Phil Miglioratti now @ Reimagine.Network Interviewed Jack Dennison, author of
City Reaching: On The Road To Community Transformation
Thank you for your excellent and insightful questions. It is a pleasure and privilege to respond to them. I will attempt to make my comments concise though each of these questions is answered in much greater detail in my new book, City Reaching: On The Road to Community Transformation.
You have asked:
"JACK, TEL US ABOUT YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY - HOW DID GOD GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?"
In 1993, while teaching at Multnomah Biblical Seminary, God directed me, along with several other denominational leaders from the Pacific Northwest, to initiate a collaborative effort to unite leaders around a vision and strategy to fill the Northwest with the dynamic presence of Jesus Christ. I had been deeply influenced by the research of George Otis, Jr., my first pastor's prayer summit, and the growing national movement of prayer. This led me to become the volunteer Global Communications Coordinator for the AD2000 United Prayer Track serving under the leadership of Dr. C. Peter Wagner for two years.
During this same period I met Dr. Jim Montgomery, founder of Dawn Ministries, and learned that there were then more than 100 nations worldwide who had committed to a similar vision and strategy to the one directing our regional efforts. Learning from the experience of others has always been an important value for me I became an immediate understudy of the DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) Movement worldwide.
Simultaneous to all of this I had been equally influenced by the work of Ed Silvoso, Mission Portland, and Mission America through their focus on cities in America. Though our vision for the Northwest was regional in focus our efforts were focused on one city at a time.
Since the implementation of the DAWN vision in America had not succeeded on two previous occasions, the last one involving such notables as Peter Wagner who actually concluded that DAWN would not work in America, Jim Montgomery was particularly interested in our emerging city emphasis in the Northwest. In time I was invited to join the missionary team of Dawn Ministries to begin to contextualize and apply the DAWN vision across America. The most noteworthy contextual deviation from the worldwide movement
was the city emphasis.
So, Phil, you see that my journey included both powerfully transformational spiritual experiences as well as life-changing paradigm and practical experiences. By the way in 1997 Peter Wagner referred to the emerging city reaching process as "state of the art," and "the only strategy like it in America." God has indeed led us to discover principles and processes that we believe could make a transformational difference in America.
"THE TERM 'CITY-REACHING' IS NEW TO MANY OF US - WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND HOW COULD IT ALTER THE LANDSCAPE OF CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA?"
City reaching presents a vision, strategy, and process for uniting the body of Christ around a commitment to community transformation. This city reaching strategy is both holistic in its approach and comprehensive in its scope. By holistic I am simply referring to the reintegration of the evangelistic and cultural mandates. Our highest hope and greatest joy is when God's children by creation become children by redemption. But in emphasizing the one mandate many of us have diminished the importance of the other. The cultural mandate, social concern and action, is not a distant stepchild to evangelism. In fact, it provides the very best bridge for evangelism. I am personally convinced that the primary reason the Church has been so marginalized and deemed so irrelevant by most of our society is because we have let our words to the talking rather than our actions. We have forfeited the relational bridges into the lives of people and communities and have lost the very vehicle that gives credibility to our words. Reintegrating these two in powerful and dynamics ways will remain an important challenge for the Church to meet in the new millennium.
But in addition to being holistic we must be comprehensive too. If we are going to really make a difference in our decaying cities the Church must become aware of ALL that must be done to transform the spiritual and social landscape of our communities. We must identify all the biblical ethna (ethnic, social, cultural, generational groups, etc.) within our sphere of responsibility and influence and determine the best means to reach them. We must discover all the pain and suffering the city experiences, and assess the city's systems and structures (law enforcement, government, education, health care, etc.) to determine where and how to best bring the light and life-changing presence of God to bear.
Only when we engage a process that is holistic and comprehensive can the whole Church be systematic in its approach and monitor is progress toward community transformation.
