Friday, April 22, 2016

Pastoring the Community, pt. 2: Urban Renewal

The model of “Pastoring the Community” can also be explored in terms of urban renewal. We see this most obviously in Isaiah 61
“Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” [NASB]

Like other organizations involved in urban renewal, we also take part in housing, economic development (through starting businesses and providing employment), refocusing resources, and building partnerships. However, we know that the work doesn't stop, nor start, there.

In Isaiah 61, it all starts with the Holy Spirit (The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon bring good news to the afflicted). In the New Testament, you see the Holy Spirit falling on people and moving them to preach, heal, and care for those around them. It was the thing that knit together the Church. This new life brings with it healing and transformation for those who receive it. They go on to engage in the good works they were made to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If you look closely at Isaiah 61, you see that those rebuilding the ancient ruins were the afflicted who received good news, were healed, and transformed. Money cannot do this. Development cannot do this. Jobs cannot do this. Those can all be tools, at times necessary, to help with the process.

There is an aspect of coming along side people and neighborhoods that has to happen. This is vital for equity to be present. To give up your self and your plans, and to use what you have to create opportunity for others, caring for them, are some actions that are required to work within the midst of these external, physical tools like jobs and housing.

We've all inherited the effects of the sins of those who've come before us. The sins of our fathers include racism, neglect, violence, oppression, apathy, goes on and on. The church has tried a variety of ways to approach these wounds, ranging from being the ones on the front lines, laying down their lives and bringing things to light, to engaging society through marketing and pop culture. The Gospel of the Kingdom is good news that affects all of life because it has something to say about all of life. How you interact with neighbors and enemies. How you treat laborers. How you utilize money. How you view government. What you do with the work of your hands. How you live with fellow believers, caring for and ministering with them. The American dream is something else we've inherited, an idea that has changed our perspective of reality and purpose. Ultimately, it is self-serving. Climb the ladder, get a house, be successful. The Gospel says lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.

Sun Ministries is seeking to develop faith communities through our missionary work. This is not the same as a church, at least not the popular definition of the term. This is a community of believers, ministering actively in their neighborhoods, through the use of their gifts and the work of their hands. It creates networks of businesses, providers, caretakers, and opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship to develop.

Location is a vital part of urban renewal. You can't effectively be pastoring a community that is not yours. If you can walk away from the gun shots, decay, pollution, and signs of neglect, you will never be affected by them the same way. Living in the midst of it not only more effectively makes you an agent of renewal (by being a member in the community, living in a house, working in a business, walking down the streets, playing in the parks), it also more effectively makes you an agent of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NASB “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself...and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though Christ were making an appeal through us...”

This ministry of reconciliation is a matter of relationships. We live in a world of relationships broken by division – racism, distrust, abuse. We must address these intentionally and mindfully. These are the same wounds that have affected urban areas, and God's people have the Spirit and the word of reconciliation to come in and start to bring healing. This happens through enacting equity, through laying aside privilege and utilizing our labor, compassion, resources, and gifts to minister.

This starts as simply as loving our neighbor. As we said previously, the Bible states 8 times that this act is the fulfillment of the law. Just imagine if every Christian owned this ministry of reconciliation, began loving their neighbors and enemies, and walked the way Jesus did. Even if we're not specifically called to a work in the inner city, if God's people begin living by His design, then urban spaces, and the people living there, would be renewed.

Read Pastoring the Community, Part 1 - Social Justice

Read Pastoring the Community, Part 3 - Social Entrepreneurship

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