Since 2007, more people live in cities around the world than in rural areas for the first time in history. This trend is unlikely to change. To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel moves beyond the call to evangelism or even church planting in the cities. The authors describe a whole new measure of church health: the health of the city. The measure of how well the church is doing in a community is not how well individual churches are doing, but how well the whole community is doing. Notice that they didn’t say how well “a church” is doing, but “the church.” Just as “the church at Ephesus” referred to a network of churches in the New Testament, the church in a city today should band together to improve the health of the whole city.
One simple example of community involvement included in the book described a church that asked each member to give ninety minutes over the next ninety days to serve “the least of these” in a tangible way. The church hosted a fair for local human service agencies to recruit church members to volunteer in their organizations. Then on a weekend members worked all day Saturday across dozens of organizations. Volunteers at the schools went to clean, landscape, paint, pick up trash and then at the end of the weekend celebrate with school families and faculty at a community picnic.
Here’s a discussion point from the book… the authors advocate that churches “come along side existing organizations.” After all, a food bank is a food bank. There doesn’t need to be a “Christian” food bank according to the authors. I’d quibble with this. Food banks can do some good, but an approach that is formal, non-relational, and does very little to help with the root cause of the hunger need is too simple of a solution. We can do better. Churches should work toward a more personal, relational, and holistic approach to solve community problems. See more here.
This book is worth reading. You’ll find yourself wanting to buy copies and give them to others who have a vision for reaching their whole city or those who know that a healthy church’s ministry should be much more than programs at the church building for its members.