Transforming Communities through Unity, Betrayal, Brokeness, and Grace

Last week, I visited with Gary Kinnaman during my visit to Phoenix, AZ as a part of preparing for our GoodCities Leadership Gathering February 18-20 at Christ’s Church in the Valley. Gary and I stayed up late one evening talking about how ministry is often painful even when it is going well.

At one point, Gary said, “I’ve never been persecuted by a Muslim, an Atheist, a Mormon (I live in a largely Mormon community), but I have had lots of pain in the church.” Immediately I knew that Gary and I had walked a similar path as a pastors and leaders. If we’re honest with ourselves, we each know that the leadership journey involves betrayal and brokeness. (Video clip of Gary Kinnaman on next page).

The Apostle Paul Experienced Betrayal and Brokeness, yet Offered Grace

Gary opened his Bible and shared with me that we’re not the first church leaders to experience betrayal and brokeness. In 2 Timothy 4:7-17, the Apostle Paul tells of his experiences with betrayal, brokeness, and loneliness in pursing his calling. Even in his brokeness he offered grace for those who had hurt and abandoned him.

Gary was speaking to my heart and I would guess that for many who are in church leadership or leading a city movement, a gospel movement that involves deep collaboration and purposeful christian unity, his words will touch a deep part within you as well.

With this in mind, I captured a few minutes of what Gary was sharing on video. Take a look at this seven minute piece. You’re not alone.

Unlikely Partnerships: Churches and Public Schools

In the last year, church and public school partnerships have really taken off in cities all over the U.S. With the creation of the documentary Undivided ( that tells the story of the five year old partnership between Southlake Church and Roosevelt High School in Portland, OR, both churches and underperforming public schools seem to have caught the bug.

During my recent trip to Phoenix, I interviewed Billy Thrall, the Director of CityServe Arizona. He brought the topic up in my interview with him and I excerpted the video clip for your interest. It’s one more way that church leadership is creating unlikely partnerships that contribute to city transformation.

City Transformation in the UK through Church Unity

Gather is the name of a church unity movement in the UK led by my friend, Roger Sutton. He recently said, “We have just entered the post secular age.” God has quietly been bringing Christians together in unity in the UK over the last 10 years and until Roger began to look for these leadership groups in cities, each one thought they were unique.

Roger was sent out by the Evangelical Alliance to look and see what God was doing in cities throughout Great Britain. So far, in every city he has explored, he has found a church unity movement praying for and serving the people of their city. (3 minute video of Roger Sutton further down in article.)

The Sunset of Secular Welfare & the Rise of Church Unity

The people of God in unity serving the people of each town or city comes as the sun sets on much of the secular welfare system in the UK. Due to the financial crisis of the last 5 years, the British government has instituted austerity measures which drastically cut back government services. However, central to the mission of the church throughout history is compassion for the poor. In many cities, the church is coming to the aid of those in need.

It’s a story that has flown under the radar. Good news doesn’t sell in age of our market-driven media. Yet, it is very good news that the churches in towns and cities are coming together and that their sense of mission is being rekindled as a result.

Roger spoke at our City Advance 2013 in New York City at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, Oct. 9. I caught 3 minutes of his talk on my iPhone video. It’s here so you can hear from him yourself.

City Transformation through a Movement of Movements Approach

City movements in large cities with large numbers of Christians present unique challenges for leaders of city movements. The church is usually highly decentralized with many different approaches to ministry and worship. Each congregation and ministry are autonomous in pursuing their respective missions. One of the exciting developments in our time is that many of these groups are coming together for synergistic efforts that will impact key areas that help leaders of cities address needs and move toward a strategic vision.

On the first Friday of each month I meet with a cohort of international leaders on the Global Urban Leaders Conference Call. It is an hour filled with stories of what works in the field of grass tops city movements of Christian leaders working with people of good will to impact their respective cities.  Last Friday, December 6,  Gary Kinnaman (pictured at right), Billy Thrall (pictured below), and I were asked to talk about the city movement in Phoenix. Gary is serving as Pastor-At-Large, sent by the church he served for over twenty years to serve Christ, and to network the church in Greater Phoenix. Billy is an urban pastor who works with ministries, business, and government leaders to do community development work. Both are strategic spiritual leaders, strong networkers, and articulate communicators.