(Third in the series on 30 Actions and Ideas that Create Good Cities)
In 1975 I was considering a position with Young Life in the Pittsburgh area. All potential staff met with Reid Carpenter (pictured below), the Young Life Regional Director. Reid began that day with the big vision for the region, the nation, and the world as he shared the newly minted vision of the Lausanne Movement: “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” Riffing off his friend and Lausanne Cities Associate, Ray Bakke, he quickly refined the statement to: “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole city.”
Reid identified Young Life as a part of this larger international evangelism movement and said, “Our vision is to make Pittsburgh as famous for God as for steel.” In doing so he interpreted Lausanne’s mission for the local context in order to land tangible results. He and others in Pittsburgh took this worldwide missional vision and made it their own.
Reid took it down one step further. He applied the vision to the youth ministry work we were considering as he said, “Young Life believes in an approach that values evangelism and discipleship with youth. If you had two tea cups and five eggs, three eggs would be in the evangelism cup and two would be in the discipleship cup.”
Geography is important within cities. People have a sense of place attached to their identity. It is never just a general sense of place as in “I’m from Cleveland.”I may say this to someone I have just met, but the truth of the matter is that I am from Bay Village, a third ring western suburb of Cleveland with a 5 mile shoreline on the southern shore of Lake Erie. When I say that I am from Bay Village, I mean that I grew up there through the first 21 years of my life. My memories of this place and the people I knew there shaped my identity in powerful ways.
Today, I’m from the Twin Cities. I have lived here for 20 years. During that time I have lived in the same house in a second ring southwestern suburb, Eden Prairie. As an adult, my life and my identity have been developed in a far more intentional way through my marriage to Kathy, my choice of vocation, my interaction with my children, my neighbors, my church, and the leaders of the communities I choose to interact with here in the Twin Cities.
I serve as a community leadership coach to cities. One of the cities where I am currently working is Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is composed of 52 unique neighborhoods, each with its own sense of place. The residents have formed neighborhood associations that look out for the good of their neighborhood and its interests. Children’s memories and identities are formed by the geography, architechture, and social relationships fostered in each of these areas. Adults have more freedom and mobility than children, yet to a great degree, their lives are shaped through their experiences of where they live, work and serve.
The group I coach in Cincinnati is called Neighborhoods Embracing Transformation (NET). It’s a name that is active and filled with a sense of mission. The name itself points to the shifting and changing nature of places and people over time. Their hope is that there will be an internal, eternal change spiritually for the people in each neighborhood that will result in economic, cultural, and social improvements for the people who live and work there.
NET is begining their work in two townships, Colerain and Anderson. Currently, the leaders of the NET team are encouraging prayer through an initiative they are calling Ignite and they are interviewing local residents and leaders to learn about the assets that currently exist in each community. I interviewed Chuck Proudfit, the founder of At Work On Purpose of which the NET team is a sub group. (90 second video.)