Our story is simple really. And it is continually being written. We hope you find yourself in the middle of it.
A few years ago we came to grips with the fact that our lives really didn’t match up very well with what we saw in Jesus’ life and teaching. Many of us had been Christians for a while, some our entire lives – yet there just seemed to be something missing.
The 21st century presents new challenges to the Church, but incredible opportunities to creatively engage what has become a rapidly changing and ever evolving culture. Much of how we have practiced Christianity in America for the past several decades has become increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in recent years, at least as it relates to the world around us. Our story, however, was not driven by a critique as much as a response to Holy Spirit conviction.
That conviction can be summed up by a single word: mission.
If you follow the grand narrative of the Scripture mission is intertwined from beginning to end. From God’s covenant with Abraham, establishing Israel as a light for the world and a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12), to Jesus Christ’s call to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Mission is about understanding who we are and why we are. It is fundamentally about being – it is an identity issue.[i]
That is what we were missing. Our identity.
In the five years since the inception of Reach77 one constant has remained – we are continually learning! With the long view in mind we have allowed the time and space necessary for us to be molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit along the way. The city of Chicago is one of the most complex and dynamic environments you will find anywhere. There is no “one size fits all” approach to the diverse communities represented, as such we have fostered and encouraged what can probably best be described as a missionary vision for the city.
This perspective is not a new one. In fact, below is an excerpt from a paper titled “the urban imperative,” written in 2005 by Mission Strategy US/Canada Church of the Nazarene, establishing this foundation:
In an impassioned sermon preached at the denomination’s first national multicultural conference in 1994, General Superintendent Dr. Paul Cunningham poignantly relayed his feelings as a seminary student watching the church leadership decide to leave the city of Chicago and sell its buildings.
As valuable as were those resources of property, the greater tragedy was in leaving the resources of people. Who would communicate the radical optimism of God’s Good News to the precious people, if not the denomination that claimed to exist to proclaim just such a message of transforming love and purifying power?
With faithful fervor, Dr. Cunningham continued preaching, “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.”
That someday is now. The Reach77 Network in Chicago is a humble attempt to begin practicing several principles we believe are critical to a missionary vision and strategy, while simple and reproducible enough to be implemented in any context.
[i] Dean Flemming, Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling