City Transformation through the Workplace: At Work on Purpose

On Saturday, March 1, I spoke at Cincinnati’s At Work On Purpose, Marketplace Mobilization 2014 Conference. Horizon Church was packed with over 700 leaders from all sectors and channels of influence. This ministry has grown over the past 10 years from a handful of marketplace leaders to over 6500 involved today who are each growing deeper in ways that they live out their calling at work. This is a replicable model that brings leaders together for city transformation. A kit has been developed for other cities to put together a similar model in their own city. It can be ordered using the contact form at http://atworkonpurpose.org.

Cities become good cities as people learn to live out their callings at work, home, and in places they server. CEO and Founder gives a quick overview in this short video.

Unlikely Partnerships: Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Ben Sanders and his wife Sarah serve as Co-Directors of the Campus Christian Center (3C) at ASU in Tempe, AZ. The Campus Chrisian Center is a large converted 1920’s era house that 3C is leasing from the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church denomination. 3C also has a book store across the parking lot that served as their on campus office until they began leasing this new larger facility about a year ago.

Today, the two buildings represent a significant resource for seven ministries and churches that work closely with 3C as a Christian witness and worshiping presence on the Arizona State University campus. Ben and Sarah have a clear Christian focus both in their campus ministry and in the community. They have spent their lives seeking the purposeful unity of the church in Tempe and Phoenix. (See 4 minute interview video below).

During the two hours I spent with Ben touring their facilities, I met the leaders of a new church plant who were holding their first service ever in 3C that evening, two young women from the Gila River Indian Community who had come to see a Christian Movie premier release, and Ben Joseph, who for twenty years has been doing ministry among the many international students at the University.

The President’s Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge

In 2011, President Obama announced The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which offered students and community leaders the opportunity to work and serve their community together. Ben and Sarah took the opportunity to bring students of faith together with students of good will to serve in a variety of initiatives that would benefit Tempe and Phoenix and to gain exposure to the significant work of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership centers in each of the thirteen federal departments where they exist.

So far, this has given Ben and the University opportunities to work on issues of sustainability with leaders from the EPA. They are taking a leadership role in the Global Institute of Sustainability Festival in February which will be held on campus. A representative from the EPA Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center will participate in this event.

3C has also tapped into the Department of Education’s initiative “Together for Tomorrow.” This initiative encourages churches and faith-based organizations to partner with schools in a variety of ways that includes tutoring and mentoring.

Ben encourages students to step into the front lines of fighting poverty and homelessness. Eleven small groups of students and faculty are working with the Open Table to come alongside the homeless and the poor.

These shared initiatives that fall under The President’s Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge are engaging community and campus in what Ben calls, “Shared Solutions for the Common Good.” Here’s a short (3:45 minutes) video where Ben tells about this important work that contributes to community transformation.

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 (www.beundivided.com) 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.

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Collaboration and Leadership is Key According to Federal Reserve Bank Study

New York Times Columnist, Thomas Friedman recently wrote, “Now we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising, and high unemployment remains persistent.”In the new economy, there is global competition for jobs and innovative technologies are replacing positions in manufacturing and in the professional ranks as well.

The Federal Reserve, Collaborative Leadership and Jer. 29:7

In the midst of all this change, we are called to “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.” Jeremiah 29:7

When the Federal Reserve studied the way cities prosper economically, they found that the key is not geographic location, industry mix or demographic composition. The key to prospering economically as a city is collaborative leadership.

In a Community Affairs Discussion Paper “Reinvigorating Springfield’s Economy: Lessons from Resurgent Cities” authored by Boston Federal Reserve Researchers, Yolanda K. Kodrzycki and Ana Patricia Muñoz studied 25 mid-sized cities from 1960-2009. Most of these had populations between 100,000 and 250,000 during the period of 1960-1980, although some were larger in 1960 before shrinking in population. They identified 10 resurgent cities that were doing better than the rest according to the following criteria:

  • Median family income
  • Change in median family income ranking since 1960
  • Poverty rate
  • Percentage point change in poverty rate since 1980
  • Percent chang in population since 1960

“The most important lessons from the resurgent cities concern leadership and collaboration. Initial leadership in these cities came from a variety of key institutions and individuals. In some cases the turnaround started with efforts on the part of the public sector, while in other cases nongovernmental institutions or private developers were at the forefront. In all cases, the instigators of revitalization in the peer group cities recognized that it was in their own interest to prevent further deterioration in the local economy and they took responsibility for bringing about improvement. Regardless of who initiated the turnaround, economic redevelopment efforts spanned decades and involved collaboration among numerous organizations and sectors.”

The ten resurgent cities identified in the report were: 

  • Evansville, IN
  • Fort Wayne, IN
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • New Haven, CT
  • Peoria, IL
  • Providence, RI
  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • Worcester, MA