A call for unselfish collaboration within the regional Church

This 4-part article has the essence of the following statements:

The citizens of our city like others have nurtured division and isolation, which resemble the words of the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy, “…men with whom we share a city, but not a community.  Men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort…”

Yet, I will state, recently I’ve seen ordinary people doing extraordinary things empowered by Almighty God… reconciliation and biblical transformation is happening when ordinary people (called the Church or Body) work together in collaboration with each other and God.

There is lament, a plea, and hope for contemporary renewal — radical, but authentic  faith within the Church as I state in part 3 and 4: 
I see emerging a generation and community who thrives on social relationships and longs for authentic experiences with God…  What if, as Jesus prayed, we ministered together as a unified Church — poor with affluent, mega with storefront, older believers with younger… ?

These are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things who are also saying, Enough is enough! Stop the bleeding.  “Stop dividing the Body… severing its limbs and discarding some of its body parts…”

Final edition: Part 4 with entire article for your convenience

Don’t you hate it when a good working relationship with someone falls apart?  It seemed so right and possessed so much potential.  There were extraordinary moments of success.  You may have experienced an extremely difficult time when you supported each other.  There was a unique bond.  However, life’s circumstances or a mindset change divided you and destroyed what could have been.

Part 1 – A Current Reflection

Now at 56, I’m often reminded of significant relationships that were cut short.  I also think of current friendships that have enormous potential for doing great things together.  I ask myself, How did I fail in the past?  What could I have done differently?  How can I foster sustainable relationships today?  I believe these are some of the same questions the Church should be asking itself today on its mission.

Some of the answers or at least a few thoughts to get the discussion started can be found in the words of a current friend, Chris Rice, “A divided world needs people with vision, spiritual maturity and daily skills integral to reconciliation.  The church needs fresh resources – a mix of biblical vision, skills in social and historical analysis, and practical gifts of spirituality and social leadership – in order to pursue reconciliation in real places, from congregations to communities.”

People and reconciliation are key words in Chris Rice’s statement.  But no person, organization, or church congregation is equipped to supply the needed resources described.  Ordinary people can do extraordinary things empowered by Almighty God.  Thus, reconciliation and biblical transformation happens when ordinary people work together in collaboration with each other and God.  Even if our friends say it in different ways, the essence of these words is what everyone wants to see happen in our city… people working together to solve our mutual problems.

Part 2 – A Past Reality

Unfortunately, history of the Church and our society reveals a different story.  Sen. Bobby Kennedy eloquently stated this reality about people, relationships, and violence in America during a 1968 speech only a few weeks before his assassination:

“…We learn at the last to look at our brothers as alien.  Alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community.  Men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort.  We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.  Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done too great… to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours…”

I agree with Kennedy and others who lament over the relational abandonment of our society.  Bluntly, it means divided, separate, or indifferent we will fall, but the Gospel gives hope that together we can stand.  What would it look like… what blessing awaits the Church if it were to live together in unity (Psalm 133) and functions as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)?

As another friend and author, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, recently quoted a 9th century Benedictine monk, “We must always be on the lookout for Christ’s twofold coming, the one when he comes day after day to stir our consciences, and the other when we shall have to give an account of everything we have done.  He comes to us now in order that his future coming may find us prepared.”  Will the Church, which includes every Christian and every congregation, heed these reminders and follow the countless examples of what it means to live and minister in a divided world?  Yes, we must remember the reality of our past if we’re to progress going forward.  Where do I see this happening?

I see emerging a generation and community who thrives on social relationships and longs for authentic experiences with God.  This is an expanding population of radical and revolutionary Christians willing to live and minister in this simple way — as Jesus taught and modeled.  A correction has begun in their hearts and a plea for action is upon many of their lips.  Will this restoration impact the Church?  Will their cry be heard in our city?

Part 3 – A Future Restoration

Therefore, It’s because of this reality and our history that I’ve asked the Church a series of questions over the past two years: What if the Church at Durham took seriously its responsibility for taking the Gospel to city kids and their families?  What if for 10 years a collaboration of churches and ministries comprehensively served the most physically and spiritually needy or under-resourced communities in Durham?

And by the way, these are the communities with no voice − where crime and evil have dominated life for way too long − where kids are not expected to succeed and adults are viewed with little value in solving its own problems.

