Scotty still believes this stuff #7

City-types; the redemptive gift of cities / regions / nations. Mr. Lowton who provoked this little series with his comment that I have used as the title for these posts asked while we were together in Madrid – so what city type is Madrid? My response was that this had not been a focus for us at this time and I really wasn’t sure. I found that very interesting and on reflection realised that as with many ‘tools’ there is a time when a tool should be used and will prove vital at that time. Our perspective of Spain, and maybe more so of Madrid, is that the season we are in is of digging, uncovering, exposing and the city gifting aspect will come down the line.

The diagram is how I understand that city gifting types work, based on the 7 letters in Revelation. As the gifting is discovered there will be typical strongholds that we can see in the letters, and that the people of God are there to enable the city to discover its gift and live that out. You can read in detail about this in the book Impacting the City (if you can find a copy in print) or follow the link to e-book resource where in shorter form there is an e-book on this.

The way I see it working is:

  • a central redemptive gift (e.g. Gateway)
  • elements of the gifting from the wider land where the city is located (e.g. Establishing)
  • elements from one or other of the adjacent gift (e.g. Developing)
  • elements from the same corner (e.g. Deliverance)

Gifts can be perverted: more common in the case of Establishing and Finishing
Gifts can be suppressed: more common in the case of Deliverance and Gateway.

This post is too short to expand further and the series is to do with my core beliefs and not some attempt to bring teaching. Rather than expand I want to work a little backwards. The church’s task is to unlock the redemptive gift, so Laodicea needs a ‘Laodicean church’ not a ‘Thyatiran church’. At a basic level we cannot run around the world and find what has ‘succeeded’ elsewhere and try and import it where we live. Apart from the dubious measurement of ‘success’ we end up with severe misfits. One size does not fit all. Working backwards it is vital that the true redemptive gift of the place pulls the church into a shape. The biblical shape for the church is a world-shaped people. In other words we do not start with a world having to fit into the church, but vice versa. This is the pattern of the incarnation. Heaven sent, but earth shaped. Jesus was a first century authentic to the culture Jew.

Ultimately, and increasingly so, it will be very difficult to develop a church and then hope it will reach society. I consider that the prayers for God to move is making that increasingly difficult, particularly in Europe. Unlike many who see Europe as lagging behind I see Europe, if anything, ahead. More secular and further along the post-Christendom line. Therefore with more hope. Not more hope in the near future of big churches but of God’s people wonderfully hidden, immersed in the world but carrying the presence of Jesus. This is why I consider we have to work from the future rather than try too hard to get something from today into a new shape. If we learn to live in an uncomfortable context, probably out of sync I believe we will be better placed to play our part in unlocking the redemptive gifting.

Europe with all her challenges! We have been praying for a long time that there will be 10s of thousands of believers dislocated who will be relocated in a haphazard way across Europe to seed a new day. That there will be no new ‘big thing’ but the multiplicity of the small, totally embedded in the world. Our hope has been that much of that will be seeded from the UK… but maybe the fulfilment will be in the hiddenness of the influx of refugees. Just a thought.

For those of us who have the luxury of living beyond the survival level we have to live from that place responsibly for the sake of others. Every situation that we find ourselves in of any level of privilege is for the sake of others. If dislocated from, for example, an expression of local church, my thoughts are avoid peer pressure, but discover why that is case. Reacting against something is not normally a good guide for direction but being pulled by what has not yet been expressed remains a powerful direction puller.

I am convinced that there can and should be a multiplicity of expressions of the corporate body of Christ. If one of those consists of regular gatherings in a public building so be it. The real challenge for any gathered or scattered expression is of a true world-connection (and not some constructed connection) and of connecting in a way to release the redemptive gift of the locality.

I still see redemptive giftings as an important aspect of this journey even if our context at this time in Spain is a step behind that with the digging out the past. I am less focused now than I was some 17 years ago on starting at the end of ‘an appropriate church for the city’ and more on seeking to help believers see their city through a redemptive grid set of eyes and align themselves toward unlocking that. The church, in all its forms (and non-forms!), is here for the world. The church is a chosen people, because ‘the whole earth is the Lord’s’. Church is central but in a not highly visible way. It is time for the cities and nations to stand in their redemptive gift. Cities and nations that will birth a new economy, a new politics, new ways of trading. Redemptive giftings.

We are a long way from discovering much about Madrid or Spain, but maybe protest, unseating authoritarianism, refusing to live from the constraints of the status quo could be part of what is called for. We think that is part of it. If so I really had better not comply but be something of a trouble maker.

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5 thoughts on “Scotty still believes this stuff #7

  1. What kind of church are we to have? And the whole earth is the Lord’s. I’ve been reflecting on some of your statements in this series. What struck me is that the earth is the Lord’s and s/he asks what kind of house will we make of it. We often read that statement (and no, I cannot remember what verse it is) as about how we design a temple/church and the futility of the exercise to make it beautiful enough or grand enough. But what if it is asking how we are going to steward the earth and what it will look like and function like when we have had at it? What is the condition of the earth as we remake it for the Lord? After all the Lord’s house was beautiful to begin with so how have we enhanced that?

    I reluctantly teach in interior decorating (trained in landscape architecture) and I constantly find myself at odds with the assumptions of the program and the intent of the industry. But perhaps it is a good analogy for the moment. We are the designated interior decorators of the Lord’s house, the earth. So what kind of house have we made?

    One of the issues for me in interior decorating and in all the design professions is the inherent conformity of them. Everyone does the same stuff. Whatever the magazines are touting that is what gets built. Another, especially in interior, is the whole bent toward celebrity and appearance over any kind of real grounded and functioning design. The finish and facades count far higher than anything that really works or is built well. I think of it as a courtier industry, the decorators or designers are basically catering to the wealthy (who else can afford one?) and generally create or employ markers of wealth as the mainstay of their work. As you can imagine students get their heads quite twisted around by all of this.

    So perhaps the role of the ‘church’ as it is dispersed throughout the world is to offer another approach to earth design. Maybe when we see people chasing image and celebrity and certain finishes and facades that we know will just devastate the earth (even in another part of the planet with another population) it is our job to intervene and at least speak about what is right and true. Perhaps our job is to offer alternatives that make for a truly healthy planet/house for the Lord, one that truly deeply delights rather than just titillates the senses or looks great in the next magazine spread. And that we are concerned not just about end appearance but also supply chains and the real cost of materials. Maybe our job is to create beauty that feeds the soul but also replenishes and regenerates the planet for all ( other species including humans) rather than destroys through competition, war, and corporate greed. Or that focuses on resource use that kills ecosystems and species with no regard for future generations. So maybe we need to see ourselves as alternative designers, ones with different training and goals. Designers who care less about image and more about what is behind the image. That way the owner of the house/earth, and all of us and other species, can be both delighted and safely housed for years to come.

    1. These are some great ideas, and they must also include the education of the end user. Great potential for new directions.

  2. Great thread of posts and from one Scotty to another, I am also very grateful that you still believe this stuff. I think that you are not alone by a long way, but putting it into both words and practice is a challenge- so keep posting. A key seems to be our self-understanding as the body if Christ and this is where much of my thinking time is spent. I can’t see an ‘if you build it they will come’ approach to church, although maybe in some respect I used to. I do see a need to build though and the releasing of redemptive gifts is such a positive focus that draws us into the purpose of being a blessing. Transition that incorporates both new and old rather than our propensity to want to tear down (the whole) first. Happy trouble making!

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