Tim Keller shares a vivid depiction of the Body of Christ in most cities: a seven foot wall separating congregational, denominational and racial expressions of the Church. “The wall needs to come down,” Keller says, “to around three feet, where we are still who we are, hold to our theological convictions, but reach over the wall to shake hands, perhaps even share a holy hug.”
Paterson, New Jersey in the United States of America is known widely as one of the more broken, dysfunctional urban environments in the US: a history of racial tension, economic exploitation, systemic division. In mid-October, 2018, Tom White and George Ordway (City Advance, Fresno, California) were facilitating a third Leaders Prayer Summit for 26 kingdom leaders seeking to put Psalm 133 into practice, to “dwell together in unity.” We were predominantly African-Americans, Latinos and a handful of Caucasians. In a flow of spontaneous worship, the Spirit of God broke into the room–everyone recognized the moment as a divine encounter. Sovereign God, who dwells in high places, came to a lowly place. When the gift of this Presence quieted, we settled into a reflective silence, then de-briefed. The bottom line, “the Lord is jealous for unity of the Body of His Son in Paterson.”
That night, under the Spirit’s direction, a team of seven men and three women was set in place to steward a sustainable expression of kingdom community we had just experienced. In prayer, we commissioned this team to take the movement in Paterson forward. Please pause and take a moment to pray God’s wisdom to, and protection over, this team:
The next morning, a Latino pastor, spoke with conviction: “Let’s lay aside these racial labels, bless one another, and be the family of families, a healthy Body of Christ that releases blessing into our broken city. Let’s have a welcoming spirit, inviting one another into our hearts and homes.”
So, John Algera, who just retired pastoring a church in Paterson for 40 years, has stepped into a new role of shepherding the shepherds of Paterson. In mid-December, John invited this new team, with their spouses, to share a meal together. Everyone showed up…100%. These brothers and sisters are seeking to simply walk in this “welcoming spirit,” keep praying, and seeking the Lord for strategies to bring kingdom impact to Paterson and the surrounding region. There will be challenges and obstacles. But here’s a core truth that sustains: when God’s people purpose to “come together in unity,” the Lord “commands His blessing,” pours out favor, and kingdom life springs up in surprising ways.
Stay tuned! Paterson is becoming a different place.