To Accelerate City-Reaching!
#1. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!!!
Humbly we admit that God does not NEED any of us, nor our best possible systems for reaching the world. We're just called to be found being 'faithful'. Thus when he commands us to go into all the world and make disciples and teach them everything He's commanded... then we just need to DO IT. Don't just ask WWJD, but in fact DWJWD!
So why City Blogging? The apostle Paul said, "we spread the gospel rapidly". But let's be frank here, are we really doing it? Are we really spreading the gospel rapidly? Every researcher I've read in the last 30 years has noted the slow growth of the Church here in America. We, the Church, need to admit that indeed we are NOT accomplishing the mission Christ himself commanded us to do.
SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!
One of Jonathan Edwards' main resolutions says... "Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote [Resolution #1... 'whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory']. In order words, look for innovations to help accomplish the work at hand... better & faster.
Or notice what business gurus look for, as a basis for making more money, more quickly.... 'CHANGE'. That is, they often use the 'P.E.S.T.' model as they search for opportunities & threats. They realize that CHANGE is the source of new opportunities and threats, so they look for major Political, Environmental, Socio-economic, and Technological changes as a source for better accomplishing their goals. As Christians become driven to help accelerate the Great Commission, we too will look out for major changes as major opportunities.
Consider Wayne Gretsky's admonition, "Don't go where the puck is; go where it's gonna be!" In this case, here in the 21st Century God has given us great opportunities; not the least of which is connecting and communicating at the speed of Light. And like a hockey puck, we can see where this is all going -- more of the same... only faster... and even better. Technology will continue to change the way we conduct life. And our mission.
We hear sermon after sermon regarding 'stewardship'... of everything except... stewardship of new-paradigm opportunities. We leave the biggest most obvious new asset sitting dormant by the church-door. Technology. Internet. And at the same time, too often we leave our young, technically-adept, potential future leaders sitting on the sidelines of the mission, playing their handheld video-games on the back row of the church, if they're in church at all. Duh, Church.
SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!
#2. THE COST/BENEFIT RATIO IS AWESOME!
The major power of the Church has been and always will be, LOW COST. God is never short of resources for accomplishing His will. We're the ones who always seem to be 'short'.
Consider the average preacher who at the end of a 20-minute sermon COULD say to his flock... "Now go. Pray without ceasing... for free. Read your Bible every day... for free. Love your neighbor as yourself and tell 'em the Good News... for free. Check in on your brothers & sisters this week... for free. The best things in life truly are free.
Shouldn't our monetary resources go where they're needed most... like leveraging as much of this 'free' ministry as possible? Following our folks who are doing the best 'free ministry'. Following them as they go help the poor, relieve suffering, or a myriad of other good ways that attest to the gospel. Use our money expeditiously to leverage and accelerate the spread of the gospel. Fund leaders and coordinators who are maximizing their gifts & capabilities. But why fund people who intentionally disregard new opportunities to lead/coordinate the Church of Jesus Christ... not just on Sunday... but everyday?
All 21st Century research points to the internet as being a new-found opportunity for 'the little guy' to have an enormous impact via the web. Case in point: Bloggers. At zero-cost, and as easy as email, suddenly anyone have the potential for being read by hundreds or thousands of people each day. Or better yet, taken together... along with their collaborative friends who are also blogging and referring hits to each other... they're advancing their impact at the speed of light. For good or for evil. Which will it be, Church? This new-paradigm 'wave' will either carry us for a great ride... or it'll wash us to the bottom of the sea. What makes the difference is our ability to 'catch the wave' and enjoy it.
Example: IndyChristian.com alone enjoys thousands of hits each month... easily 25 times the average church's attendance in a month. Monthly cost? $25. But wait, when considering the impact of IndyChristian's entire network of blogging friends and their sites, many of which are free, it easily exceeds 1,000 times the impact of the average church. All this without needing a single donor. Thus it's sustainable for the long-haul. And without donors, no 501(c)3 is needed. No ministry bureaucracy. Move forward at the speed of your vision.
#3. VIRTUALLY SKETCHING THE MODEL CHURCH.
The internet has given us a great new opportunity to use it as a centralized drawing pad for what we desire the Church to become.
That is, like an architectural firm hired to help build a physical church building, we too can start drafting our vision on the internet, of what we understand from scripture the Church should be in reality. Then little by little we can continue fleshing it out -- much like an architect would then build a small-scale model... with little moving doors, furniture and 'people'.
A centralized citywide Christian portal begs the same great questions... "What should the Church in a city look like? And how will we accomplish the task?"
