“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…”
“Christians in Boston care about transforming their community.” That was what I came away with at Boston’s Christian Community Development Association event last Thursday. Although only thirty people were expected to attend, more than 150 pastors, leaders, and congregation members from 48 different cities and 52 churches piled into a meeting hall at the Greater Boston Vineyard to listen, share, pray and dream about how God might be calling us to more deeply love our communities.
I was most impressed by the format of the evening, which encouraged collaboration and relationship-building. Most other Christian events I attend are based on worship, prayer, or speakers in the front sharing information. This is great, but isn’t very conducive for meeting new people or collaborating outside of your given circle of Christian friends. I looked around the room and saw people of all backgrounds – young and old, white and black, Catholic and Protestant, all coming together around the notion that 1)Jesus can and does transform communities, and 2) we can do more together than we can do by ourselves. The evening fostered relational collaboration, which I believe will be the impetus to breaking down the barriers, bringing the healing and functional unity that Jesus desires us to have. I also believe that this functional unity – the body of Christ living, moving, and breathing as one unit – is what God is waiting for so we can house the coming revival.
After visiting the large table strewn with delicious fair-trade breads and spreads, I sat down at the “K” table, where ten others were sitting whose names started with K. Although I was a bit hesitant to leave my group of friends (always hard to step out of your comfort zone!), I quickly found a sense of belonging at the K table. We began by introducing ourselves to one another and friendly rivalry ensued as we counted our “table age” – how many years the people sitting at our table had lived in Boston. Then, Mr. Noel Castellanos, the CEO of CCDA, shared a message on how the church can stand up and be the church to seek the shalom of our city – not just doing programs or giving handouts, but seeing holistic transformation come to pass through a core group of Christians. Rather than our tendency to want to escape when we see poverty, Jesus moved into places of need and raised up leaders who loved God in those communities. This model of seeking the shalom of God in our city is what Christ is asking us to do today.
Noel then gave us a chance to respond to the message in our tables – one question I proposed was, “As a church, what is the best way for us to listen to our communities?” And one woman answered, “start with one person – get to know them and listen to them.” This statement is full of wisdom – sometimes we try to do too much, or get overwhelmed with the need, but change begins with just one person. Indeed, the Boston Projects ministry began with a few young adults who had a passion to practice what it means to love their neighbors every day – their agenda was simply their neighbor’s agenda. Yes, this sort of listening is what is required to truly meet genuine community needs.
It seems that as soon as the event had started, it was coming to a close. In my conversations afterwards, there was a general consensus that “We need more of this.” We need more opportunities as the body of Christ to cross beyond ethnic, denominational, and cultural lines, to listen to one another, to communicate and collaborate together. Yes, this is what the body is designed to do…and as evident in the number of people that attended the event, people are hungry for more than the church as status quo. I look forward to seeing how this movement progresses, as we seek to become a stronger representation of the true, living, and united body of Christ, and see holistic transformation come throughout the city of Boston.