This, hopefully, is the easiest of the three terms to understand. The city of Chicago is expansive and complex. The most effective way for the Church to thrive is to function interdependently. If we pray as Jesus modeled it is clear that “Kingdom Come” ought to be a reality and not an illusion. We must find meaningful ways of connecting diverse communities, bridging economic, ethnic, racial, language, and religious barriers. This can only happen if we maintain a significant focus on our interconnectedness as a network. Currently we are present in several of the 77 community areas and our passion is to connect lives and stories in all of them.
Our immediate priority is the local context. It is here that the principles outlined above are best practiced. Growing organically out of a unique neighborhood context, allowing mission and discipleship to flow out of the regular rhythm of our lives. It is here that we have our deepest relationships and strongest friendships. It is here that we are able to become part of a community and join God and others in a smaller, more personal story.
The city of Chicago is predominantly divided between North, West and South – though, of course, even within this “regional” association there remains significant diversity. There are a variety of reasons we participate in the network on a regional basis. For those currently living on the north side of Chicago, for example, though we each are deeply rooted in our local context, we regularly spend time with each other and participate in the missional initiatives unique to each local context. Here we are better able to own and identify issues that we can address more effectively together. This also provides an opportunity for us to engage as a faith community on a broader scale – it is within the regional environment that our missional communities are formed, where we share in communion, pray for one another, etc. Our faith community is best expressed at a regional level.
The city of Chicago is expansive and can be complicated to navigate. It can take more than an hour and a half depending on the time of day to get from one end of the city to the other. However, we believe it is important that we maintain a spirit of unity and that we are reminded that we are part of something much larger, something we need each other to accomplish. The network gathers together on a quarterly basis and we rotate our location so that we are able to experience and connect with diverse communities and areas of the city. It is within the city wide context that we also develop and participate in trainings to enrich our relationships and strengthen our effort to reach the city. By functioning as a network we are able to tackle issues that affect the entire city while maintaining a regional support system and local emphasis.
Though the principles outlined above uniquely reference Chicago, we do believe they can be reproduced and multiplied in any context, city, and suburb or rural. The infrastructure of Reach77 is founded on principles that are pliable enough to be effective in the life of any follower of Jesus or any faith community. The missionary emphasis, however, requires the Christian to “go.” The imperative to “go” comes from a familiar passage of Scripture, The Great Commission – Matthew 28: 16-20. Any good sermon will point out that the Greek “go” in the passage is best understood as “in your going,” or “as you go” – the reason this is so simple is that we are not asking people to change anything about their schedule, but to cultivate practical and effective ways to embody the Great Commandment and Great Commission in the regular rhythm of our lives.