(The Church’s role as reflectors of the true identities of cities: San Francisco as example. Church as prophetic symbol of the identity of a city! The church as offering true image of people and places–seeing them as God does, and being seen as God sees or perceives.)
There is a city, and then there is her church who is “in her midst” to be the unique spotlight of God, a light on a hill, a revealer of identity into that city. In the case of San Francisco, the church is to be a free innovator and trainer of creative leadership, a synthesizer of many streams of thinking. Here is a city which is a creative symbolizer, a model, a glorious visionary, and a uniquely styled worshiper in glory–one who teaches, using both idea and image–the two are integrated in her true identity. And yet, here is also a city which has been intensely heart-abused and for this reason is somewhat in hiding. And yet it is an artistic leader, and teacher.
The church in San Fran needs to bring kingdom freedom and true, authentic, and therefore, indigenous expression into every area of this complexly layered city, partly to be a light to the world, but also partly for the rest of the Body to see God’s aspects of creative leadership–His innovation and dynamism. In short, the church should be modeling the true identity of the city itself, as a symbol to her and heaven of who she is. This is one of the often overlooked roles of the church, as prophetic symbol of the identity of a city or nation.
This is not about relevancy but the church being a kingdom reflector so that a person or city can remember who it is–how God sees it. This is part of ministering true image, or the healing the imagination, reattaching the symbolic life of a person or place.
So, the church of San Fran should be one-of-a-kind and modeling true freedom. It is easy to imagine the assignments against her–control, legalism, division. These are the most obvious, and related to the assignments against the city itself.
The church is to be the city’s priest, in holding these things off the city, so that it can become the city God intended it to be. It is also to be an expression, image or symbol of what that identity is in Him. If the enemy can keep her from being truly free, out of fear of extremism in her past; and if she then grips and is territorial towards other churches and has a mentality of dis-integration, then she will not model a truly integrated and dynamic Body. The city then has no mirror in which to see itself accurately!
There is a great need for this city to see itself as one, as whole. Constantly, things have tried to divide her, and still there is this division assignment. You can see it in the church as well, where control is often rigid, legalistic or about separating parts of the body. This needs to radically change for the church to be a true expression of what San Fran is and how it needs to perceive itself.
But trust has been broken, and there is a need for healing and integration. To love what He loves means to love this city as He does, and to see her from above. He is trying to integrate her and bring her to wholeness, to tell her she is not only beautiful but smart and has a deep and complex heart, and vision.
If the church cannot see and know the city and reflect it, how can the city know itself? In the church’s priestly role, it needs to pray the reality of her city’s true identity into being, but we must also symbolize it to her, so she can remember it is ok to show more than her breast, in the case of this city. This is one of the role of the arts in the church! All of a city’s dimensions or parts need to be honored into the light of understanding herself. The church as light brings interpretation of culture and identity of a city, and must not only be salt but also bring this understanding to her doors!
With cities as with people, it is also necessary to see the depraved or shadow version of where she has come–her false self. Since, all cities have been in part poorly stewarded because of our fallen nature, and often flat out abused, it is good to see what level of healing is needed. But first, I think one has to see a city as God does. To see it in its future glory is essential, as the exact expression God had in mind as a reflection of those unique aspects of Himself which that city was meant to reflect.
Some people hate cities. Thank God He doesn’t! For whatever reason, God has the city metaphor in His Heart somewhere, and He loves and cares for and partners with us in shepherding them. If you hate your city, take it to God and ask Him for His Heart towards the city or nation you live in! We are commanded to love what He loves, and He clearly loves cities!
To come to relate to them as people is a starting point to getting to know this part of The Father. God is fathering the cities and the nations, though they rebel. He has individual thoughts and feelings towards each and cares for them, and their identities. Part of this identity is the creative aspect of self, and culture itself is then of concern to The Father. The symbolic life of cities is a huge aspect of what it means to love and care for the city. To reflect and restore the true image of a city is part of the Church’s mission on earth!