each of these.

Prayer

In every city in which transformation has taken place, believers have come together to pray for their city. Prayer changes the spiritual climate of a city. Some of the main areas of influence that must be the focus of our prayers include churches and businesses; the legal, political, educational and medical fields; and the media/entertainment industry. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Workplace leaders must be strategically aligned with intercessors to impact their city.

Swedish prayer leader, Kjell Sjoberg, who is now deceased, often read about his exploits in city transformation in the next day’s newspaper after their evening prayer initiatives, explained that there are gates that we have to go through in order to get into a place. “The gates are the key persons, the decision-makers, they are groups such as changers of commerce, political groups, orders, clubs and large businesses. They are not our enemies. But we believe also that there are demonic principalities ruling over towns and places. They are to make use of key persons in a town, and these in turn become the closed gates of the town that hinder the representatives of the Kingdom of God from coming in and gaining influence for God’s kingdom. In the gates of hell, councils are held to enable the principalities and the powers to gain control of the power bases built up in places and centers of population, and so maintain their control in the world. The object of the power bases is to be able to resist invasion by the kingdom of heaven initiatives by Jesus Christ and continued by the church and by the hosts of angels supporting it. Our role is to be the invasion force that goes into the attack against the stronghold of hell. ‘The Lord Almighty ...will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.’” [1]

Humility
God uses men and women who recognize that they need each other and do not seek glory for their work. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” [2]The workplace leaders that God is using today care little about being in the limelight. The same is true of the shepherds of local churches in a community. When shepherds begin to pastor their community, the turf wars begin to evaporate. Both leaders have a Kingdom perspective that avoids bringing attention to themselves or any one group in order to impact the city for Jesus Christ.

Unity

Jesus said, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”[3] God calls each of us individually and corporately to represent Christ to the world, but our independence, pride and egos often prevent us from becoming unified in the purposes of Christ. We are scattered in our church affiliations and in our city transformation efforts. Unity is built when we roll up our sleeves and determine to work together—pastors, priests and people from every walk of life. The marketplace and the Church must come together to bless the city with practical initiatives that benefit the city.

Knowledge of God’s Ways

Those of us in the workplace are often zealous for God, but we can move in presumption instead of in a faith that is rooted in knowledge of God’s ways. Such was the case of David, who wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. He was zealous for God and celebrated as he brought the Ark into the city. However, the ark was being carried into the city on a cart instead of by priests on poles, as God required. When a man named Uzzah reached out to catch the Ark when the oxen stumbled, he was immediately struck dead by God. “When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”[4] David was devastated.

We must connect with our priests and pastors to jointly work on bringing the presence of God into our cities. Otherwise, we will fail like David and be guilty of presumption. “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:2).

Blessing the City

The final piece of the puzzle that has been missing in city transformation efforts is the intentional efforts to bless the city. Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw have written a book entitled, The Externally Focused Church. In this book they cite a trend taking place across the nation where churches are becoming intentional about impacting social problems in the city. Eric was a speaker at our 2008 Reclaim 7 Mountains International Conference. He shared his thoughts on city transformation.

“The first paradigm shift pertains to where we, as the church, see ourselves in relation to our communities.  Will we remain outside of the community inviting people in or will we go to our communities, seeking to be a transforming agent? The church is called to be separate in lifestyle but never called to be isolated from the people it seeks to influence. For many years founding pastor, Robert Lewis, of Fellowship Bible Church (FBC) in Little Rock was content to be growing a successful suburban mega church.  By his admission, FBC was a “success church.” Success churches seek to grow by having attractive programs and offerings that people can come to and benefit from.  But Robert grew increasingly dissatisfied with the impact FBC was having on the community.  So he made an appointment with the mayor of Little Rock and asked one question, "How can we help you?" The mayor responded with a list of challenges facing the greater Little Rock area. 