How might it alter the landscape of America? Just this morning I presented the following scenario to a foundation from which I am requesting financial empowerment for CitiReach International. Let me lift the text from that letter and present the scenario here.
Picture this present reality in Portland, Oregon. Portland is a city of 1.75 million-person population. The Church consists of approximately 1800 congregations and 400,000 Christians. One person when recently becoming aware of the size of the Christian presence in the city asked, "Tell me, why is there so much crime and so many problems in our city when there are so many congregations and Christians?"
The person intuitively agreed with the words of one of our national leaders who said, "you measure the effectiveness of the Church not by the number of its adherents but by the impact its members are having on society." That is right!
Now imagine what might be possible in bringing about a profound change in the spiritual and social climates of the city if in Portland 900 congregations and 200,000 Christians, representing only 50% of the Church, were committed to unity in the body of Christ and strategically focusing its resources on community transformation. What if only 25% of the Church comprised of 450 congregations and 100,000 persons were to make such a commitment and function in such a collaborative way. What might they be able to accomplish together that they cannot accomplish apart?
The cities of America have never experienced a united Church committed to extending the Kingdom of God in the city through the light and power of His presence. Entering into divine partnership with God in this way and at this level could make all the difference. At CitiReach International we are committed to and helping the Church across America do this very thing.
"WHAT ARE THE BASIC CONCEPTS OF CITY-REACHING?"
There are a number of paradigmatic concepts that are foundational to city reaching. When we begin to comprehensively focus on completing our Great Commission task in the city (i.e., community transformation) we are quickly struck with the fact that no pastor, church, denomination, or association is up to such an enormous task by themselves. If there is any hope of significant forward progress it will require the coming together of the whole Church. I just read an e-mail from my friend Jim Herrington in Houston, Texas, where he said, "Unity must be visibly demonstrated and practically experienced." That is right! Unity has been little more than a theological concept that we affirm and must now become a functional reality that we experience.
It has only been in recent years that the Church has rediscovered the 1st Century reality that there is only ONE Church in every city and on every block and in every neighborhood where it exists. The challenge we face is in discovering how to act like it.
Regarding prayer we continue to discover in deeper ways the reality that prayer must animate every aspect of city reaching. Pastors are sick to death of the humanistic and organizational processes used to determine our spiritual response to important ministry issues. Prayer must be the starting point and sustaining factor of city reaching. When confronted with a series of options to choose from we must convince ourselves in prayer of the option of God's choosing if we are to have the confidence needed to sustain ourselves in collaborative ministry.
Respectful and supportive relationships provide the practical glue to a city reaching effort. When we have united around our citywide tactics we have found that when the event is over we go right back to the isolation from which we came. But if in genuine relationship with one another we can do ministry together indefinitely. Prayer and relationships provide the "possibility" of initiating a city reaching process. Without both, we will remain frustrated, isolated, and powerless.
But in addition to these paradigm factors, and there are others discussed in the book, there are several vital practical dimensions of city reaching that should be mentioned here. The five key milestones that must be achieved along the city reaching pathway are;
Awaken the Church to God's love for the city and the Church's biblical mission in the city by establishing a clear, compelling, and comprehensive vision to transform the city and its societies. This is done through basic vision casting and is an ongoing process.
Mobilize the whole body of Christ around God's vision for the city. This is essentially the process of leadership empowerment. The Church will only mobilize in response to the call and enablement of its spiritual leaders.
Gather accurate and up-to-date information that describes the current status of the city, the Church in the city, and the spiritual diagnostics that helps us to understand the unseen forces at work behind our current conditions.
Develop a strategic plan that will guide the Church in its city reaching efforts enabling it to be systematic in its approach while monitoring its progress. For me strategic planning is simply the thoughtful and intentional process we go through to align our activity with the activity of God. If God is going in one direction and we in another the Church must go through some kind of a prayerful process that will help us get where He is. Leadership + prayer + information = strategy.
Tactical implementation of the strategic plan using the highest leverage activities and most focused ministries to produce the greatest impact and most enduring results.
