Jeremiah 29:7, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
Our hope is for churches and Christians to seek the flourishing of our city. We want to see the Kingdom of God impact individuals, families, businesses, schools, and our entire city.
In order for us to see impact in the areas of education, justice, and family in Atlanta, it's going to take partnerships and multi-sector collaboration across the 3 primary sectors of society: public, private and social. Our dream and vision is to be initiators, in our communities and city, for partnerships between these sectors of society: Public sector (i.e. goods and services provided by the government), Private sector (i.e. "for profit" businesses), and Social sector (i.e. non-profit organizations).
"CHANNELS OF CULTURAL INFLUENCE"
Within each of these 3 sectors, there are at least 8 primary "Channels of Cultural Influence," or places of employment, commerce, and social service in which most every citizen finds their interest and employment. These channels include: Arts & Entertainment, Business, Education, Government, Healthcare, Legal/Judicial, Media, and Non-Profits. You may notice that Church is not listed as one of the channels, and that's because Christians (i.e. the Church) exist throughout every channel. Our hope is that each of these channels that span the private, public, and social sectors, would undergo renewal. As one author puts it, "We urge the restoration of all the nouns - not only the persons, but also places and things - in that channel."
This "renewal" should not be confused with "taking over" cities and communities. Rather, in a posture of service that involves our vocations, we want to bless the communities where we live, work, and play. Part of our calling as churches, is to equip and empower Christians to use their passions, gifts, creative energy and skills, within their particular channel of cultural influence, to glorify God and help communities throughout Atlanta flourish.
We believe there is a correlation between the health of each channel and the health of the city and its communities. When different channels of cultural influence cooperate together towards a shared goal, then you have multi-sector collaboration that benefits everyone. This kind of collaboration can work toward the renewal and restoration of cities like Atlanta.
IS THIS REALLY POSSIBLE?
Yes! Norcross/Peachtree Corners is a place where serving, partnering, planting and igniting movements of disciple making churches for shalom is beginning to take place. There are churches like Simpsonwood UMC and Perimeter Church who are intentionally joining together and making disciples who make disciples. Additionally, 10 Peachtree Corvers/Norcross churches joined together in the spring of 2014 to preach, pray, serve & celebrate together through a movement called One to Another Atlanta.
It goes beyond church unity though. There is a support between the churches and government to plant new churches, like Christos Community Church, providing space within the city of Norcross. Church members and schools have joined together to provide tutoring and mentoring in Peachtree Elementary, Beaver Ridge Elementary and Norcross High schools. They've even gone beyond the normal tutoring set-up and have after-school clubs and ballet classes.
There is a desire from businessmen within the churches to integrate their faith and work, as seen in a discipleship group focused on this very thing. One businessman shared, "The group has helped me identify my fears in the work place and helped me apply a biblical perspective to my day to day work, which in turn allows me to pursue shalom through my leadership position..." A local campus ministry, Campus Outreach, is joining together with churches and non-profits in the area to equip and impact college students who may end up starting their careers and families in the area through Spring Break Weekends and Summer Projects focused on serving, sharing and equipping. Several college students moved into targeted apartment complexes to begin impacting those around them.
Additionally, a "backbone" organization called Breakthrough Norcross (BTN) has been created that serves as a convener and connector of the different entities in Norcross - government, schools, churches, non-profits, and businesses - for the benefit of Norcross children and families.
This kind of disciple making, seeking the shalom in lives of kids and families, collaboration, and planting churches is what we want to see happen not only in Norcross/Peachtree Corners, but all over Atlanta and in other global cities!
Hear more about the collaboration happening in Norcross/Peachtree Corners from Chip Sweney of Perimeter Church in this video.
A great way to engage the city and collaborate among multiple churches and sectors is to observe together - with compassionate eyes and listening ears - the city and community around you. This involves research. One of the best ways to know how to serve a city is to study a city, in community with others. City and community research, or City Inquiry, requires great patience, passionate engagement, and a steadfast willingness to learn everything there is to know about the city or community in which you live, work, and play, so that you can better love and serve that community.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to community research. And by research, we do not mean complicated, academic, armchair analysis. Rather, what is needed is a practical, learn-as-you-go approach that is flexible and adaptable to your context. Additionally, a good approach to city and community research should help the Church to cultivate relationships and involve the community's residents and stakeholders in the process.
Click here for a few ways to get started on researching your city or community. For more information about how your church and churches in your particular municipality can participate in a community research study, please contact Travis Vaughn via email or at 678.405.2148.
> The Gospel at Work Conference is coming to Atlanta on January 23-24, 2015 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. It will feature Bryant Wright from Johnson Ferry, Randy Pope from Perimeter Church, and a host of others listed at www.thegospelatwork.com. Visit the website to find out more and register for this great event.
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