What if peculiar doctrines of Scripture and Christian service in the community no long brought name-recognition or spiritual arrogance?  What if the Church set aside its differences and used its diverse strengths for compassionate and intelligent ministry to our city?  What if, as Jesus prayed, we ministered together as a unified Church — poor with affluent, mega with storefront, older believers with younger, etc?  These questions scream out for answers from each person as well as from the congregations that make up the regional Church at Durham.

Part 4 – A Lament, Plea, and Hope

Durham needs those willing to enter the pain and suffering of its people… those with a vision, which has been turned into a passion of service unto the Lord.  These are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things who are also saying, Enough is enough! Stop the bleeding.  Chris Heuertz stated in a 2010 sermon while in Durham, “Stop dividing the Body… severing its limbs and discarding some of its body parts as if they were insignificant or unimportant.”

A Lament for the Church

Oh Lord the bleeding has gone on for way too long.
I repent of my disobedience and contributing to the
lack of unity within the Body.  Forgive me oh God!

Your arm is not short nor weak to fulfill Your prayer
that we will be one as You and Your Father are One.
Oh Lord, so many do not believe in You because they
see the Church divided and separated from humanity.

Oh Lord, cleanse us of this great sin. Bring us together.
Create in us a pure heart and unify our actions oh Lord that we may join You in the work we are called to do.  Bring glory to Yourself as we glorify You in our unified expressions of the Gospel: justice, mercy, and humility.

A Plea for Action

Lamentation, restlessness, and a plea for action from the Church typically expresses radical Christians.  We have an authentic faith, but need a developing community to facilitate authentic or biblical expressions of the Gospel.  In possessing the greatest truth, we must show the greatest love, the heart of Christ, to accurately express the Gospel in words and deeds.  This is the greatest proof, which the Church and our city needs.  The proof that God really did …so love the world… that God’s plans are …not to harm you, but plans to give you hope and a future.  Our city will clearly understand this when it sees the Church believing, loving, and working together collaboratively with Christ-centered unity as it engages the culture of our city.  This is the proof Durham needs to welcome  Christ as God of our city.

Community-based kingdom building and collaborative ministry were clear in the New Testament where 39 of 40 explicit powers of the Holy Spirit were displayed in local communities.  All but 2-3 miracles of Christ were done in the community marketplace where people lived… not in worship gatherings or meetings. The proof of God through the Church is expressed in communities.

This proof is diminished if the Church is divided and segregated into non-collaborative congregations.  However, the Church is strongest and biblical when it collaboratively builds Christian community within local communities of our city.  There are several local initiatives gaining traction which show the greatest proof in Durham.

A Present Hope

When times are tough and a biblical response is needed, the Bible says, “…but the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do great exploits.” Daniel 11:32 Hope is present in Durham.  God’s people are initiating and sustaining many Gospel-centered efforts.  Here are some examples of the most collaborative initiatives building Christian community and hope in our city.

Pray for Durham is an initiative to have every street prayed over everyday by hundreds of concerned Christians for spiritual air supremacy over the city.  Durham Ministers in Prayer and Transformation Durham are meeting weekly and focus their prayer on Durham and not personal needs.  CEF, Reality Ministries, Urban Hope, and the Youth Life Foundation are working with children and youth in schools and neighborhoods daily.  Bull City Outreach ministers to the homeless and hungry; Frontlinez Ministries holds monthly block parties; and JusticeMatters, a Christian non-profit, provides pro-bono legal services to those living within the same communities where the above ministries serve.

In addition, ABCD is an emerging group of intermediary Christian community developers, which empowers community assets while providing a supportive learning environment, resources, and tools to those who transform communities.  The last two examples of hope are using a web-based approach to uniquely connect the regional Church and the city to each other and opportunities to serve its fellow-man.  DurhamCares is helping our city love its neighbors and engage in serving each other, building relationships across cultural boundaries, and transforming our community through committed involvement.  Bless Durham exists to be a communication hub for the Body of Christ and bless Durham through the strategic coordination of efforts and relationships within our community.

Many of these church, marketplace, and non-profit ministers are part of an urban network, which meets regularly to seek diverse ways of collaboration in ministry and share its resources for the development of Christian communities in Durham over the next 10 years.  The Church working together will stand… develop many initiatives like these, and do even greater exploits.