Reach77 is an Organic Missional Network in the city of Chicago.  Born of a missionary spirit, the network seeks to cultivate creative and meaningful expressions of the Church throughout Chicago’s seventy-seven community areas.  Reach77 aims to equip and encourage city missionaries in a collaborative effort to engage, serve and love the people of Chicago in response to the heart of the gospel message.

We practice organic principles

We believe in a simple, reproducible expression of the Church, one that encourages a relational emphasis, and grows out of a community’s local context.

We operate from a missional impulse

We believe that God is active in our communities and that all of our activity is driven by God’s mission in the world – we join in on what God is already doing.

We function as a network

We believe that unity is essential and that it allows for stronger and more meaningful participation in the mission of God. Though we are committed to our local communities, we regularly engage the city at a regional level (South, West, and North), all the while remaining intentionally connected to a broader citywide narrative.

Organic:

The term “organic” conjures up a wide variety of meanings. Some are uncomfortable with organic language and find it too ambiguous, others find it useful as an identification, but admit its limitations. We find ourselves in the latter camp, but believe it can be further clarified by relating it to the incarnational spirit of the Church. Similarly, the term “incarnational” is often difficult to comprehend. We are most familiar with it when referencing Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God. Incarnation means “taking on flesh” and its basis is found throughout scripture, most notably in the Gospel of John where the writer, referencing Jesus, writes: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen the glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  In an often quoted translation that expresses this passage uniquely, Eugene Peterson in The Message writes: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  Taking on flesh and moving into the neighborhood is a core principle of Reach77 and we believe models Jesus’ example to his followers.

So what does this look like?

For Reach77 the first step anyone takes is to plant themselves in a neighborhood. We have learned that the demographics of a community only tell part of the story. It is important that we take the time to get to know our neighborhood. Today we are enamored by our ability to experience and accomplish things instantaneously. There is nothing fast about this process, however, and practicing patience is probably the most effective strategy for sustained and meaningful relationships. Learning, experiencing and identifying with a community’s story allows space for a more genuine expression of Jesus’ message.

Contact matters. In the urban context there is an increasing sentiment of what some have labeled “crowded loneliness.” Thousands of people living in close proximity yet disconnected. Jesus practiced presence and developing a rhythm in which we are engaged in our communities requires that we are in touch with those around us. This mirrors much of the missionary endeavor. Enculturation is absolutely necessary – we must gradually learn the community’s behaviors, language and values if we hope to participate in the life of our communities in any meaningful way.

Altogether, this foundation allows a community of faith to develop Kingdom principles organically, in a natural, simple rhythm, where life happens and culture is formed. This requires an apostolic posture, one that encourages the faith community to “go” in order to reach friends, neighbors and colleagues so that Christ might transform our lives and our city!

Missional:

This is a term that has been used with more frequency of late yet remains elusive to define. In our context the word is used to describe the impulse from which we exist and thrive. We recognize from numerous passages of scripture that God in Christ has sent His Church into the world, manifesting and reflecting His purposes and His Kingdom. Reach77 desires to be obedient to Jesus’ command and has embraced a missionary spirit that is expressed in a variety of ways, but most concretely through the following:

Love of God

In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22: 36-40 we read, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What does it look like to love God? One of the primaries ways is through acts of worship and devotion. While much of our activity in the Church can be an expression of worship, including our acts of service and charity, there is something unique about the gathering of believers for the purposes of giving thanks and praise to God. In the book of Acts in the New Testament we read that the Church “worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.” The Psalms, too, remind us of the joy, privilege and responsibility of giving thanks to God (Psalm 92). We were created for worship – to offer back to God all God has given to us. All of our activity flows out of and is grounded in worship. Everything else we do, the whole of life, flows from the heart of God as we seek our joy and communion in Him.

