The vision of Christ City Church is ‘to make a positive difference spiritually, culturally and socially to the city of Dublin’. To spell that out…
- Spiritually – we want to see people come to know Jesus as Lord, Saviour & treasure
- Culturally – we want to do all we can to make Dublin a city of justice and peace, where the values of the kingdom of God are being worked out
- Socially – we want to love the poor and the oppressed, through acts of mercy and works of justice
We’re still only at the beginning of our journey as a church and the vision can seem very ‘grand’ and ‘abstract’. So, in this blog I want to earth this vision by outlining a number of things that are required if we’re to fulfil this vision over the coming years.
(1) A clear theology of the city which gives us a compelling vision for the city
St Augustine was one of the first people to write about this in his most famous book, ‘The City of God’. He said there is the city of Satan and the city of God.
- The city of Satan deifies power and wealth and human culture itself (making art, technology, business an end in itself instead of a way of glorifying God).
- The city of God is marked by God’s shalom (Jeru-shalom) – his peace. His peace is a place where stewardship, creation, justice, compassion and righteousness lead to harmony, family building and cultural development under God.
So we are to see the city of Dublin as something to love and win. We are to win it by seeking its shalom (Jeremiah 29:4-7) and seeking to spread the city of God within it, and to battle the city of Satan within it. We’re to love the city and pray for it even if we find the city a hard place to live (Jonah 4:10-11). Let’s be the best citizens for the city of Dublin, let’s fulfil our God-given creation mandate to seek the peace and prosperity of this city and let’s pray that as we do so we’d become an alternative city within this city, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16), that many would see our good deeds, that our light would shine and that many would come and be part of the city whose builder and architect is God himself (Hebrews 11:10)!
- Let’s pray that God gives us a heart and a vision for the city of Dublin (just as he wanted to give Jonah a heart for Nineveh – Jonah 4:10-11)
- Let’s consider making career and life choices which keep us in the city long-term and choices with a kingdom mindset so that instead of thinking “what can I take from the city and then move on?”. Instead be thinking “what can I give back?” (just as God told the exiles living in Babylon – Jeremiah 29:4-7)
- Let’s commit to the church community so as to create ‘a city within a city’, an alternative city which shines out and acts as a ‘city of refuge’ through which many find hope and life in Christ. Tim Chester has a great reflection on what it means to ‘imagine a city within a city’.
(2) A clear understanding of the integration of faith & work
As we have just looked at, in creation God gave mankind a mandate to work. Just as God himself is a worker (a gardener in creation, a carpenter in Jesus, a city-builder at the end of world), so we too are to imitate God by working. Typically there are two traps we must avoid:
- Seeing work as an idol (through which I gain my identity)
- Seeing work as a necessary evil (through which I endure without any joy)
Instead we should see work as a calling – a calling to glorify God and love our neighbours….and in doing so we’ll find great personal joy. And we must learn and re-learn that there is no such thing as the ‘sacred-secular divide’, where God is only interested in our spiritual activities (like church, prayer, Bible-reading, sharing the gospel) but not our day-to-day lives (family, work, play). God is interested in it all and we are to live all our lives in service to God for the audience of one!
We are hosting a seminar on 20th May to think more about the integration of faith and work. Do come along.
- Let’s work with excellence in whatever we find ourselves doing 9-5 most days
- Let’s find work that utilises our gifts and blesses our neighbour (rather than jobs that promote our egos and build our bank accounts)
- Over time we want to start a number of City Groups which have a specific ‘faith and work’ focus.
(3) Participation in ministries of mercy and justice in the city
Jesus announced in his manifesto that he had come to bring “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18-19) and throughout the scriptures we see God’s heart for those in need (e.g Isaiah 58). One of Jesus’ most famous parables is the story of the Good Samaritan which teaches that God calls us to love our neighbours in practical ways, even when our neighbours might be our enemies.
