Living on Mission Where You Are (Shift 3 of 4)
By Mitch Jolly
Shift 3: From Working for the City to Working with the City
This shift is one of relationship and expectations. In regard to the relationship, this shift makes us evaluate whether we are a service provider or an integral partner. In regard to expectations, this shift makes us evaluate what the city expects from us and what we expect from the city.
I sat down with our City Manager and Assistant City Manager and asked them, from their point of view, what was distinct about Restoration Rome. And, we asked what were the city’s desires when it came to working with nonprofits.
These partners responded by telling me that the difference was that we saw a need that was city and statewide, mobilized our own resources to address the challenge, and offered the city a solution that repaired the problem and saved the city money. For the city of Rome, this partnership was a no-brainer.
These partners also stated that often nonprofits come with an idea of something they want to do, and then they ask if the city can provide resources in the way of finances to help them do their project. For our city managers, this is not an ideal situation.
Not to toot our own horn, but what the city saw in our work was a model of what they saw a partnership, working with them to solve a real problem.
This shift reshapes how the church interacts with its community.
In this shift, the church becomes more of a partner to help create solutions than just a provider of resources.
I’d like to give you some principles to help you apply this shift.
1 – Pastors and church leaders have to be the “lead” in engaging the city. They must set the pace.
2 – See where Jesus is at work in the city bringing something broken back under his restorative rule, and then join him there.
Put an ear to the ground! God is at work in your city. You must find where, and join in.
My friends and I used to play on the railroad trestle that crossed a creek we love to play in during the summer. We would climb to the top and jump off into the water. But we had to be careful because this trestle was around from a bend in the tracks, and you could not hear the train coming due to dense forest coverage.
So, we learned to put our ears down on the tracks and hear the vibrations of the tracks, and that let us know what we didn’t know or could see…a train was coming and we needed to get down or jump.
We learned what we needed to know by listening.
We will learn our city by listening to it not by telling it what it needs.
3 – Observe what other people are doing in your city, and join in.
This is particularly true when non-Christians are doing good work. Join them if a partnership is possible (don’t compromise on necessities), and bring the Gospel to bear in the work and in the lives of those not yet following Jesus.
Working with your city helps us literally obey Luke 10:1-12. We’ll unpack that passage on the last shift.
You may discover that your group and another “faith” group are working together for the same goal. Imagine that! Guess what you’ll get to do then? Share the Gospel with them as well as solve a problem in your city.
4 – Serve your city without strings.
Don’t stop working for the restoration of things back to right just because people don’t come to faith in Jesus just yet. It may take years. Adoniram Judson was at work in Burma 7 years before anyone repented and believed. Serve with no strings attached.
5 – Know what the Lord has given in the way of your church’s giftings, and work within that framework. Don’t over-commit yourself. Do only what you can do to work with your city.
This will allow you to see the Lord raise up other people to come alongside you in the work.
6 – Create solutions. Don’t just fill gaps.
Dumping buckets of water out of a sinking boat is fruitless. You have to plug the hole.
Working with your city can easily become dumping buckets of water out of a sinking boat. Don’t get into that mess. Apply your creative people to discover creative solutions—how to plug the hole.
For us, more foster homes were not the solution. It is needed to keep the boat from sinking, but it does not address how the water is getting in the boat. We needed to see that PREVENTION was the key, and that meant addressing drugs, poverty and mental illness among a myriad of other issues in order to see families healed and reunified.
7 – Learn how to be in the presence of government leaders. Learn protocol.
This shift forces you to learn how to act around folks higher up the chain of command than ourselves.
We can then practice the Lord’s instruction on being invited to a meal and not presuming to take the best seat and then being asked to sit lower and then being shamed.
We learn humility, honor, and being quiet and learning. These are powerful lessons when working with your city.
8 – Learn to say no. This relates to number 5. You can’t do everything, so be fine with saying no.
9 – Trust your people to do the work.
You can’t micromanage things. You have to lead and serve as best you can, and turn your people loose to do as you have done.