CCU Blog

CCU Blog

I Experienced “Church” Last Night

Last night, Debra and I experienced an unexpected, remarkably invigorating expression of Christ’s Church.  We knew we were going to meet with other believers to pray for spiritual awakening in the city of Los Angeles.  If you had asked me ahead of time I would have affirmed that, yes, as a gathering of believers we will be an expression of the Church.  What caught me off-guard and turned a time of fellowship into an interactive encounter with Jesus was the readiness and spontaneous willingness of everyone there to be sweetly responsive to the prompting of Christ’s Spirit.

21 of us were gathered in a modest apartment in the heart of downtown L.A.  Many of those present only knew one or two others in the room.  The common link to our group was our friendship with the convener, Dustin Lang (RevivalLA.org).  We began with simple, heart-felt, solo guitar worship of King Jesus.  Dustin shared a brief message on Christ’s observation of a plentiful harvest but the need for additional laborers (Matthew 9:35-38).  What happened next transformed our gathering from a group of friendly strangers into members of Christ’s family who were passionately devoted to one another.

Dustin invited all of us to stand.  There were five of us present who serve the Body of Christ in pastoral roles.  Dustin, one of the five, invited the other four of us to stand in the center of the small living room.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Dustin informed the group that the five of us were going to circulate around the room and spontaneously pray for different ones. He then prayed a brief prayer and released us to minister.

I immediately motioned to my wife, Debra, to join with me (I love partnering with her) and we instinctively moved toward a young couple.  Ann and John are in a dating relationship.  They care deeply for one another but it’s too soon to know if they will be life partners.  Debra and I prayed for them as individuals and as a couple.  Topics of prayer on their behalf flowed freely – their personal spiritual vitality, male models of devotion to Christ for John, expressions of creativity and compassion in ministry for Ann, and that they would protect each other’s purity so that regardless of the outcome of their relationship there would be no regrets.  As Debra and I prayed for this sweet couple I became aware that the apartment was alive with fervent prayer conversations.  The room was filled with vibrant ministry huddles of intercession. As prayer concluded in a huddle, there seemed to be a Holy Spirit orchestration of rotation as pastors moved from person to person and group to group.  At any given moment you could hear words of prayer, sounds of laughter, and see tears of tender appreciation.  As Debra and I transitioned from Ann and John we both knew who God wanted us to pray for next.

Hannah is a vibrant young pregnant woman who is only a couple weeks away from her due date.  She and her husband, Jason (another one of the pastors), have already named the little girl in her womb, Elizabeth.  Debra and I joyfully prayed for Hannah and Elizabeth.  Again, the prayer topics flowed – rest for Hannah in these final weeks, a safe delivery and health for little Elizabeth.  Knowing that God knew and named Elizabeth before the foundation of the world, we were prompted to pray that Elizabeth would place her faith in Jesus at a young age and fulfill the calling of God on her life.

Next, Debra and I were able to pray for Jennifer Lang (Dustin’s wife).  Jennifer and Dustin are a choice ministry couple.  We prayed for Jennifer’s unique giftings of creativity, hospitality and compassion as she partners with and encourages her husband who is a dynamic Kingdom visionary and proclaimer of God’s truth.  Dustin and Jennifer have a calling on their lives to raise up 15,000 revivalists who will pray for and proclaim the gospel to the city of Los Angeles. (Now you know why I am so drawn to this couple.  Our hearts resonate with the same desire for spiritual awakening and visible unity of Christ’s Church.)

The prayer ministry ended with the five pastors standing in the center of the living room, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who were joyfully and appreciatively inviting God’s blessing on our lives and empowerment for the ministries he was calling us to fulfill. As the evening drew to a close, there was a strong sense that, just as Hannah was pregnant and soon to deliver … that apartment had been a spiritually pregnant place and something wonderful was being birthed in our time together.

That is Church sqI have experienced the same vibrantly alive ministry dynamic I have sought to describe on one other occasion in my life.  It was in 2014 at the World Wide Conference of a ministry organization that is having a global impact.  The shared traits of that group of 500 and the apartment gathering of 21 in Los Angeles are exactly the same.  People coming together who share: 1) A deep love for Jesus. 2) A willingness to spontaneously engage one another in prayerful personal ministry in a way that turns friendly strangers into passionately devoted family members.  And 3) A fervent desire to see Jesus exalted and for lives (marriages, cities, nations) to be transformed.  That is Church!