Now, having said all of this I want to make it very clearly that my personal conviction is that only the Church as a whole can do city reaching. What I mean by this, and my reason for saying it is that some paraministries call what they do "city reaching." I think this is a misnomer. If city reaching is holistic and comprehensive it should be clear that no paraministry's efforts could be construed as meeting either of these qualifiers. Only as the Church works together as a whole, as a single unit, can city reaching be addressed and accomplished. We must envision the whole but then acknowledge the part we play toward the whole. Paraministries who claim to be doing city reaching confuse the matter since they may envision the whole but the part they contribute is only one of many pieces of the whole. CitiReach International, as a paraministries, does not do city reaching. We, like all others, play only one small but vital role, toward empowering the whole Church to reach its city. So I state my belief again, only the Church as a whole can do city reaching as it integrates the many pieces into a comprehensive whole targeting the fulfillment of its mission in the city.
"WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN VISION AND MISSION? STRATEGY AND TACTICS?"
The mission of the Church has not changed in 2000 years. We have always been called to be "salt and light" in dark and decaying places. Where the Church has done this transformation has occurred. Vision however is the contextualization or application of our mission to a particular place and point in time. We must find appropriate and relevant ways to contextualize our Great Commission commitments in an increasingly urban world. I believe, in light of what God seems to be saying to Christians all over the globe, that God's vision for today can be adequately stated in transformational language alone. The imminent expectation of a divine visitation that will result in an unprecedented millennial harvest is much more than mere rhetoric, it is a divine message and challenge to get ready for an intervention unparalleled in human history. We should take this universal call seriously and get ready!
The distinction between tactics and strategy is an even more vital one as we really try to come to grips with the challenge to reach entire cities. There are many very good, productive and effective tactics at work in our cities. The problem is that there exists no strategic framework to determine what tactics are needed and when, nor to assess the effectiveness of the ministries we currently employ. So we continue to expend a great deal of energy and resources but have no idea whether we are closing the gap between where we are and where God is calling us to go. The collective ministry of the Church in the city looks much less like an army systematically occupying the land (Conquest of Canaan) keeping clearly in focus its strategic objectives and looks more like a box of toothpicks dropped at random on a table top. The resulting chaos produced by this condition speaks more of our competition, duplication of effort and lost effectiveness than it does of our desire to collaborate, communicate and cooperate. What is needed is a strategic process that first determines where we are, where God is calling us to go, and then determines the tactical activities and ministries that are most impacting and will produce the greatest and most long lasting results toward those ends. Tactics must naturally flow out of strategy. This is new thinking for the Church who has lived like Israel did at the time of the Judges with each man doing what was right in his own eyes.
"WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES TO A COMMUNITY IF ITS LEADERS FAIL TO UNDERSTAND AND IMPLEMENT A CITY REACHING STRATEGY?"
Once we begin to evaluate the effectiveness of the Church by its impact on society we realize that Charles Chaney is right, "an unquestioned axiom of 20th Century Christian historiography is that the Church has lost the cities of this continent." The gap between the Church's capacity to affect change and the needs of the city continues to widen at an ever accelerating rate. What is needed according to Mike Regele of Percept Ministries is an "adequate response" to the changing conditions within our cities. Not just a response, we have been doing that, but an "adequate" response that will change the current trajectory of diminishing societal impact by the Church.
I know of no other vision, strategy or process that is as clear, compelling or comprehensive as is the one for city reaching. If there was ever a time to see emerge a process that could genuinely lead to a whole Church effort to take the whole Gospel to the whole city now is it. We need not just another response but one that will, if successful, actually fulfill the Great Commission in our cities.