In fact, consider the internet itself. How did its growth explode... at nearly 'the speed of chaos'... and yet at the same time have enough 'order' that it created value and is accomplishing its purpose?
Some of us would point to network theory... ie, adopting an ethos of connectedness... with only minimal 'controls' put on it. Creativity was unleashed. And since the costs are so miniscule, most sites were free. Anything seemed possible... and thus we have seen an enormous growth rate. And yet there were a very few controls that had to be in place in order for servers, phonelines and people to be able to work together at all. We would point to 'protocols' that were a vitally essential. IP-addressing, HTML, and so on.
Wisdom seems to be found in the balancing of connected creativity and empowerment... with only minimal protocol. And doesn't that perhaps give us a picture of the model Church? For the citywide Church to be explosively effective, perhaps all we need is to determine the optimal 'protocol', then work toward creating an ethos of connectness and collaborative impact.
What might the requisite protocol include? Let me only suggest for starters, that our primary protocol is Christ as the only name under heaven by which mankind MUST be saved... and the core definition-set of what that means. Is there an absolute standard that we can all agree to adhere to? Sure. The historic truth that the Bible is God's Word to us. Notably, the Bible-believing Church of Jesus Christ tends to draw the same conclusions from the Word about the core salvific tenets.
And protocol must include humility among all of us. In fact, we'll each need enough humility to realize that beyond the core tenets above, EACH OF US hold some wrong views of what the Bible really says. Thus humbly, we must recognize our need of a 'John 17' ethos of connectedness in Christ's love, so that we can sharpen one another.
So does all this mean that an internet representation of the Church will be one centralized common site? Before I answer that, let me ask socratically... "Is your local Church one centralized common (building) site?" No, it's not. It's the people, even though they may most prevalently be known as they congregate there. But in reality, they are the Church every day... where they live, work, go to school and play. Same answer re the internet representation of the Church in a city -- it's the people, and their personal websites and their group-sites, even if that well-connected tapestry of sites has a centralized, convening site.
And yes, perhaps like every team, we need some capabilities to coordinate the connecting and communicating process. Team-sites are indeed handy mechanisms to expedite the accomplishing of our work. We call it being able to 'sing off the same hymnpage'. So yes, it seems apparent that the city Church, as represented on the web, would have a centralized point among the great tapestry of sites who follow the same protocol.
Here in Indianapolis, IndyChristian.com is a team site which connects to all the collaborating, Bible-believing churches, ministries, businesses and personal-sites in the metro area. Further, we also aggregate all the news & announcements that our participating sites provide automatically via RSS feeds.
Further, we've now at least started developing an "Annual State of The Church, Indianapolis" report. Immediately we're confronted with... "What SHOULD BE the goals and attempted accomplishments of the Church?"
So we've also started a general site... ModelChurch.com... to at least 'beg the right questions', and stimulate thinking about what the Church in any city should be.
Let's virtually sketch the Church in our cities.
#4. CROSSING DIVIDES...
Here in Indy, our bypass rings the city. Largely everything inside the ring is considered inner-city. Outside the ring is suburbia. When I ask my suburban friends to go with me to the inner-city, they tend to say 'no way'. It's a totally foreign culture to them, and seems dangerous. And the reverse is often also true... my friends from the inner-city don't want to venture out to suburbia. It's totally foreign to them and seems unfriendly, if not dangerous. Maybe a place they'd get profiled, harassed and maybe even locked-up for no good reason.
But all these folks MIGHT 'click' across these dividing lines!
Author Michael Emerson, in "Divided By Faith" makes the case that our tight social circles formed in evangelical churches accentuates these 'divides'. We've all heard the sad indictment that the most segregated hour of the week is Sunday morning at 11. Emerson goes on to point to our typically-tight, racially-homogenous circles as counter-productive -- ie, contributing to some of the very problems we'd all like to solve. Example: Job-networking. When a job opening occurs, we tend to alert and recommend people we know. Thus continuing the racial divide in economics. How embarrassing to the cause of Christ.
Suburban pastors often say they would LIKE to hookup with an urban church. And urban ministries often say their biggest obstacles to their mission could often be resolved by having some great suburban partners.
The devil has been way too effective, way too long, at his schemes of 'pride & divide'.
But all of us MIGHT 'click' across these dividing lines.
And if Indianapolis is any model, perhaps other cities could also be helped in their efforts to connect urban/suburban ministries... by starting with INTERNET connectivity. Find out about other ministries via the net. When & where are collaborative meetings taking place? Attend. It's easy to be critical from afar; but the issues become much more real when you get to know folks who deal with them every day. So get to know people NOT like yourselves. You'll be glad you did.