I came away from the gathering last night with the exact same thought in my mind I had in response to the ministry night in 2014 – “This is what the church is meant to be!  This is what every local gathering of believers is meant to experience on a regular basis but rarely ever does.”

I’m writing this blog as a testimony of gratitude and praise for how Jesus moved in our midst last night.  I’m also writing in the hope of stirring a hunger and desire in the hearts of God’s people to pursue Him and be willing to spontaneously engage one another in prayer and ministry in response to the Spirit’s prompting.  God desires that our personal oneness with Christ and our corporate unity in Christ not only transforms our lives, but fuels our hearts to passionately engage one another in the shared pursuit of seeing Jesus lifted up and all people be drawn to Him.  That is Church!

CCU Blog

The Church: Biblically Informed or Culturally Influenced

Screenshot 2018-08-28 09.47.14It has often been suggested that if you gave a man on a deserted island a bible and asked him to read it from Genesis to Revelation, he wouldn’t come away from that exposure to God’s truth with the same view of Christianity that many have today.

For example, addressing our understanding of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan writes,

“Perhaps we’re too familiar and comfortable with the current state of the church to feel the weight of the problem.  But what if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? Imagine being rescued after twenty years and then attending a typical evangelical church.  Chances are you’d be shocked (for a whole lot of reasons but that is another story).  Having read the scriptures outside the context of contemporary church culture, you would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive.  You would know that that the Spirit led the first Christians to do unexplainable things, to live lives that didn’t make sense to the culture around them, and ultimately to spread the story of God’s grace around the world.  There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today.” (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, p. 16)

The observation regarding the radical incongruity between modern Christianity and a simple reading of the New Testament points to the powerful influence that our cultural setting can have on our perception of biblical norms.  We tend to assume that what we have grown up with is the way things are.  God typically has to introduce significant disruption in our lives to open us up to consider a different perspective or possibility.

Thinking About the Church of the City

Another firmly entrenched area of our Christian experience based on cultural bias has to do with the way we understand and “do church”.  A fresh reading of the New Testament for the purpose of informing our understanding of how the Church is to function will quickly reveal a far different picture of the church than what most individuals and communities are experiencing.

The undeniable teaching of scripture is that Christ’s followers are members of each other through their intimate association with Jesus.  The New Testament clearly teaches one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one bride, one temple, one new man, one loaf, one family, one Church.  Do you see the essential unity of the Body of Christ implicit in each of those metaphors?  Christ’s followers are to love one another … forgive, honor, be devoted to, pray for, be kind to, accept, agree with, be patient with, submit to, encourage, bear with, live in peace with, show compassion toward, live in harmony with, extend hospitality toward, not judge, and not grumble against one another … all as an expression of obedience to Christ’s commands.  These commands are not to be exclusively carried out in the context of a local congregation of believers but are incumbent upon the broader body of Christ in the city.

Jesus prayed that the visible unity of his followers would convince a watching world that Christ was sent from the Father and that they were loved by God (John 17:22-23).  The Apostle Paul addressed the bulk of his epistles to the collective Body of Christ in Rome, Corinth, Phillipi, Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica, and the region of Galatia.

The clear teaching of Scripture regarding the nature and function of the Church communicates something far different from what we typically see throughout our communities today.  What will it take to begin meaningful change?

Courageous Humility

Courageous HumilityIn his book, Forgotten God, Francis Chan asks the probing question, “Do you have enough humility to be open to the possibility that you have been wrong in your understanding of the Spirit?” (p. 46).  In a similar way, it has become part of my life message to invite the Body of Christ to embrace a spirit of humility, courageous humility, to be open to the possibility that we have been wrong in our understanding of the Church.  McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Five Guys, and In-n-Out all sell variations of the same product but they are competitors, not teammates.  Rather than functioning as a united visible expression of the presence and love of Christ in society we have allowed our transformational impact to be compromised by being culturally conformed into independent religious franchises.  Local churches frequently act as competitors, not teammates.

