Movement Day Global Cities 2016 was Awesome – it centered around the issue of City Transformation and acknowledging this could only be done in unity. Unity was defined in its widest possible sense to include the church and all the spheres of life. A phrase I heard often was “it takes the whole body to win a whole city”. In attendance at the conference were leaders from over 95 nations around the world and it was a great delight to hear from a real diversity of voices in ethnicity, age (though not so much gender) about what God is doing around the globe and let me say that it is good and super encouraging.
On the Monday I attended the United Nations with 40 folk from the UK . After a tour of the place we went for a prayer meeting on the 27th floor hosted by the UN prayer Team who are a powerhouse of faith filled intercessors. The UN represents all nations – Afghanistan to Zimbabwe . We were reminded that we have global spiritual authority and can execute Gods kingdom over nations by legislating in prayer. God changes lives of people who change nations.
Later in the afternoon we gathered with the rest of the UK team of 100 people in Metro Baptist Church where a prophetic word was given about how God by his Holy Spirit is bringing threads from all corners and weaving by His own making. We were encouraged to hang onto Him in the journey and allow Him to with others make His glory known.
In the evening I attended a prayer meeting at Brooklyn Tabernacle and Dr Tony Evans used great stories to emphasize the point that Kingdom Prayer is grabbing heaven for the purposes of earth so that earth is altered.
The conference opened on Tuesday with Dr Mac Pier. Using statics Dr Mac made the point that cities are growing at a breathtaking speed and the church need to respond to the needs of our cities. Mac Pier regarded the refugee crisis as the greatest issue facing the church and challenged us to be a people who bought heaven into history, through the supernatural intervention of God.
Dr Bishop Peter Morron reminded us that in seeking the welfare of the City the church has a head start as Jesus is praying “thy kingdom come”.
Bill Hybels was one of the keynote speakers and when asked what the two greatest challenges facing the church were today his response was race and the refugee crisis. He challenged us to be globally minded.
Jayakumaru Christian from India pointed to the fragile state of society and the growing gap between the rich and poor. Society tells the poor that they have been abandoned by God but this is not true and the Church has a responsibility to show them how God is deeply concerned about them contrary to a world that hungers for entitlement. Jayakumaru offered a hard challenge in saying that the church is not able to do mission among the poor until it takes the posture of intentional powerlessness. Powerlessness is the daily language of the poor; it is an unpopular choice in a world that pursues power and popularity. Movements are always born in the margins it is monuments that exists in the centre. Jaykumaru urged us to have a theology of anger for without this, our hope is ineffectual.
Tim Keller opened his talk with the following stellar statemet, “church growth which does not affect the whole church is not biblical – in the human body where growth occurs which does not impact the whole body it is called cancer”. Tim Keller recognised that all across the world there is fragmentation but the church must major on being christen first. Our love for Christ must trump our ethnicity, class, political views and nationality – all these are secondary. Tim pointed to the rise of global Christianity and a need to see that its not predominately white males as so often is represented at senior levels – its time for leadership in church first to look as multi ethic as the cities in which it is placed.
One speaker said “the church is called to be the soul and conscious of the city”.
A young black man from Holland addressed the challenges with the Millennial generation and how there was a growing lack of confidence in the gospel. We live in a global market of ideas and the church needs to address the issues of the days and not leave them to MTV or Black Lives Matter. He proffered that what is needed is a more muscular gospel engagement. The world is lost about how to deal with diversity issues and questions such as how do we live with gay people – he stressed how the world is fragmenting and polarising. He offered some practical suggestions for engaging more effectively with the millennial generation:
Intergenerational – Millennials need space and freedom to lead but they also want to be led – there needs to be an effective partnership between the energy and the established.
Intermodal – It will take a lot of talents and abilities to bring the whole gospel to the whole world it is very important that leaders think globally but act locally and visa versa.
Intentional – To move forward we have to spend more time with God allowing Him to equip and refresh us – we need to major less on activity and more on relationship.
Bishop Claude from Charlotte talked about the fragility of our cities. He set his talk against a backdrop of facts and figures of Charlotte which on the surface sounded a successful, prosperous and harmonious place to live. Bishop Claude then led us to the events of 20/09/2016 the shooting of Michal Douglas which saw the city spiral into chaos uncovering the racial, ethnic and social inclusion tension and injustices which would be silent no more. Using the story of Peter and John going to the temple to be stopped by a man asking for alms Bishop Clause stressed that the muscularity of the church will only ever be effectively demonstrated if church bring the temple to the people. In offering the man Jesus, seeing the need beyond the need Peter and John bought transformation, reclamation and inclusion to the broken man. The challenge of the church is how we bring together people who are not friends and make them family.
Doxa Deo Church _Alan Platt from South Africa said “never waste a good crisis its always an opportunity for the church to shine”
Ian Shelton from Australia, provided a prophetic perspective and started by noting there is a clear agreement that this is a new epoch – God is doing a new thing. Ian went on to say that we can no longer reach a city in the way that we have in past season as God is speaking His Word of His Kingdom to cities. God is calling his people out of domestic spirituality into a new level of holiness and a new love relationship. Ian had 5 major points which I have highlighted in the body of this text. Jesus is coming and He is not asking permission, He is coming to cities. In addition, Ian reminded us about the importance of judgment – at its heart is redemption. Place matters – it matters where God has called us to – the priority is no longer the local church it’s the city, the place we have been assigned, there is only one thing more important than that which is the glory of God.
Ian went on to say “the war is in the gates” – he looked at the old testament story of Deborah. Whenever one in the ancient near east wanted to besiege a city the army would focus on the gates. The gates are the only way to get in and own a city. The gates control the city and we will never be able to enter in until we blast the gates. The two most important gates in the city are commerce – the merchants and government – the kings (mayors, councilors, and governmental influencers). Finally, Ian shared a thought “beauty will save the day”. The beauty of Christ seen in the saved, families restored unity. We must look for the new season and know the turn of the season.
For me coming back to my city I am asking God – If indeed the above is true what does this mean and what must I do. I was certainly challenged and would say that I was struck by the stories of breakthrough in cities only came as a result in a level of unity in prayer amongst leaders in the city. In my city somehow a compelling case must be made for gatekeepers to prioritize praying together to seek the welfare of the city.
Ian Sheltons’ message resonated with me for a number of different reasons. If God is speaking to cities then these prayer meetings for unity will no longer be limited to just the priests but will include the kings(mayors/politicians/ councilors) and the prophets (merchants/business/commerce).
On the issue of race – highlighted by a number of speakers as being a real issue in society from which the church was not excluded there is a responsibility for a level of judgement for the purposes of true global redemption to begin in the house of God. Dr Mac Pier believes “the spread of the gospel is in direct proportion to the level of unity in the church, as here there is common vision which will be deeply rooted in friendship and passion”.
I believe it’s time to begin to discuss the fragility within our churches on the issue of race. In doing so we must know that the kingdom of God advances according to the level of trust and not according the efforts of tokenism. When a new person is invited to a table – a table that has long established friendships its so easy engage with the old gang or folk who look like the old gang. In this instance, diversity is seen but it is not heard. The voice of the influencers is what creates capacity in others to awaken hope that change has come. Perhaps it times for those who have eyes to see these thing to become the muscularity in the church so that true, authentic transformation, reclamation and inclusion comes. We are the most educated, globalised, connected generation that has ever lived and unless we the church tackle this issue head on, acknowledging it as a relevant issue of the day we run the risk of enlarging the growing lack of confidence this generation has in the gospel.
Rev Jackie Davis, Chair of the Bristol EA.