(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.”
I was impressed and loved this vision. It was already a life-changing vision for me. Reid’s ministry had been lived out through Pete Weaver in my home town of Bay Village, OH. Through his ministry, I met Jesus in 1972. Instead of Young Life, I drew near to the Pittsburgh Offensive’s (today known as the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation) vision referenced above through joining the staff of the Coalition for Christian Outreach right after college in 1977.
The statement, “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” was minted in 1974 and now is 42 years old. There is much to like about the statement, however, it reflects the attitude of another generation. The words “…taking the whole gospel to…” has the feel of an outside-in approach rather than an approach that places Christian witness among the people they serve.
In Lansing, MI, Stephanie Butler (pictured) and her team at The Church of Greater Lansing (COGL) engaged GoodCities Coaching as they laid the foundaitons for their work in 2010. Together they interviewed over 70 leaders in government, commerce, education, nonprofits, faithbased organizations, and churches. They interviewed Christians and those not connected to any church. Their goal was to understand their city and county.
By using the skills of active listening, they built friendships with leaders throughout the city. They won people’s favor and at the same time never lost their distinctively Christian witness in Lansing. All the while they were building a dynamic fellowship between churches across racial and denominational lines. They equip people through conferences, build the fellowship of the church through prayer, and unleash the significant assets of the church through service. The unity of the church today is seen as an asset so that their Christian witness comes alive among the people and institutions of Lansing.
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I recently came across a video by Jeff McGuire and Brian Hurst who share a white board animation about this unifying belief. They have adapted the Lausanne Mission Statement to our time as they rephrased it to say “the whole church with the power of the whole gospel for the whole world.” This fits our time when our most effective witness is among the people we serve.