Disruptive Reformation

Reformation is essentially a movement of realignment to a standard and is nearly always disruptive.  In 1517 the need of the Church was to realign itself with the biblical teaching on the servant nature of leadership and the core truths of the gospel.  The outcome of the Reformation was twofold, a gospel movement was birthed that has resulted in untold numbers of people coming to faith in Christ over the past 500 years, and the Church was divided in a way that has yet to be healed.  Disruptive reformation.

I believe the Church stands at the threshold of another movement of realignment prompted by God’s Spirit.  Today, the need is for God’s people to rediscover their essential identity and unity as members of Christ’s Body and radically embrace the behavioral and relational implications of that revolutionary truth.  This disruptive reformation of the Church will be fueled by a desire to align with Christ’s command to love one another.  It is my prayer that this motive of love will minimize the disruptive trauma of this movement of realignment.

  • It will mean that pastors discover that they are not only called to serve a particular gathering of believers, but they are also called to lead and influence the spiritual vitality of the Church of the City.
  • Pastors will be awakened to the fact that one of their primary divinely given job responsibilities is to “build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:11-13).
  • It will require local congregations to embrace their role as part of the larger Body of Christ in their community, allowing their senior pastoral leadership the freedom to engage citywide responsibilities as well as local shepherding.
  • This reformation of unity will call for the spectrum of giftedness within the Body of Christ to creatively facilitate racial solidarity, the celebration and honoring of multi-cultural expressions of worship, and the practical challenges of visible unity in global cities.
  • Gifts of compassion, mercy, generosity, and helps will partner with gifts of administration, wisdom, and leadership in order to create new strategies for the united Church of the City to address systemic social issues like homelessness, drug abuse, teen suicide, human trafficking, and fatherlessness.
  • Pastors within communities will partner together, forming Advisory Councils in order to provide strategic oversight and coordinated distribution of efforts and resources.
  • The Body of Christ at large will be mobilized like never before to become agents of change, service, compassion, and gospel saturation.
  • It will mean that Church Denominations and Associations will experience significant disruption as they assess whether or not their policies, programs, and structures are in alignment with the ecclesiology of Jesus.
  • Denominations and Associations will also experience the shift of local church focus from being part of a national organization to congregations embracing their strategic role as part of the City Church of their community. Denominations and Associations that fail to become supportive resource agencies for City Church unity will find themselves decreasing in influence and relevance.

Next Steps

Screenshot 2018-08-28 09.46.52

If the Spirit of God is igniting a passion within you for the unity of the Body of Christ:

  1. Acknowledge what God is doing and become even more attentive to his promptings. He has set you on a course to accomplish his purposes for his glory.
  2. Begin reading Paul’s Epistles with a journal at your side and a pen in your hand. Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your heart to the unity of the Body and to give you insight and wisdom as to what role he wants you to play in your church and your community as an Ambassador of Unity.
  3. Share this article with your friends, begin a discussion group, and start praying with others for the health and vitality of the Church in your city.
  4. For further reading: City Church: Working Together to Transform Cities(Urban Ministry in the 21st Century) (Volume 5) 
    by Kelly Malone et al.   Link: http://a.co/d/1fv6KlX

Note: The mission of City Church Unite is to strengthen the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the Church of the City.  We pursue this goal through building relationships of trust among local ministry colleagues, facilitating community-wide prayer gatherings, and hosting catalytic events. We would be honored to serve you and your community in any way we can.

Speaking of Unity

Pastors Modeling Unity

Pastors Modeling Unity

Two Santa Clarita CA. Pastors, Rusty George (Real Life Church) and Todd Smith (Crossroads Community Church), tell the story of how each Church has graciously met needs on behalf of the other.  These leaders model the power and beauty of unity in the Body of Christ and encourage other pastors to do the same.  Thank you men. You are my heroes! -TW

 

CCU Blog

Good Citizenship In Christ’s Community

Report Card circa 1965

If you are a “boomer” or older, you will remember that report cards in elementary school included grades for both academics and citizenship.  Citizenship evaluated behavioral qualities including work habits, courtesy, respect for authority, honesty, cheerfulness, promptness, and reliability.  The Public School System reflected the social value that being a “citizen” of a community carried with it behavioral responsibilities.

