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.