At CitiReach International we remain crystal clear that we are only one of a thousand paraministries who each play a vital role in working alongside the broader Church to fulfill its mission on earth. We don't do city reaching. Though we do help the leaders of the city Church envision the whole, mobilize for prayer, empower leaders, assess the unfinished task, bring alignment the Church through shared vision pursuing common goals, in identifying the highest leverage activities to accomplish the greatest impact for the Kingdom, and other vital functions this is still only one aspect of all that needs to be done if the Church is going to reach its city.
If we keep doing what we have been doing it is certain we will keep getting what we have been getting and that won't come close to meeting our heart's expectation for what God wants to do and is about to do. We must enter into divine partnership as a responsible and intentional partner seeking the transformation of our communities, nation and world. It is time to move from scattered tactics to a comprehensive strategy to reach our cities.
"HOW DO YOU SEE THE CITY REACHING MOVEMENT CHANGING AS IT MATURES?"
Though I never want to under-emphasize or value the Church's role in divine partnership and community transformation the aspect that has changed the most as the movement and its spokesmen have matured is that community transformation is much more about God than about us. There is so much that I could say about this as to why I believe this and what has occurred to lead us to this conclusion. But for now let me simple present a paragraph from the book where I state as clearly as I can what I believe to be true.
"I have since come to realize that it matters little how many people or congregations we mobilize, how effective our collaboration or how bold our plans if the Lord himself does not come to our cities and visit us with his presence and power. Without God's direct intervention, our efforts to change communities will be hopelessly unfruitful and without impact.
This bedrock reality forces us to permeate every aspect of our city-reaching efforts with prayer, intercession and spiritual warfare."
In another place I write, "In every chapter of this book you will find prayer animating and revealing the paradigm, vision and process of city reaching. But here and now I want to say as clearly as I possibly can: If the Church does not pray earnestly, fervently and persistently for a divine visitation, it will not come. Let me say it again, God will not come to your city and do the things you long to see occur if you fail to pray. You can do many other things that will incrementally effect change in the Church and in your community, but without united, fervent prayer he will not come and transform your city!
It is much more about Him than about us.
Well Phil, I was not as concise as I had hoped to be and did not even finish answering all of the questions you asked. I do hope this information is helpful to you and your readership.
Richest blessings to you as you continue to mobilize prayer around a vision for community transformation.
Jack Dennison, CitiReach International
City Reaching: On The Road To Community Transformation--
The author presents a compelling and strategic process for mobilizing the
Church to reach the urban centers of America, and beyond. He presents the
theology, principles and processes of establishing a whole Church, whole
Gospel, and whole city effort targeting the goal of transforming communities.
The Author --
Dr. Jack Dennison serves as founder and president of CitiReach International,
an agency committed to fanning the worldwide flames of city reaching. A
former missionary, seminary professor and local church pastor, Dennison
suggests that the cities of the world have moved to the forefront of global
mission. City Reaching presents the reader with a clear and proven approach
to increase the Church's effectiveness in changing spiritual and social
climate in your city.
The Publisher, William Carey Library, US Center for World Mission
City Reaching is a book about community transformation. The author presents a
compelling and strategic process for mobilizing the Body of Christ to reach
the urban centers of America, and beyond. City Reaching is, says John Dawson,
"holistic in its approach and comprehensive in its scope."
With more than 50% of the world and 90% of the US populations living in
metropolitan communities, city reaching has moved to the forefront of global
mission. The book presents a vision and approach to ministry that can result
in deep spiritual and social change in the city.
Endorsements for City Reaching: On The Road To Community Transformation
Bill Bright, Founder and President, Campus Crusade for Christ International
Paul Cedar, Chairman, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization
John Dawson, author of Taking Our Cities for God
Ted Haggard, author of Primary Purpose
George Otis, Jr., author of Informed Intercession
John Perkins, Chairman, Christian Community Development Association
Individual copies are most easily obtained through local bookstores or Amazon
books at this web address:
Additional recommended reading links to Amazon can be found on the CitiReach
web site at http://www.citireach.org
Quantity discounts are available through CitiReach International. Information
regarding these discounts is available at the CitiReach International web