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Churches working together for city transformation – Building momentum gathering Melbourne 2022

It was great for Neighbourhood Matters to be at the Building momentum conference last week in Melbourne. Often it can be so hard for churches to work together for the common good. What usually stands in the way is clashing theologies, ecclesiology and sometimes plain egocentrism and pride among leaders. The gathering was about putting aside all of these blockages and instead of thinking about our churches, prioritising the cities that we live in. How do we become good caretakers of our cities? It’s not about church growth but rather the flourishing of our cities.

Karina was able to speak into this conference on the topic of humility, reflecting on Philippians chapter 2 over the two days. We thought about the incarnation and what it means for us to become “more human” as we relate to each other and our city. Some reflection questions stemming from this were:

What privileges or status do I have that I need to let go of, so that I can see other churches and ministries succeed in my community?

How can I help other leaders who I disagree with get ahead in my ministry circles?

How do I forget about gaining advantage and serve doing ordinary good unseen work?

How do I become more human towards my brothers and sisters here in this gathering as we discuss the enormous task of transforming our city?

How can I make sure I do nothing out of selfish ambition as I aim to bring transformation to my city?

How do I make sure I am free from vanity and conceit as I relate to my community?

How can I value those in my neighbourhood above myself?

How do I look to the interests of my city and not to my own interests?

How do I let go of my status and privilege as I connect to my city?

How do I refuse to get the advantage as I work in my neighbourhood?

How do I become nothing or empty myself as I seek the transformation of my city?

Movements come and go and are difficult to artificially instigate. They happen organically and are based on trust, good relationships and, yes, humility that seeks to put others above oneself. Our cities need this transformation to see resilience, friendship that counters loneliness and life flourishing in those places. One of the first things we need to do is to listen well to our contexts. Perhaps we can learn from Aboriginal Elder Dr Miriam Rose, Senior Australian of the Year in 2021, about dadirri – meaning something like deep listening. We don’t need the latest church growth strategy but we do need to listen, love and learn from each other and our community.

We are hopeful that Christians will not only keep talking about unity, but also keep working together, so that we can see transformation in our neighbourhoods, communities and cities. We pray that God works through this event to bring about this transformation in a world that so desperately needs it.

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The Fallacy of the Homogeneity Principle

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(This Post First Appeared in Missio Alliance)
I can remember over 15 years ago now, having a memorable conversation with my pastor at that time. I was a student pastor way back then and eager to fix our church which I thought was becoming irrelevant in its community and in danger of dying. I had been reading a lot of ‘how to’ books. ‘How to grow your church’, ‘How to have a successful youth ministry’ etc. I don’t think they were the exact titles but you get the idea. I remember having a conversation with him once about the nature and organisation of church. He told me about his concern and disagreement with most churches at that time which were separating people into various ages, cultures and ‘tribes’ so that more quantitative growth would happen. I recall him lamenting that this was not what the church was all about. Well of course I knew better and only half listened to him while all the time thinking how old fashioned his view sounded. I argued back at him by pointing to the ‘proof’ and the ‘results’ right before our eyes, that this segregation was the main reason why most churches were growing and ours was not! I now look back on that conversation and actually realise how ahead of his time my pastor really was.

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