4 Lessons learnt from Tim Keller and Movement Day
Having just got back from attending Movement Day in New York, I am staggered at the size and scope of what God is doing around the world. Tim Keller pastor of Church of the Redeemer has been drawing city leaders from around the world to Movement Day to tell the stories of this extraordinary move of God. All over the globe Church and Christian leaders in the cultural spheres are coming together in unity, seeking God in prayer and working together for the social, cultural and spiritual transformation of their cities and towns. From Australia to Canada from Indonesia to South America, from USA to Europe, these leaders are asking the questions, what could our place look like in 30 years time?
Some key lessons from Movement Day 2013.
1. This is a move of the Spirit. The surprising thing about the story of these unity for mission movements is that they have been below the radar for so long. As we uncovered over 100 such movements in the UK, we realised that in each place God had been doing a deep work of humility, repentance and renewal. Ordinary pastors and Christian leaders in the cultural spheres had been slowly building friendships, regularly praying together, uniting resources in mission and growing in a kingdom vision for their town or city. This is not the latest fad or the next Christian fashion accessory, this is a move of God's spirit. Movement day underlined this as we mixed with leaders from Australia Brazil, Sweden, Canada, and India. We heard stories from major American cities and Eurpoean capitals alongside small towns in Indonesia and the South Sea Islands. Each story was unique and each place was special but they also shared the same common characteristics of friendship based unity and regular prayer, resulting in mission. This has not been learnt from a book nor has it trended on twitter, this is a sacrificial incarnational move of God in our world.
2. Tim Keller is giving the movement gravitas. We know many cities and towns owe a great deal to leaders such as Ed Silvoso, and others, who pioneered the vision to build unity in order to see social, cultural and spiritual transformation. Arising more from the charismatic/ pentecostal stream the movement had energy and life and produced some outstanding examples of transformation. The unity movements across the world are still mainly founded on this tradition however this is now broadening out to include those from other traditions. Tim Keller and the work of Church of the Redeemer in New York, is providing a wider theological framework, a more nuanced city reaching strategy and a gravitas that is not so easily ignored.
3. The disconnect between church growth and city transformation. It was sobering to hear the story of Claudio and Paulo who have served in San Paulo, Brazil all their lives. This is a city of over 20 million people where the evangelical church has grown to over 30% of the population. Churches have grown and people have come to full faith in Christ. For many this is the strategy of transformation, to see as many people come to faith as possible and so affect the culture of the city. However their experience is that as fast as the Church has grown in San Palau the state of the city has decayed at the same rate. A city overwhelmed with poverty, violence and corruption is not being impacted by the individual spiritual change in peoples lives. This of course shouldn't surprise us, since we have perpetuated a dualistic theology for many years, where personal piety and church commitment is divorced often from the world, of employment, social justice, culture, education and civic life. Our strategy must now develop. Of course we want to see Churches grow and people find faith but we also want to see those Christians being salt and light in a dark world, affecting kingdom change for the sake of Christ's world. As Keller put it we are called to be 'burning bushes of Gods presence in the world".
4. Transformation will be built on sacrifice and humility. I was reminded again that there is no quick fix to seeing a place transformed by the gospel, there is no clever strategy that will short cut cultural, social and spiritual transformation. City wide transformation is built on the personal transformation of its spiritual leaders. The kingdom is only released through repentance, humility and sacrifice. One of the most moving talks was from an older black lady who had invested many years in developing the unity movement in Kansas City USA. She very powerfully said,
"Everyone brings something to the table, and at the table we have honest, open, discussion, authentic, preferring one another, speaking the truth in love. We speak the hard truths, soul searching, tears, questions, silence, prayer, apologies, dealing with issues, mindsets, thought patterns, more prayer, emotions and most of all we just keep coming back to the table. We share our burdens, concerns for our churches, children, for our cities, the what, why, where. Knowing that before there is moral reformation in our city, we have to have spiritual transformation. As the Bible says ‘They will know that we are Christ followers by the love we have for one another". Although there is value in a single grape, in Isaiah 65:8 it speaks of the new wine being in the cluster not in the single grape. One day I noticed that the first letters of the mission statement for Citywide Prayer spelled CUP. C is for connecting in friendship, U is for uniting in prayer, P is for partnering in mission. Jesus asked, “Can you drink from the same cup?" What’s in the cup? In the cup there is repent-ability, nobility of humility, community, diversity, unity, integrity, spirit of hospitality, generosity and accountability. In order to see hearts transformed, churches revived, communities and cities reformed, Jesus is saying to us, “Can you (or are you willing to) drink from the same cup? If your answer is yes, He says, "Drink ye all of it!"
By Rev Roger Sutton.