Membership in Christ’s community includes behavioral citizenship responsibilities as well.  The New Testament provides abundant instruction for the citizen conduct or behaviors that are to characterize how members of the family of God are to conduct themselves toward one another.  In fact, they are most easily identified as “One Another” statements.  Consider these examples:

John 13:34 – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another with mutual affection. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another.

1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Thessalonians 5:15 – Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

James 4:11 – Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Love, honor, harmony, unity, service, humility, compassion, forgiveness, submission, and kindness – these behaviors are to characterize how Christ’s followers treat one another.  And allow me to remind you, these commands of Christian Citizenship are not simply given to a local congregation to be exclusively exercised in the context of their fellowship.  These commands are consistently addressed to the Church of the City – the collective Body of Christ throughout the community or region.

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” – Rom 1:7
“To the church of God that is in Corinth” – 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1
“To the churches of Galatia” (region) – Gal 1:2
To the saints who are in Ephesus” – Eph. 1:1
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi”  – Phil 1:1
“To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae”  – Col 1:2
“To the church of the Thessalonians” –1 & 2 Thess. 1:1

Let’s be honest, maintaining harmonious relationships is hard work. Anyone who is married can testify to the effort required to keep a marriage relationship vibrantly healthy.  If you have adult siblings you know how easy it is to allow busy-ness, lack of communication, or personal offenses to create isolation that can easily result in relational distance.

Exhibiting love, unity, harmony, and forgiveness in the Body of Christ throughout a community would be difficult work … but Jesus commands it.  Our Lord, our Master commands us to love one another, in all the expressions of what that means, just as he loves us.  That means every pastor, elder, deacon and ministry leader is to be a vocal advocate and behavioral example of pursuing the unity of God’s people in their city.

It is not my intention to be critical of pastoral leadership. I have been engaged in pastoral ministry for over 30 years. I have sat in that chair. I know the challenge of nurturing and maintaining unity within a local fellowship, let alone nurturing unity among the Church of the city. There are theological distinctives, denominational traditions, worship preferences and Holy Spirit convictions that can easily derail relational solidarity. We simply can’t escape the fact that nowhere in scripture are we given permission to politely isolate ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ who hold different views than we do. To do so is simply and plainly sin. We need to repent for allowing the cultural, traditional, and denominational norms we have grown up with, to blind us from the clear imperative of scripture.  We are to love one another to the point of being willing to die for one another – “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Vocal AdvocateGod’s spirit is reawakening his people, in our era, to their essential identity as members of Christ’s body and their undeniable responsibility to love one another as he has loved us.  Movements of unity, not simply compromise, but of genuine love and devotion between followers of Jesus are surfacing across our nation and around the world.  Movement Day, a ministry based in New York City, reports movements of Christian marketplace, non profit, and church leaders coming together to transform their city in New York City, Charlotte, Dallas, Phoenix, Seattle, Philadelphia, Hong Kong, The United Kingdom, and South Africa. In fact, Movement Day is convening 300 leaders from 100 strategic cities around the world in Washington D.C. in November 2018, who are committed to advancing the Gospel by unifying the church.

As you read these words you may find the Spirit of God rising up within you with a holy affirmation of “Yes … this is what the Body of Christ is meant to be!”  Be encouraged, there are likely brothers and sisters in your community who are experiencing this same prompting of the Spirit and are looking to connect with other like-minded citizens in Christ’s community to strengthen the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the Church in your city.

What can you do?  Some suggested steps:

  • Share this article with your fellowship circle – read it, talk about it, and discuss the implications.
  • Begin meeting and praying with Christian friends from other church families who share your vision for the unity of the body of Christ.
  • Pray for your local church leadership.  One of Satan’s classic strategies has been to hinder and harass church leadership. Prepare the soil of their hearts with intercession. The last thing Satan wants is a city full of pastors who are enthusiastically devoted to the unity of the Church of the city. The enemy knows that the result would be an unprecedented evangelistic harvest and revival!
  • When appropriate, respectfully and humbly share your growing convictions with your pastor and local church leadership.
  • Encourage your pastors to build relationships of trust with ministry leaders from other local churches. Encourage them to begin regularly praying with other ministry leaders for the vitality and unity of the Church of your city.

