Becoming the Church Our City Needs

By: Dom Ruso, PhD, Lead Pastor at the180

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being involved in a webinar about leadership and church in our changing culture. The discussion led me to thinking through a tension I feel daily. This internal struggle, I believe, is foundational for those who are serious about leadership and the role of the church in today’s society. Put simply:

How do we become a church our city needs vs. a church people want?

We can easily convince ourselves that the church that we want is the same as the church our city needs. However, while there are aspects of Christian community that will impact our needs and wants, a deeper reflection is in order.

I'm learning that that it is only when we slow down to listen, learn, and be present in our communities that we can clearly see and hear the real challenges of our friends and neighbours. What people want at a surface level is easily accessible but what they need is a slow spiritual work.

At the180 we are learning that one of most important attributes in being a church our city needs is having the courage to lovingly tell people that they can't always have what they want. After all…

Want is the way of consumerism; it says, “I'll buy my way to happiness.”
Want is the way of childishness; it says, “I'll cry until they listen.”
Want is the way of immaturity; it says, “I'll lie about my deepest emotional struggles.”

When churches are built on giving people what they want, they ignore the biblical invitation to shape followers of Jesus into people our world needs.

The hard work of planting a church our city needs also requires us to honest about our limitations. Honesty is another key attribute of the kind of church our city needs. Honesty helps us to admit that we don't have the ability to fulfill people's wants or heal some of their deepest needs. The church our city needs is one who has given up selling religion and the trinkets associated with being spiritual.

C.S. Lewis, a well-loved Christian author, wrote “I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.” The church that our city needs does not confuse religious activities with an honest encounter with Jesus.

At the180, we believe Jesus modeled this new way of life and invited us to turn from a life of wanting to a life of admitting our needs. When we get honest we can admit that...

We all need to practice selflessness, and say “I'll give and practice generosity.”
We all need to become more childlike, and say, “I'll trust and dream beyond my resources.”
We all need to embrace maturity, and say “I'll grow through the pain.”

Here are some questions to help you respond to what you’ve just read:

  • What are some ways that you think we as Christians are called to respond to the issues of our city with courage and with honesty? (Don't know what these issues might be? Consider picking up a newspaper or looking online for stories and events happening in your area.)
  • What might it mean for you to be generous, to dream beyond your resources, to choose to grow through pain? Consider journalling or praying through this.
  • Read Luke 14:7-14. What is Jesus teaching here about loving others with courage and honesty? How might God be speaking to you through this passage, or based on the ideas in this post, and what is one step you can take to becoming more of the church your city needs?