We have been learning to read cities and their unique personalities for a long time now. We normally read them through their symbolic life-their cultural life. But just recently, God has been teaching us to also read them through the life of His Church within them. The church of course is a preserver (salt) and and source of understanding (light). But each city’s church is unique to that city; hence, Paul’s uniquely poignant letters to each city’s church; and of course, Revelation’s addressing seven unique churches. Each church foregrounds a unique aspect of who God is, and how He relates to the unique identities of each city.
A keyhole into a city is the way the living parts of the church are in dialogue with that particular city. The way a church is serving a city, reveals much about that city’s identity. Often, we look at the brokenness of the church, but do not see it as a way to understand God’s relationship to each city. Even the outer frames of the church in a place reveal something of how God orients Himself to that city, and its identity.
I have always been interested in the core identities of people, places and things. That has been my artistic and spiritual theme throughout life. I think in many ways, that is the deep of His Spirit in me, looking out and conversing with the deep of His Spirit in things around me. Spirit sees and calls forth spirit. But I have also come to see the uniqueness of each city and each church as a way of knowing more of God. When the world around us becomes a meditation or medium through which to know God, things get much more interesting. I often, look at the creative aspect of something in order to lead me into the core identity, because I am an artist. But one can enter identity through many doors. One can examine the economic life, the athletic life, the religious life or the cultural artistic lives of people and places in order to know them.
Recently then i have been looking at the life of the church which is given to a city to preserve its life and to give it understanding about who it is. Many people, because of this or that, are not willing to look at the life of the church as a indicator of the life of a city. But I think it is very useful to know this unique entity and how it is positioned in relationship to the life of a city.
Each church has a unique aspect of God it is meant to reflect. The church in Thessalonika was a symbolic or modeling church. The church in Corinth a supernatural church etc. I think by modern extension we can ask, what is the church of our own city emphasizing about God. For just as cities each highlight or foreground certain aspects of who God is, so does the church, but in a unique manner!
The church of San Fran for example emphasizes God’s supernatural qualities as well as His Heart for the poor and hungry. In fact these two aspects, as in Paris, are coupled so that her identity might be named as: one who is given supernatural power in order to aid and heal the poor and oppressed. She is also a symbol making church, as is her city! In this way, she has a priestly function in the overall Body.
One can also read her blocks, wounds and difficulties in relation to other parts of the Body. Because the particular church in San Fran is supernatural, many other city’s churches do not trust or understand her. There is a wound there. And yet, other parts of the Body desperately need her experience in moving in the supernatural aspect of Reality. There is a wound in her, of having been misunderstood, and therefore at times, no longer offering her gift to the rest of His Body.
Anyways, my point here, is the whole earth is the Lord’s and everything in it is given to us so that we may know and love Him even more! This needs to include the church as well. If we want to love and know our cities, we need to not ignore getting to know and love and understand the unique aspects of God reflected in His church of that particular place.
Next week’s article is going to be about the five global cultures and how to read spiritual health through each. These five are: military, athletic, religion, arts, and business.