Without fanfare or headlines, groups of evangelical churches in cities all over the USA are partnering with the civic and business leaders to address “bigger than all of us” problems.
Check out the site gospelmovements.org for a catalogue of city-wide, transforming endeavors.
Loving a High School for a Long Time
In Portland, OR, it was a decision to surround Roosevelt High school with hundreds of long-term volunteers to meet students’s practical needs–8 years and counting.
Without proselytizing, men served as assistant coaches of the boys football team, and became highly involved father-figures to young men of color who had no one in their life.
Women began spending generous time with young women competing in the Rose Festival competition to improve their chances of winning, and discovered what they needed most was the nurturing only a mother could give.
When helping with the building and grounds, volunteers noticed students coming to school without coats on cold winter days.
So they bought dozens of nice coats and gave them out for free–communicating high value to these undervalued young adults.
When nobody came out to cheer the girls basketball team, they showed up by the hundreds to cheer and celebrate the athletes game after game– whatever the final score.
And eight years later they are still doing all these things and much, much more.
Would it surprise you to hear that the school district asked this group to love every school in the district in that way?
Would is surprise you to discover that the City then asked them to extend their ongoing care to the multitudes of children in their overwhelmed foster care system?
Hospitality for International Students
In Corvallis, OR, an alliance of churches noticed that international students at Oregon State needed host families, experiences of home hospitality from Americans, and furniture for their bare apartments.
So they provided all of that year after year after year.
Instead of foreign students returning home to complain how unfriendly Americans were, they left our shores with a report about how kind the Christians were to them during their entire college years.
Unburying Buried Information
In Seattle, WA, a group of prayer-allied churches realized their city was so big that concerned citizens had a difficult time finding out who did what in each of their many neighborhoods.
So they created a website where one could locate their own neighborhood on the map, and easily find every non-profit, agency, church, and ministry already serving there.
They added stats and reports so each neighborhood could also see which particular social problems and crime issues where happening all around them.
Serving Kids in Distressed Neighborhoods
In Salem, OR, the churches entered into a leadership alliance with civic and business leaders to help the poorest areas of the city.
They tutored and provided after-school activities for students at economically distressed schools, began to meet needs of hispanic families in low-income apartments, and partnered with the Boys and Girls clubs to staff kids camps, mentor under-parented kids, etc.
They participated in neighborhood associations and began to champion the needs of these formerly neglected areas before the city authorities–in a positive, persistent manner that build bridges instead of walls.
In every city, it looks different.
But, in every city and town, the common themes are these:
- it was birthed out of corporate prayer and joint listening to Christ for a long season,
- it involved some kind of call to serve from beleaguered civic or business leaders,
- it required a collective choice to meet an impossible need as a unified group of churches,
- it meant loving these unloved groups of people for a long, long time without pushing religion on them or getting positive PR out of them,
- it earned new credibility for the gospel and respect for the Church in a secular, progressive, post-Christian culture that tended to see us as political enemies
- it saw people coming to faith in Jesus and new churches formed after many years of service and relationship-building–often from formerly resistant cultures and sub-groups.
Next time I’ll tell my own story in the three smaller cities where I’ve participated in gospel movements these past 24 years.