The mission of City Church Unite is to unite the Church to transform the city. By God’s grace CCU, along with other partner ministries, will be used as a catalyst for helping pastors and churches pursue the unity of the Body of Christ in their community.  How can we serve you? Feel free to contact CCU using the form below. – Tracy Weaver


CCU Blog

Why Cities?

Why Cities?

Why are cities important for the advancement of the gospel? Why do cities matter?

Cities are a focal point of God’s redemptive plan throughout scripture. The storyline of the New Testatment centers around Jesus going to die in Jerusalem, the religious capital of the world, and the Apostle Paul going to die in Rome, the political capital of the world.  God’s prophetic plan of redemption and re-creation will culminate with a New Jerusalem … a city! (Revelation 3:12, 21:2)

In 1800, there was only one city of more than a million people, London, the heart of the British Empire. By 1900, this had increased to 20 cities, and by 2000, to more than 400 cities. By 2025, there are expected to be between 650 and 700 cities with more than one million people (Source: Incarnational Ministry, Hiebert & Meneses, 1995, p. 258).

In 2005, there were 20 megacities in the world, each with a population exceeding 10 million (Source: Malone, Kelly. City Church: Working Together to Transform Cities).  Today, seven thousand people are moving into sizeable cities every hour.  This represents a new San Francisco or a new Singapore birthed every month.

There is an unprecedented movement of people back into urban centers. “If we are to connect to God’s work to reach the greatest number of people in our lifetimes, our work must be connected to cities” (Mac Pier, Disruptive Gospel, p.26)

CCU is based in the city of Santa Clarita, California – our incubator city.  Santa Clarita is the 3rd largest city in Los Angeles County.  Many people live and play in Santa Clarita and work in Los Angeles. Our current focus of ministry is Santa Clarita, knowing that a movement of God, there, will quickly have an influence throughout greater Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is one of six cities referred to as Global Giants.  Six large, wealthy hubs with concentrations of corporate headquarters; they serve as the command and control centers for the world’s largest advanced economies – London, Los Angeles, New York, Osaka-Kobe, Paris, and Tokyo.  On average, these Global Giants house 19.4 million residents.  If these six cities were a single country, they would be the world’s third largest economy (Source: The Brookings Institution – Redefining Global Cities).

The mission of City Church Unite is to unite the Church to transform the city. By God’s grace CCU, along with many partner ministries, will be used as a catalyst for helping pastors and churches pursue the unity of the Body of Christ in their community:

  • by building relationships of trust and casting vision
  • by mobilizing believers in their city to partner in prayer
  • by providing communities with a strategy for collaborative service
  • by mobilizing the collective Church of the city to embrace the goal of saturating their community with the gospel of Jesus.

CCU Logo and PicIs the Spirit of God igniting a desire in you to meaningfully engage your city with the transforming presence of Jesus? It begins with the collective Church of your city awakening to its essential identity and responsibility to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Become a “Champion of Unity” in your local church. Begin to sow the seeds of oneness and unity in Christ among your christian friends.

City Church Unite exists to encourage and support movements of unity.  How can we serve you?

Partners In Unity

CCU is supported by caring friends who are passionate for the unity of Christ’s followers. We would be honored by your gracious partnership. For your convenience we use the secure and confidential services of PayPal.  You do not need a PayPal account to use this service.  Simply click the button below and follow the easy instructions.  Thank you.

Donate with PayPal

CCU Newsletter

August 2018 – The Trinity and Church Unity

God’s Spirit is igniting a movement of unity among God’s people.

This isn’t a trend or a fad, it is an awakening to the core biblical reality of the Church’s essential identity as members of the Body of Christ. In the August edition of Unite!, we look at the powerful implications the Trinity has toward Church unity.

Click link to download the newsletter – CCU Newsletter August 2018

We invite you to prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of City Church Unite.  For your convenience we use the secure and confidential services of PayPal.  You do not need a PayPal account to use this service.  Simply click the button below and follow the easy instructions.  Thank you.

Donate with PayPal