Eric Geiger - a Husband, Father, Author, Vice-President of LifeWay Church Resources


Lead Your Church to Love Your City

The following is a guest post from David Lopez. J. David Lopez is the husband of Adriana, father of Dave and Isabella, follower of Jesus, and campus pastor of Christ Fellowship Downtown Miami.

Within a half hour of the writing of this article, I noticed some pretty graphic extremes. On one end, I heard about 15 different languages spoken, observed the building of four new high rises, saw the hustle and bustle of a more than a million plus people in downtown Miami, and even jumped on the metro mover to get to my next appointment; that’s one extreme. The other extreme led me to greeting the resident homeless guys that stay right outside our church office area, out of choice by the way, walking through the courthouse district that deals with the custody takeover of children in troubled homes, and seeing the local pimp doing … well, doing what he does. Dear Lord, how are we, as the church, going to reach all of these people? Where in the world do we start?

As we consider loving our cities, it’s important to remember that the city is not a “what,” but rather a “who.” The residents of our cities are living people with souls, social consciences, worldviews, and feelings. Since our mission is to reach people, let me ask: If the folks mentioned above were your closest family and friends, what would you do differently? How would you try to love them? Wealthy or poor, how would you respond? Let’s consider these ideas on how to love the under-resourced of your city.

Before storming the hill, I suggest we take a diagnosis of the land. Before we mobilize the troops and start handing out food at the local corner or assume that we know what’s needed, we should be fast to listen, and slow to speak or in this case, act. In church world, we enjoy service that is good and noble. This, however, does not always address the greater need — the disparity. Disparity is a lack of similarity or equality; inequality. These are the underlying causes to the tangible expressions of challenge that the under-resourced face in our cities. It’s the “why” behind the “what.” Our friends in the non-profit and government sectors normally have a good pulse on specific needs of their communities. In fact, if you know how to use Google, I would suggest typing in “disparity,” the name of your city, and your zip code. You may be surprised to discover what the issues are versus the solutions we are trying to provide.

Let me share an example. At my church, Christ Fellowship Miami, we operated a soup kitchen/clothing closet/shower center/worship service for the homeless of our community. When we started this work, we were the only center in Miami that was open on Sunday’s. There was a massive shortage on services, housing, food, and services then. Through the years, more centers began to open up. They provide all the services we did along with sufficient housing for almost all of the homeless of downtown Miami, health care, education, job skills training, life skills training, and future potential jobs. Once these centers opened, we had to ask, are we doing this because it’s what is going to help our homeless friends the most or do we continue to do this because it make us feel better about ourselves? We were doing great things, but we weren’t addressing the disparity.

Disparity vs. What did we want to do/What we’ve always done

Within six weeks of the opening of these centers, we had to make the hard decision of closing our ministry, and redirecting volunteers and resources to one of these centers. It was not a popular decision, but it was the right one. It was right because wholistic care, which we could not and were not providing, was now available to our friends. We had only housed or transitioned a handful of men. Now, before we jump to any conclusions about bailing out or giving up, I want to clarify that we didn’t stop feeding, we didn’t stop resourcing, we didn’t stop praying and serving. It all continued, within these centers that were established to better serve our homeless friends. We were able to find our place within the wholistic response.

If we were to be completely honest, the only other wholistic option that would address the disparity would have been to adopt one of our homeless friends and provide them with housing and food in their own homes. For every person that was critical about the decision, they were challenged with adopting one of our homeless friends and taking them home in order to match the services of our centers; no one ever did. Since that time, as a church we have seen more than 200 men and women find housing and receive comprehensive services. Men and women who came through our doors have found ways to get off the streets and move in the right direction. We have seen the church mobilized to volunteer, to give generously towards these initiatives, and to celebrate comprehensive life change. The need wasn’t food. It was so much more.

As you lead your church to love your city, I’d suggest you ask the questions we are always wrestling with in downtown Miami: Is this a real need, a disparity of our city, or is this something we prefer to do?

In light of the facts, how will you lead your church to love on your city? Please share your ideas in the comments.

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A Time I Was Confronted for My Cynical Criticism

One moment sticks out in my mind from journalism class my senior year in high school. It was late fall and the journalism class at a rival high school published one of those black and white high school newspapers, and we had several copies. Our teacher passed them out to us and sat at his desk as we looked through the newspapers page by page.

We shredded it. We laughed at the titles of the columns, made disparaging comments about the photographs used, and lamented the format. We had a grand time.

Then I looked up at our teacher, who was shaking his head in silent frustration. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” And I have never forgotten his response—“They have a published paper. You all don’t. You are sitting there criticizing a published paper when all you have are ideas jotted down in your notebooks.”

It is easier to be a critic and a cynic. It really is. It takes less work, less energy, and less risk. And there are always people who would love to join.

In Mark 2, we see Jesus speaking to a crowd that is crammed in and around Peter’s house. Four men want to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus, but they cannot get in through the door. So they take the roof off the place and lower the man on a mat to Jesus. Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And to prove that He has the power to forgive sin, he tells the paralytic to “pick up your mat and go home.”

In the midst of the miracle, there were critics.Evidently, the religious arrived early because they are the only ones sitting (verse 6). They were there to critique. They were there to evaluate the mission of Christ rather than participate in it. Unlike the four men who lowered the man on the mat, they united in criticism instead of uniting in the mission of bringing the paralyzed man to Christ.

God has been gracious to remind me of that day in journalism class. After being confronted with our lazy and cynical criticism, we got to work. We came together and produced our own high school paper. We stopped criticizing everyone else and owned what we were responsible for.

There is a massive difference between a critical mind and a critical spirit. The former is wise and humble. The latter is proud and divisive. Believers should always think critically and theologically. Error should be called out and truth should be proclaimed, but I fear some believers waste much precious time engaging in friendly fire with brothers and sisters in Christ.

By God’s grace, may we participate in the mission of God and not merely observe and evaluate. And by God’s grace, may we stay focused on the mission in the midst of those who constantly evaluate without joining the mission. D.L. Moody is a good example here. On one occasion a critic approached him to express concern about his approach to evangelism, saying that it was limited in effectiveness. Moody asked the critic, “What method do you use?” The man responded that he “didn’t have any method.” Moody wisely replied, “Then I will stick to mine.”

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