Love of Neighbor

In the Great Commandment, loving God and loving neighbor are inseparable. Neighboring has become a bit of a lost art. We tend to lump this command into a rather broad view that indiscriminately categorizes everyone and everything as “neighbor” and in so doing we have lost sight of our actual neighbor. The ones right across the street, or across the hall, or two floors up, and an acre away. It is important that we regain our sight for those God places right in front of us. For Reach77 mission begins here. If we are to take Jesus’ response seriously than we ought to begin practicing a deep love for neighbor.

Neighboring begins with conversation. As we get to know people’s stories and begin to share life together we are better able to love and serve them. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing meals together or by engaging in “third spaces” – here genuine friendships are formed. Everyone loves to eat. In the book A Meal with Jesus, Tim Chester reminds us that in the Gospel of Luke Jesus is either at a meal, going to a meal, or coming from a meal. Jesus models life together and provides us with the simplest of tools: food. We believe meals also confront the thread of isolation that seems to be part of so many stories in the city. There is no better place to build community than at the table. Additionally, “third spaces” are places we are able to focus our time and energy. Basketball courts, sports bars and restaurants, play dates at the park, book clubs, gyms, coffee shops etc. are all examples of spaces we can regularly engage where God’s love and grace can shape a community’s story.

Discipleship

We believe that Jesus modeled intimacy in relationship. Genuine, biblical discipleship necessitates and fosters real friendship. Friendships that allow space for confession, for conflict, for questions, for care and for comradery. The faith journey is one that is meant to be lived in community, not in isolation. We are better when our spiritual lives embrace a shared identity.

Reach77 DNA encourages participation in Life Transformation Groups (LTGs). These discipleship groups are where our faith is most significantly shaped. These are groups of 3-4 people whose sole purpose is the consumption of scripture, prayer and accountability. Each LTG reads Scripture together each week, gathers on a weekly basis to share and to grow, prays for one another and allows space for openness and confession.

Because of the missional impetus that exits in the network there is an expectation of multiplication. In the church we tend to get comfortable and tend to isolate ourselves within relationships and with people we like and love. Jesus’ model of discipleship is fueled by multiplication. His followers spent time with him, were empowered and ultimately drove a movement forward toward an exponential existence. The gospel and presence of Jesus was meant to be extended to everyone. In that vein our LTGs reproduce themselves when a fifth person joins the group, splitting into two groups, multiplying the Kingdom.

Acts of Mercy

Jesus was clear about what the Kingdom of God was like, and embracing a spirit of service toward others was paramount.  Confronting the norm and calling his disciples to a deeper life Jesus points a different direction: “…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 43-44.

There are countless ways in which we can serve our communities and our city. For Reach77 it is about uncovering the areas of need that exist and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our response. There are practical ways to serve, some are more personal and specific to people we are in relationship with, others are broader and more complex and affect the entire city. It is as simple as dropping off a casserole for a friend in need, or helping someone move and settle into a new apartment, it is serving meals at a local homeless shelter, or opening up a food pantry, it is serving marginalized communities across this city, friends in the LGBTQ community, and refugee community, and survivors of human trafficking, as well as people with special needs. It is serving in Chicago’s rich field of academia, on little league ball diamonds, basketball courts, neighborhood associations and Parent Teacher Organizations.  All of these are just some of the examples in which we are able to love and serve those around us. We believe that by participating in acts of mercy, in serving others, transformational discipleship takes place. We are only able to follow Jesus as we enter into places where we are able to serve those that the Kingdom of God most identifies with. And we believe God desires to bring all of these things together through the redemptive and reconciling purposes of Christ for this great city.

Network: See Network Life

Someday we’re going to get a vision for the cities. It’s missionary work in our cities. We’ll not save our cities until we get a missionary vision for the cities. We left the cities and then the new America moved to the cities. The mission field decided to come to us, and it came to stay.

Paul Cunningham

A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the Kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.

Oswald Chambers

If our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, we are guilty of heresy.

St. Ignatius of Loyola