City Transformation through Christian Unity in Houston

Marilyn Lee has an MBA. She has all the skills a growing business would want. She has chosen to work with one of the world’s largest enterprises, the church. She is investing her time in the work of the whole church taking the whole gospel to all of Houston through Loving Houston, a Christian nonprofit focused transforming Houston by helping churches serve local public schools. In the video below, Marilyn tells her story and how she has learned to follow Jesus’ example of meeting people’s real and felt needs and calling them to follow Him.

This 13 minute story was a part of GoodCities’ City Convene Conference in Houston, TX in April, 2015. Our next City Convene Conference will be held in Cincinnati on September 21-22. Click the button below for registration information.

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Tweet this! “The complex web of factors that present as needs in people’s lives are so much bigger than one pastor, one church, or one ministry.”


My key take away from Marilyn Lee: Sin and brokeness are complex and create dysfuntional relationships between people and within institutions. It will take govenrment officials, economic experts, business strategists, nonprofit service providers, and people of faith and good will in all types of institutions working collaboratively; using collective impactmodels, with a common agenda to solve each complex problem. Only together will we see cities be transformed into places of shalom and wholeness where people flourish and experience God’s grace.

David Brooks, Social Conservatives and City Transformation

Last week, David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times (June 30, 2015) titled, The Next Culture War. In his column, Brooks advocated for the kind of work that Christian leaders are quietly engaged with in cities all over America.

Brooks’ focus was on the decline in Christianity in the United States, the smaller share of Evangelicals in the U.S. electorate, and the recent Supreme Court decision supporting gay marriage. He took the opportunity to advocate a significant shift for social conservatives to make from the front lines of the current culture wars to offering collaborative service, social and spiritual capital in their cities and communities.

As Americans, Christians are often conflicted when deeply held moral and ethical positions are overridden by elections and/or court decisions. However, being an American and being a Christian represent two very different identities. Recent decisions on public policies should help Christians understand their cultural context and live counter-culturally.

Brooks wrote, “Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.” The culture war makes people, who should be known for profound love and a commitment to equality and justice, appear to be neither loving nor just.

He writes, “Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commmitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.” He could substitute “Evangelical Christians” for his use of the term “social conservatives.” However, it’s good that he does not, because many of us find our place on the political spectrum to be somewhere between conservatives and liberals, who have become so polemic that sensible public policy seems to get lost in the rhetoric.

Here’s where Christian leaders’ work in cities and David Brooks’ viewpoint dovetail. It’s when he writes, “The defining face of social conservativism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spritutal poverty reinforce each other.  Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.” I would add, Those are the people who seek the peace and prosperity of their city and offer hope.

When we take an approach that is innovative and collaborative that focuses on “what people care about” in cities and communities, Christians will enter the public square and find they become valued partners. I’ve written a short e-book about how this is already taking place in a number of cities and to offer a method that will give many thousands of people an opportunity to engage in helping every city to become a good city; to move toward city transformation in ways that help repair the fabric of our communities and, as David Brooks writes, “…to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.”

Free eBook: Multiply Volunteers and Resources

The ebook, Multiply Volunteers and Resources, is being offered as a valuable tool to engage leaders throughout your city or community in signiicant work that addresses causal issues, not just the symptoms. Click the button here or in the side bar to download your copy today.

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15 Ways Catalytic Events Benefit Gospel Movements

Today I leave to speak at the Gather Global Conference in London and to meet with national catalysts for city transformation movements from around the world. Before I go, I thought it would be good to share one more presentation from our recent South Central GoodCities Leadership Gathering. Below is a guest blog and video from Rebecca Walls, the Executive Director of Unite, which serves Greater Dallas. The 9 minute video below was recorded in one of our break out sessions.

Whole Church. Whole Gospel. Whole City. That’s a big scope!  What role do events play in that?

To be honest, while convening key leaders is one of the main functions of Unite, I don’t generally like big events. Since my mind is constantly spinning with thoughts about on-going collaboration and impact, taking time out to plan a big event feels like a distraction. But I’ve learned that they can play a very strategic part in our work – especially when they have a few specific components.

We’ve done 3 big events in Unite’s history (www.unitethechurch.org):

  1. We launched Unite with a huge coordinated community service event called “Go & Be.”  On May 1-2, 2010, 50+ churches across Greater Dallas mobilized almost 20,000 volunteers who collected food, painted houses, planted gardens, and more.
  2. In January, 2013, around 600 diverse Christians joined together for the launch of our city-wide prayer initiative called “A Prayed 4 City” (www.ap4c.org). This marked the beginning of a monthly prayer effort of 80+ churches and organizations who have adopted one day per month to pray through a common guide focused on the real needs of Greater Dallas.
  3. Then in January, 2014, Movement Day Greater Dallas(www.movementdaygreaterdallas.com) convened nearly 1,400 diverse Christian leaders to hear a common vision and to develop specific, measurable goals related to transformation in several areas of great need.

What do those 3 very different events have in common? They were catalytic. Why? Here are 15 key ways these events benefit gospel movements:

  1. They bring the “whole Church” together – – all denominations, races, sizes, socio-economic levels, professions are a clear expression of Christian unity.
  2. They tell the “whole Church, whole Gospel, whole city” story.
  3. They create new levels of relationships
  4. They expose the masses to the real needs of the city and connect those needs to our Christian faith.
  5. They coordinate the work of the body of Christ.
  6. They build a collaborative spirit that can lead to collective impact.
  7. They create a shared vision for the city and give everyone a common language.
  8. They uncover additional resources that you might not have otherwise known about.
  9. They encourage diligent servants; they let them know that there are others who care…that they’re not the only ones.
  10. They spark relationships between diverse people who care about the same things leading to shared best practices, coordination, and/or collaboration.
  11. They can be used to equip people with best practices, training, or other resources.
  12. They can be used to develop shared measurements for impact by finding out what everyone’s already doing, collecting stories, etc.
  13. They raise awareness of what you’re doing and your organizations values.
  14. They make an almost incomprehensibly big vision and mission very tangible.
  15. And because of those 2 things, they can increase funding.

Each type of event can provide it’s own unique benefit. For example, community service events provide low-level engagement opportunities that will hopefully lead to long-term, relational, empowering service. On the flip side, prayer events provide a way for intercessors to engage the city transformation work in a way that matches their passions while also providing the supernatural power for the transformation itself.

But the most important benefit of big events is that they can bring glory to God. With that comes great responsibility to represent His heart well, but if you’re doing that, I encourage you not to be ashamed to make the most of every PR opportunity.

My prayer for every city is that the Church will become known for praying for, serving, and loving our neighbors and communities in their areas of greatest need: poverty, hunger, education, injustice, or whatever that might be for your city. I’m so grateful to be living in a time in history when He’s bringing His Church together to do just that and am excited to be walking alongside you!