And if this is true across racial lines, might it also be true across denominational lines? Folks in another denomination are not so easily demonized when you see they don't necessarily believe what you always THOUGHT they believed. Inside the four walls of churches, it's fairly easy to demonize the 'other camp'. But out in the public arena of the internet, we all get a better hearing. We can read each other's statement of faith, and realize we very often agree on these essentials. And isn't it great to see they're also anxious to carry out the Great Commission and Great Commandment?
A first step in any city-reaching movement is to 'connect' with those who share our purpose & principles. Connect for prayer, planning and pursuit of the Great Commission & Great Commandment. The internet now offers us a plethora of new opportunities to connect at the speed of Light.
And it's way easier to get to know each other well, in a hurry. Click to your 'About' page. Click your 'Statement of Faith'. Click to your 'Bio' page. Read your blog -- stay in touch with the significant things going on in your life and ministry.
And thus, it's easy to STAY connected. Links stay connected.
And cyber links turn into relationships. When I launched IndyChristian.com six years ago, I was still new to the city and knew virtually no one. Now... virtually... I seem to know everyone. And our like-minded relationships are increasingly turning into action.
In fact, because the internet has now made it so easy to connect, we're all getting 'over-subscribed'... ie, too many connections. So we're even starting to subconsciously filter those connections. We needn't wait for new acquaintances to catch the vision -- we can zero in on connecting to 'driven Christians' who have been praying for years about harmonized city impact. We prioritize connections among those who value collaboration in the name of Christ. Critical mass has been achieved. The rest will catch up. "Thanks, Internet."
So it's no longer good enough to just build a database of connections. I now 'tag' each connection as to their level of collaboration, and what 'gifts' they bring to the table. It becomes easy then to know who we can most easily work with.
Btw, as the connections among collaborative Christians grow, so also does your ability to influence secular leaders. It's incredible how just an average Christian can start having a high visibility with city leaders. It's all because of connections, and visibility of those connections.
Be seen. Be aggregated. Read other bloggers; they tend to be well-informed and passionate about the mission at hand. You'll quickly see who you can trust and learn-from. Swap ideas & comments.
"Truth will prevail. And Truth at the speed of Light will prevail at the speed of Light."
In other words, the cream will rise to the top. Amidst our information explosion, God's Word will prevail as the best info on the information highway.
Caveat: "It's not as important that you make people understand, as it is that you ensure they don't MISunderstand what you're saying. The good news is that the internet is also a great place to debunk what people mistakenly may be thinking about 'the Church'.
Now, given that the internet is a great place to communicate, use it wisely... especially as a centralized place that your city-team can simply communicate the message of the Church, and can communicate with each other re meeting times, places, activities, ideas, great articles everyone should read, and major links to great resources. It's an opportunity to learn from others... and perhaps especially those in your city.
And importantly, a centralized website is a great place to enunciate the mission... over and over and over. It's a chronic reminder in order to keep focused, and not become too distracted by the day to day busyness. But more than that...
#7. TEAMWORK IN MOTION...
We're even now advocating for a behind-the-scenes secured site for centralized private conversations among cityreachers. Such an internal site might share prioritized goals, strategies, contact-lists and maybe even a centralized list of major project tasks.
CrossroadsConnection.com has been started for just this very purpose -- and not just one city, but city-reachers from all over. Thus, we're starting to compile great national contacts as well as state & local contacts, per city.
Think about it. To function as a city 'team', pastors & leaders need readi-access to contact info, and team reports. In fact, we have many common needs. So if we're not to reinvent the wheel, we'll need an easy and secure ability to 'share nicely'. Thus the need for a centralized, secured site.
#8. NEIGHBORHOOD BLOGS AS OUTREACH...
Blogs also then become free & easy sites for your specific neighborhood area. Think of it as a neighborhood newsletter... online. Perhaps get an egroup going as well, to get your neighborhood talking with each other. It may be a good foray to meet some new neighbors; stop over and see if they'd like to receive the neighborhood email. It might be a great opportunity to get to know them. Or get to know them over time, as you communicate regularly online.
If you sponsor the new neighborhood site, then you get to help formulate the purpose, the style, access, etc. In our neighborhood, when we set up the neighborhood site, we've chosen not to overtly force Christ down anyone's throat on the neighborhood page. Rather, we've simply reflect that the site has been 'sponsored by WhenYouNeedSomeone.com'. Thus, if/when they're inquisitive or interested, they can click it to learn more. And from there, they're only a click away from the gospel.
