Biblical Foundations for a City Gospel Movement

10 January 2021

Beginning the Journey

The Heavenly Father has a “city story” that includes your city. He calls you to be involved in this story. This story is about the transformation of your city or town. It’s about lighting up your city with the gospel. The following notes lay a biblical foundation for how to be involved in the Father's city/town story. It is not about bible knowledge alone, but about bible knowledge shaped by “agape” love into a personal and corporate lived experience. Such a church will impact its community. So what does the bible say? What is the theology for a “city gospel movement?”

The Cross

Firstly, Luther said, “The cross alone is our theology.” Theology is much more that just knowledge of the bible. Theology (learning about our God) is the constant journey of discovery of the power of the cross, by learning how to be doers of the word and not hearers only, thus avoiding deception. (James 1:22) The love that comes from above is “cross love.” Christ’s call to the Christian is a “call to cruciformity, which is a call to allow our lives to be shaped by the cross” as Jesus did in Phil 2:7. (See Urban Spirituality by Karina Kreminski, page 27, 150) This journey to the cross will determine our future. It will also determine the future of your city or town.

The cross has five main ideas:

1. The cross is an eternal principle of the Fathers Kingdom. Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world, in eternity, before time and space came into being.

2. The cross is an historical event. Jesus died on a Roman cross 2000 years ago for the sins of a broken, wounded world.

3. The cross is the believers daily lived experience. This daily cross bearing is the only way to deal with human selfishness (Luke 9:23).

4. The cross is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18). This is so counter-cultural. God’s power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

5. The cross alone has achieved the oneness of the church through the creation of “one new man” (Eph 2:14-16). To deny the unity of the church in your city is to deny the work of the cross.

The Father’s Family

Secondly, a city story begins when Christians come together as the Father’s family, even if initially, as a small group. Begin where you are with those interested. Praying the Lord’s Prayer from Matt. 6:9-10 is a good beginning.

“Our Father” The family gathers in unity to the one Father of the family. Don’t be daunted if only a few Christians from various groups join in at the beginning.

“in heaven” The Father lives in His heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. This is significant and the source of our vision and authority.

“hallowed be your name” The name to be honoured and glorified above all names. Self promotion is a big temptation for any leader.

“Your kingdom come” This is what the church is about; the rule of Jesus in every city and town and ultimately in the nations. (See Ps 72. Read in several versions)

“your will be done” The Father has the perfect plan for your city and He will reveal His will as humble unified christians come before Him in prayer.

“on earth as it is in heaven” The heavenly city is the blueprint for each earthly city. The vision of the heavenly city is the biblical vision that guides God’s family from Abraham to this day (Heb. 11:10). (Note: the bible has much to say about the details of the heavenly city and how such a vision is to inform and inspire the work of the church in every city and town.)

The Beatitudes

Thirdly, the Father forms and informs His family in each city by the work of the cross and prayer. This process can be a challenge and a struggle as Paul indicated to the church in the city of Colossae and Laodicea (Col 2:1-4). The Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-16) can guide us in the struggle as we are formed into the likeness of Christ (A unified Body of believers). Reconciled diversity is the strength of unity and that is a challenge in this individualistic world.

But the Beatitudes, whIch mean “blessed”, are just that, the Lords favour poured on His family as they journey together in His counter-cultural Kingdom. Take whatever unity you have in your town or city and begin, or continue, as the case might be, your journey together.

Let’s look at the nine blessings the Father will bestow. The blessing releases the promises indicated at the end of each verse, as believers respond appropriately. Bible translator, Brian Simmons, calls the Father's blessing “an empowerment for abundant living in every sphere of life.” (Genesis p3 TPT)

The end result of living in the light of the Beatitudes is that the good news of Jesus will light up your community. So, in your “unity” group develop each of these counter cultural Kingdom qualities.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” God’s Kingdom is given to those totally dependant on the Father and know they have no resources other than those given by Him. God will save your city not you. He alone will supply all you need to be His instrument.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” Injustice devastates a community. The people of God are to pour out prayers of lament over this devastation. At lease 60 of the Psalms are Psalms of lament. List the injustices that need prayers of lament in your city.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Humility is the atmosphere of the Kingdom. God looks for the humble and contrite of heart (Is 66:2).

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” Christ puts us in right standing with the Father through the cross. He also puts us in right standing with each other. Christians long to see the righteousness of God in every area of city life. Some call it social righteousness.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” What amazing beauty there is in a church that exemplifies the Fathers mercy to a city, and not harsh judgement, religious legalism or worse still, indifference to others struggles.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” How beautiful is child like innocence? Criticism is stopped in its tracks when believers think the best of each other and deal with interpersonal issues in a biblical way.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” The Father is most pleased when His children are family reconcilers on the one hand and pursuers of shalom on the other. This is the family “business”.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” The enemy hates the kingdom culture outlined above and will attack a unified humble church at every opportunity. Christians are called to embrace the suffering of Christ in the midst of spiritual warfare.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Persecution is such a given for Kingdom Christians that Jesus announced a double blessing for those suffering, while calling for an outbreak of joy and gladness at the same time.

The end result of the church in a city living under the above nine blessings of the Father will be that it is salt and light in the community. The city will be saved from decay, death and darkness by such a church. The city will light up with the joy of Jesus (Acts 8:8).

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” The very existence of the church in a city is to resist decay and death of the society and culture. If the church is not a humble, servant hearted, sacrificial people the world sees it as irrelevant and “tramples it under foot.”

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Lighting up a city with the gospel are the good works of a church “seeking the welfare of the city” (Jer 29:7). Justice in the city brings light. Is 51:4 says “I will set my justice as a light for the peoples.” Injustice is the darkness of suffering and oppression. A primary focus of good works is the gathering of the marginalised, the righting of injustices and the confronting the “powers” that perpetrate and defend evil that cause others to suffer. Good works that glorify the Father are obviously the Spirit breathed activities of Christians in all walks of life “living” the good news where ever they find themselves placed in the community.

Finally, continue the journey with Jesus into your community. As you unify and pray, the Father will download His strategy for the proclamation of the gospel in word and good deeds.

Prophetically, Jesus is called “The Extraordinary Strategist.” (Is 9:6. TPT) The bible has the vision and the strategy, for the church in every city and town.

Ian Shelton Coordinator of Movement Australia

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