[featured_image]Where you stand determines what you see. If you and I are going to be missionaries right where we live, it’s important for us to see the neighborhoods in our city through God’s eyes. We need to choose to stand where we can see what’s going on around us, what God is doing in our city, and where we can join Him. At the Organic Church Movements Conference, my friend Deb Hirsch addressed her concern that we have distorted views of the world around us. She identified this as an obstacle to engaging in mission. “To understand God’s heart for the city,” she explained, “we need to go where the city is experiencing pain.” When she lived in Melbourne, Australia, her ministry was to the marginalized people from most churches and society (gay, lesbian, and trans-gendered persons). She also worked for the Salvation Army assisting clients who experience homelessness, poverty and mental health issues.
“Every time I left my house,” she told us, “I was confronted with lost people in need of a Savior. If I don’t see that, I become lazy.” Too many Christians (including me) become lazy and complacent. Complacency is an incredible barrier to engaging in the mission of Jesus. When we fail to see what He sees, we fail to feel what He feels for the city and those who live in our city.
How can you cultivate God’s heart for your city?
No matter how long you’ve lived in your city, you will benefit from taking a “Missional Tour” of your city. Grab some friends and discover God’s heart for your city together! Spend the entire day observing, learning and seeing what God sees when He looks at your city. As you prepare for your “Missional Tour,” research the places where God is working and plan to visit as many as you can in one day. Also, seek to understand a “theological overview of God’s heart for the city, a missiology of the city, a historical perspective of the city, [and] some current demographics of the city” (Street Signs, p 253).
As you anticipate driving and walking around your city, pray that you will “see what God sees” in your city. Observe. Look. Listen. Ask Questions. Learn. Visit a variety of ministries where God is working. Discover how each ministry began and how the workers spiritually sustain themselves for their work. Pray specifically for each ministry you visit. Here are some key questions to ask to observe God at work in your city:
- Where would you take someone to see that God is alive in your city?
- What is God doing in your city?
- How can you really care for your city?
- What are the global issues facing your city?
- Who are the stakeholders in your city?
- Do churches and ministries want to work together, or will they if asked?
- Given what you know and have observed, what needs to be done in your city?
- How can poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and health issues be addressed in your city?
- What are major barriers to fulfilling God’s mission in your city?
- Where is there pain in your city?
- What does God see when He looks at your city?
- What breaks God’s heart?
- What gives God joy?
- What could God use here?
- What would God like to clean up?
- What different classes and cultures are in your city?
- What languages are written on signs in your city?
- What can you do about what you’ve learned?
Here’s a suggested format that you could use for your “Missional Tour” (adapted from
Street Signs by Ray Bakke and Jon Sharpe, p. 254-255. They suggest this concept as part of a City Consultation, however, I think that every Christian would benefit from taking a “Missional Tour” like this):
One Day Missional Tour
Midmorning: Visit four to five ministry sites, listening to their stories and passion (homelessness, youth at risk, immigrant resettlement, community development, drug rehabilitation, etc.) Ask the following questions:
- What is unique about the context of this ministry model?
- What is the history, the big idea, the vision and the origin of this ministry?
- What is the actual program? Where and how is it delivered?
- How is the ministry organized? What kind of structures? When did they organize?
- Who is the primary audience? Who do they actually reach?
- What are the costs associated with this ministry model? How do they pay for it?
- What is the biblical/theological rationale for this ministry model?
- How does the ministry equip others so that it is sustainable?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of this ministry model?
- What are the transferable principles?
Lunch: Eat together in an ethnic restaurant. Seek to understand the cultural environment and ethnic diversity of your city.
Afternoon: Prayer walk in a public place. Learn to pray without making a scene! Carefully complete an exegesis of people and places.
Dinner: Enjoy fellowship over a meal and debrief together. Respond and discuss what you’ve observed and what you sense God is speaking to you personally and corporately. Consider what actions God is asking you to take in response to what you’ve seen. Ask the following questions:
- What is your biggest “A-ha”?
- What is your biggest question?
- What can you apply to your own life and ministry?
After completing your “Missional Tour” of your city, share what you’ve discovered with others—pastors, churches, small groups, etc. Help them to capture God’s heart for your city! If necessary, keep touring your city and introduce more and more people to the mission field where you live!Keep cultivating a conscious eye for what the Holy Spirit is doing in your city. Then join Him!
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