City Gospel Movements are as diverse as the people and the regions they represent. Yet within each vital movement, we find foundations supporting the efforts over time. Expressions of gospel activity and serving city needs can shift and change as the Holy Spirit leads, but a key component remains. The crucial foundation of every movement is the group of leaders who love each other. They find God’s heart together and forge the way for their local churches and ministries to function in unity.
Does our Lord desire for Jesus-following people and pastors, who live in the same community, to love each other and walk in unity? Without question, yes. Since this is a red-letter priority, God graces leader teams to facilitate John 17 unity in their cities.
What type of unity are we talking about?
The Christ followers in our communities already have a measure of unity because they essentially believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died to forgive our sins, that He rose from the dead on the third day. Without the supreme gift of the Good News we are lost!
Since this type of unity already exists, but rarely displays biblical potential, what’s missing? It is important to see that what we are discussing is an active functioning unity.
In any given region God desires to see the whole Church bring the whole Gospel to their whole community.
If the whole Church of a community is going to walk in functional unity, who makes that decision – over and over again? Who keeps the red-letter priorities and cultivates relationships leader to leader? Who discerns the plans for how the Lord wants churches and ministries to serve together? And then who leads God’s people in the good work?
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand watch in vain. Psalm 127:1.”
Although the Lord is clearly the One who does this, God gives grace to leaders to see what He sees and build what He builds.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16
There must be a catalytic core group of leaders set apart for this purpose. It’s a group of leaders committed for the long haul, to live out oneness in Christ. They may be business leaders, pastors, educators, or non-profit leaders. It looks like family. It looks like friends. They share a common conviction that it really matters to Jesus that his followers be one, and that it equally matters for the well-being of our communities to live this way.
In our context, this catalytic core has taken different forms over the years, adapting to the seasons of our gospel movement. Some of the fruitful characteristics of those catalytic teams are as follows:
Grace-given servant leaders: Look for the Spirit’s movement on leaders for these roles. Who has the gifts and motivation to bring God’s people together? Who has the love and respect of other pastors/leaders?
A plurality of leaders: Forming a gospel-centered, theologically-diverse, multi-ethnic team that includes women and next generation leaders is essential. We may not start with all of the above, but we start!
Consistently pursue God together: In our context, unified efforts and leader relationships have been birthed and sustained through praying together.
An annual prayer summit provides significant time away together, creating space in leaders’ lives for spiritual tune-ups. Time is given for solitude, worship, praying for one another, and praying for our shared assignment: our community. Beyond the summit, monthly leader gatherings have a similar stride: worship, prayer for one another, and prayer for our community. These prayer rhythms provide space for God to unite leaders’ hearts with His.
Consensus building catalysts: Flowing from consistent prayer, leader teams collaborate and convene- for-consensus in order to discern how the Lord is currently leading unified efforts.
Fruitful community-wide leadership teams continually invite other leaders to join collaborative initiatives. Broad participation usually results from broad consensus, and there is always freedom for churches to opt in, or opt out. The teams lead their individual churches in harmony with other pastors and ministries.
When local churches function together as the local church, everyone sees a more colorfully clear picture of Jesus, those in the churches and those in our communities. And that is the end goal: for Jesus to be seen, heard and experienced more completely in every community!
Hungry for more?
Find out what we have learned from conversations with 200+ city gospel movement leaders: 5 Attitudes Present in Cities with Strong Church Unity.