FBC then challenged themselves with the question, “What can we do that would cause people to marvel and say, ‘God is at work in a wonderful way for no one could do these things unless God were with them?”’ That one question was the first step in becoming what Lewis calls a “bridge-building church.” For the past four years, FBC has joined with more than 100 other churches and more than 5,000 volunteers in the greater Little Rock area and served their communities by building parks and playgrounds and refurbishing nearly 50 schools.  They set records for Red Cross Blood donations and have enlisted thousands of new organ donors. They began reaching out to the community through "LifeSkill" classes (on finances, marriage, wellness, aging, etc.) in public forums like banks and hotel rooms, with more than 5,000 people attending. 

In the past four years the churches of greater Little Rock have donated nearly a million dollars to community human service organizations that are effective in meeting the needs of at-risk youth. They have renovated homes and provided school uniforms, school supplies, winter coats and Christmas toys for hundreds of children.  After getting new shelving for her classrooms, one school principal said, ‘I think this is the most fabulous day of my life as far as education is concerned.  I’ve been in this 29 years and this is the first time a community or church project has come through for us.’

The churches of Little Rock have let their light shine in such a way that Jesus Christ is made real to the community.  Once a church makes this mental shift regarding how it lives in its community, it is only limited by its creativity in how it can serve its community and be the salt and light it was meant to be.   It makes the transition from providing ministry programs for the community to forever changing its relationship to a community.” [5]

We see very few communities throughout the nation that have come together collectively to impact the city like Little Rock. In most situations we see individual churches operating as silos in their communities. They do have some impact, but not what they could have if done as a collective Church of the city.

When all of these efforts become focused the net result is we begin to fulfill Deuteronomy 28:13,14: “The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” In almost every case where we see the Church serving the city, it results in giving the Church more influence in the city among its leaders. This is biblical Christianity. We win by serving and solving problems in the community as a unified Body of Christ. Influence becomes a fruit of our obedience versus a goal.

In April of 2007 I was led to begin a community transformation effort in my local community and city. Cumming, Ga., is a northern suburb of Atlanta about 40 miles due north. The county has about 125,000 people that live in it. This process started by a man calling me and asking me to meet with the pastor of the local first baptist church. This led to meeting two other pastors from two other denominations.  The more we talked the more we collectively began to build a vision for the city. Soon the Lord led me to some key intercessors who had a burden for the city. This began to form a core group of people. We began to meet for prayer two times a month, every other Tuesday. We met in a historical schoolhouse located one block from city and county government buildings. Later meetings were held in local churches. The meetings are held for one hour, noon to 1p.m.

Several community vision casting meetings began the process of the blessing the city phase. However, the process is still young and growing in its development. There are many other communities that are farther along than we are. However, we understand the model that God has given us and are walking as He leads in this process.

Community coalitions must begin through relationships of trust. Bringing together different denomination persuasions can be challenging.  It requires a laying down of agendas and finding common areas of agreement and sensitivity to the differing expressions of faith. Charismatics must accept the more conservative expression of their mainline brothers and sisters. Mainline leaders must accept the more expressive Charismatic believers. God created all of us uniquely and we must embrace one another for what we agree on, not what we don’t agree on. A mentor once told me “doctrine is what you are willing to die for, everything else is negotiable.” I believe he is right.

In summary, if we want to begin to transform our cities we must affirm workplace leaders as having a key role in establishing the Church in the city by equipping them and validating their ministries through our local churches. We must be intentional about bringing intercessors, workplace leaders and pastors who have a vision for their city together with an intentional process that allocates money and resources to projects that will bless the city. Then we will begin to see the transformation of cities.

A Final Word

Joseph was a change agent whose life modeled the Kingdom of God. His secular employer saw God in him: “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge…”[6] Our goal is not to be in charge; our goal is to manifest the love and grace of Jesus Christ to all of the culture.

When we represent the Kingdom of God in our lives, we will naturally become change agents no matter where we reside. Are you ready to be a change agent for God’s glory?


[1] Is 28:5-6
[2] Ps. 25:9
[3] John 17:23
[4] 2 Sam 6:6-7
[5] Os Hillman, Faith and Work Movement,  Aslan Group Publishing, Cumming, GA p. 105 2004
[6] (Gen 41:38, 39).

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