Wednesday, August 24, 2005
It's about community transformation
As we head into this church plant, I've been thinking, praying, and dreaming a lot about what we want to accomplish in and through this church. One of my biggest goals is to create a church that transforms the lives of people by immersing them in a spiritually transformative community. This communal transformation is necessary because human persons are fundamentally social/communal creatures. Who we are and who we become is shaped by our web of social networks and communal influences. Thus in order to transform people we need to also transform the communities that mold them. One of the things that makes a community of faith (such as a church) so valuable is that it can provide one of those crucial shaping influences. By immersing people in a new social web, a new community, we can influence what kind of person they become.

However, if we truly believe that Christians are not blessed by God just for our own sake but so that we may be a blessing to the whole world, then it is not enough to simply create our ideal transformative community within the walls of the church itself. The goal is not to simply build the biggest and best church community we possibly can, the goal is far larger (and more daunting) than that. The goal needs to be for the church to be a transformative influence within the broader community it is a part of. For us this means transforming the town of Yorkville and its surrounding areas. It means helping to make Yorkville the kind of community that contributes to the positive life transformation of the people living there.

To put it terms of some concrete descriptors, I imagine helping Yorkville become the kind of place where people know their neighbors, where they are aware of those in need around them and take action to help them, where diversity of belief, race and culture are valued and savored, where people have fun together and dance and laugh and play together, where we support local businesses and local farmers, where we care for the environment that we have to all live in, where the arts are cultivated, where children are valued and invested in, and even so much more than what I describe here. I want people to look back in 30 years at the kind of town that Yorkville has become and say, "This is a truly good place to live, not because we're all wealthy, comfortable and isolated, but because we know each other and take care of each other." And I want the people in our church to look back with pride at the role we will have played in helping Yorkville to become that way.

It strikes me that while many Christians have no problem talking about the need for the church to transform urban communities that are blighted with crime and poverty, it might strike those same people as rather odd to talk about transforming a wealthy and relatively stable suburban community. But why should we assume that suburban communities don't equally need transformation. In their own way, suburban communities have just as many problems and are in just as much need for spiritual transformation as any inner city neighborhood. In fact, their problems are perhaps the more dangerous and cancerous because they are more hidden and less obvious.

So how does this kind of community transformation that I'm talking about happen? How can a church change the character of an entire town? I think it has to start small and subtle. It starts with a faith community, or a number of faith communities, all commiting to live their lives in a different kind of pattern, according to a different rhythm. A poster I saw in my Northern Sun catalog had a really good list of easy, practical and profound suggestions for what this new pattern would look like:

Turn off your TV
Leave your house
Know your neighbors
Look up when you are walking
Greet people
Sit on your stoop
Plant flowers
Use your library
Play together
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden together
Support neighborhood schools
Fix it even if you didn't break it
Have pot lucks
Honor elders
Pick up litter
Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the mail carrier
Listen to the birds
Put up a swing
Help carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a tradition
Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a block party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Open your shades
Sing together
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent though many are not heard - Work to change this

I love this list. Imagine if a few hundred or a few thousand people in a town all committed to living this way... what kind of change could it produce?

What else might you add to this list? Share your ideas with me.
posted by Mike Clawson at 7:42 PM | Permalink |


At 8/25/2005 12:24:00 AM, Blogger Wendy

Okay. I don't get that last comment AT ALL. Is it an inside joke? Am I just idiotic? Okay, don't answer that . . .


At 8/25/2005 08:27:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

No, it's not a joke. It's automated blog spam. I've been getting it a lot recently. "They found me. I don't know how, but they found me." :)

Fortunately I can delete them as they come. Just ignore them.



At 8/25/2005 05:49:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

Yeah, they found me too......
not happy. :( Guess I should have known they'd get to the blogs eventually!


At 8/26/2005 03:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for that post. Good stuff...

Your friend,


At 8/27/2005 11:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

This is good, Mike.

I will look forward to hearing about what you are up to.

At Reconciler, we are getting ready to move out of the spare room at the apartment into the chapel of a local Lutheran congregation. We hope this is a step in the right direction.

Keep on praying!


At 8/30/2005 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Great to hear that you found another space Tripp. We'll have to come visit you guys again sometime soon.

Have you connected with any new people there in your area lately? We're praying that Reconcilers makes an impact there in Rogers Park.