Micah 6:8 says:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
The word for justice here is the Hebrew word Misphat which describes an action (the punishing of right and the giving of rights – systemic justice). The word for mercy is the Hebrew word Chesesh which describes a heart attitude of mercy. Our motivation is compassion. And another word in the Old Testament (John 29:12, Job 31:13-28) which talks about justice is the word Tzadeqah which is about day-to-day actions where we can bring justice (primary justice).
So to ‘walk humbly with God’ we must demonstrate justice out of merciful love. In other words, as disciples of Jesus, we play our part in helping the most vulnerable in society. We can’t meet every need but we should use our resources, time and talents strategically to do what we can.
- Short-term = We are planning on having another banquet and for our city groups over the summer to participate in ‘Service Projects’ (similar to service week)
- Longer-term = we want to start or participate in mercy ministries (for example Christians Against Poverty)
- Additionally, we want to support those in our church community who work day-to-day with the most needy in our city, and support those who have practical needs in our community.
(4) A radical love and kindness for our neighbours
Our society is becoming more and more polarised, with different groups (political, racial, cultural) finding it harder and harder to live side-by-side with their differences. The internet means we don’t actually have to get to know people who are not like us but we can openly share our (often harsh and cutting) opinions about them from a distance without getting to know them. We find it hard to ‘talk openly’ about our differences in a way that is gracious and respectful (e.g consider much of the language and tone used by both sides in the recent same-sex marriage referendum, and now the Eighth Amendment referendum).
As Christians we must show a different spirit. We must be willing, as the Good Samaritan story also shows us, to help, bless, work and engage with all types of people. Whoever God has placed in our community/workplace is someone we are called to love. We don’t have to share all our opinions about the things we disagree about up front. We can create space for those with different views and love them, even if they count us as enemies or find what we believe offensive.
One practical way of doing this is to relearn the practice of hospitality. As Rosaria Butterfield beautifully explains in this video, hospitality is the ‘base line’ for Christians – this is what it means to put our faith into practice: to share our belongings, our home, our space, our time and our resources with others. Butterfield outlines 10 things which are part of Christian hospitality including how hospitality reflects the gospel, makes room for different types of guests and is a way of being outward-looking. This requires courage – courage to invite people over, courage for when things become awkward, courage as people might say ‘no.’
As Christians in the city we are called to be peacemakers and to sweeten the tensions of the city with the love and kindness of Christ. We need to have a willingness and courage to share the gospel with those who don’t know Jesus but we mustn’t force it down people’s throats, or despise those who are not interested.
- We must learn to ask good questions and listen
- We must learn to create space in our lives to bless and serve those we meet day-to-day
(5) A culture of prayer
The book of Nehemiah starts with Nehemiah hearing about the terrible state of the city of Jerusalem. Just look at his response (Nehemiah 1:3-4):
They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah was made aware of the need in the city and his first response was prayer. We too need to have our eyes opened to the need in the city of Dublin and of the thousands that don’t know Christ and will spend eternity without him, and must turn to prayer. We must pray that God would increase our compassion for the people in the city and move in the lives of its people. Without God’s help, the right motivation and perspective we’ll quickly burn out in our attempt to invest in the city. We need to be strengthened and envisioned by him. Once Nehemiah met with God, God used him mightily, against all the odds, to rebuild the city walls, and restore the nation back to God.
- Prioritise the monthly prayer & worship nights
- Make sure prayer is not squeezed out of our Life Groups & City Groups and that when we pray it is not simply introspective (what we need) but instead kingdom focussed (we pray for those around us whom God has placed in our lives and for the needs in our city).
I am sure there is more that could be said about these 5 things and there are other ways we can invest in the city but if we were to do these five things in increasing measure over the coming years I am convinced we will start to fulfil our vision of making a positive difference to the city.
As a next step we’ll be hosting a seminar on ‘faith and work’ on Sunday 20th May, 6.15-7.45pm