Churches and City-Life: Why They Matter
The more I get involved in the life of our city the more I see what a wealth of activity happens everyday. From business, to non-profits to recreation leagues, to church youth groups, to annual big-event preparations (Motorcycle Week, Multi-Cultural Fest, etc.) to the city council, a ton happens in our city everyday.
In seeking to view our city from 10,000 feet, it would almost appear that there is an invisible current-flow that all of our city's activity is caught up in. Every little part moves and somehow contributes to the movement of everything else but in a very mysterious way. It's mysterious primarily because it does not seem to be anyone's intention to work together toward any specific thing. With rare exception business owners, non-profit leaders, recreation leaders and even churches ask, "How does what we do contribute to the flow of our city?" Instead a more common question is, "How does what we do help our organization grow?" Each organization's particular contribution as well as each individual's particular role, is very rarely intentionally considered.
If this is the reality of life in Laconia, that the current is flowing but we do not know where to or how we contribute both individually and organizationally, then we have to be a little afraid of where it is we are flowing. Is anyone certain there is not a waterfall up ahead?
This is where I think churches play a crucial role.
Churches are important to flourishing cities because they are able to tell us, with confidence, where the current of our city aught to flow. There are those who may say, generically, "We aught to go in such and such a direction because it is what's best for the rest". I do not disagree with that statement- but that statement implies something. It implies a belief that doing what's best for the rest is what aught to be done. But who says that's what aught to be done?
If the most commonly accepted theory of human origins today (Darwinism) is true then "what's best for the rest" has no grounding. Indeed if we all got here by the strong eating the weak why is it not best for the strong to continue to eat the weak and for everything to flow in favor of the strong? That is after all how capitalism works- only the strong survive. Why not shape all of life in our community according to that principle? That would make the most sense given that theory of human origins.
Churches are important to flourishing cities because churches can tell us why we should and should not do some things. If there is no God then there is no grounds for shoulds and should nots. If there is no God then doing what's best for myself is just as valid as doing what's best for the whole. Some might say, "But doing what's best for yourself will hurt the whole and for that reason it is cleary not the way we should live." But says who? Who says that just because my direction of life harms people it is wrong? Where did you get this idea of right and wrong?
Almost all Protestant and Catholic churches today believe that God created the world not to get something to love as if He were lonely, but to share the love inherent in Himself with the rest of the world. Churches believe that in the perfect world, in that originally perfect Garden of Eden, God shared His love freely with mankind and mankind freely with each other all in the midst of a nature-world that provided abundantly for every living thing. Churches believe that the strong should not eat the weak because they believe that in the original perfection of the Garden the strong did not eat the weak. To the contrary, the Garden of Eden shows the strong (God) acting on behalf of every weaker thing He created. The Biblical narrative tells us that the strong should serve the weak because Jesus came from Heaven to serve not be served by His weaker minions. The Bible also tells us that the way to flourishing cities and flourishing relationships is through selflessness not selfishness; by giving ourselves to one another not by incessantly striving to get from each other.
Churches are important to flourishing cities because they have been given the task of reminding the community of what life aught to be about in the city. She has been commissioned to bring a regular, personified reminder to her community that life in the world is about giving all we can to each other (through our families, jobs, recreation leagues, non-profits, churches, etc.) out of love for the One who gave all He could for us in Jesus Christ. Does someone have a better vision under which we could orchestrate life in the city? Is there a better way? Is there a higher estimation of humanity upon which life in our city could flow? In all of my research thus far, all other worldviews make less of mankind not more.
In excitement for a new church with a new narrative to help transform the flow of our city. Counting down.