Publish an ongoing offer to pray-for and try to help with any known needs in the neighborhood. At least people will readily know how to dig deeper if they want to. And they know they have a friend they could turn to, in times of need.
If you start a neighborhood Bible study, etc., you have a good opportunity to be clearly understood as you publish key info at a neighborhood site. Likewise all sorts of neighborhood outreach efforts.
In fact, connecting your neighbors to Christ doesn't seem so daunting, as key Christians increasingly can connect to pray and work together to share the Good News with their neighborhood. Barna Research indicates that one out of 14 Americans is an evangelistic Christian. Is that your home, among 13 others? Barna also indicates that more than 40% are 'born again'. That only leaves appx 8 homes. With a little help (see Nhood.org), can you optimally share the Good News with those homes in the next 2 years? We call that the '2-minute Drill'. Quarterbacks have a plan for the late-going. Do you?
#9. WHAT'S YOUR 'BETTER' PLAN?
Do you have a better plan for accelerating the Great Commission?
If the American Church has not been doing a great job over the last several decades, then surely the answer cannot be 'keep on keeping on'.
There may well BE a better plan for our time, but how will it be known and widely adopted if there's no (free and) easy method of communications that can be used to build understanding, acceptance, and harmonious action?
Certainly one great plan is to increasingly PRAY TOGETHER for your community. But we can't stop there. We're commanded to GO. Admittedly, God does not NEED anything made by human hands... including the internet. Yet still He calls us to be found being faithful, making the most with what's available. And not simply burying it.
Nehemiah 4:9 says... "we prayed to our God and posted a guard day & night to meet this threat."
Dare we paraphrase... "We prayed to our God and posted a blog, 24x7 ?"
#10. BECAUSE IT IS CHANGING THINGS !
And we're only at the tip of the iceberg.
Here's a 'traditional' example: The Billy Graham organization came to Indianapolis in 1998, raised considerable funds and built a network of supporting churches to put on a crusade in the year 2000. It was excellent. People got saved. And then it was gone, along with the network.
Alternatively, we now have a zero-cost network online at IndyChristian.com. Pastors and leaders have started ministry networking meetings we call "Transform Indiana"... to pray together and build relationships for effective ministry together throughout the year. No official organization. No board. No budget. No fundraising. But collaborative initiatives have benefitted as a result.
For instance, the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) brought its national convention to Indy as a result of the growing network here who work together to change our inner city. Networks helped other new networks grow. By the grace of God, together we all helped CCDA's annual conference attendance go up 70% over their previous year.
"Faith, Hope and Love" (FHL) is an initiative which has benefitted from the TI network, and from the CCDA connections and efforts. FHL did a week of servant evangelism in one area of the city in their first year... on a near-zero budget. They leveraged relationships instead. This coming summer, the initiative will be citywide and will culminate in hosting a Christian festival at Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers... again, on a near-zero-budget. This demonstrates the value of relationships and communications using a tapestry of connections. And when the network is well-connected via the web, it doesn't fade quickly. It continues building.
CBMC here is growing greatly... creating many Paul/Timothy discipling relationships among businessmen. In the past year, they've doubled the numbers of such teams... dramatically defying the national average.
The Unleavened Bread Cafe (.org) is a little Christian cafe ministry in 'the hood'. Two years ago, our networking friends installed wireless connections there. As a result, it now serves as a great place for 'driven Christians' to hookup cross-culturally, across traditional dividing lines. They hosted all the CCDA host-city team meetings... and thus helped create an atmosphere of Christlikeness among now-well-connected Christians in our city. We now involve suburban and urban techs there, working together to train inner-city residents on the internet, and help them network for jobs.
A key partner in all this is Crossroads Bible College(Crossroads.edu), who trains Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world for Christ. The school features a unique multiracial mix... 50:50, and is growing increasingly diverse. As the city network has grown, so also has CBC grown -- 20% in each the last two years.
Likewise, the college blesses the Bible-believing community. Recently, the college hosted a special forum on "Homosexuality, Civil Rights and the Church" -- allowing an even-handed cultural debate represented by both sides of the issue, but highlighting a clear understanding from God's Word.
The network and the college also co-hosted a series called "Breaking Out of the Jail Cycle"... thus raising awareness and understanding of some of the multifaceted issues of community ministry. As a result, collaborating ministries decided to try to help 'as far upstream as possible', by pledging to use our network connections to actively recruit mentors for at-risk young students.
All this... And we've only just begun.
So... "Why City Blogging?"
To Accelerate City Reaching!
Join us. Help accelerate city-reaching in your community.
[For more information on how to get started... Visit Blews.Network.]