God wants us to see and to love our city the way he does. Vancouver is celebrated as one of the most livable urban regions on the planet and represents in many ways the desired future of cities. As a primary gateway city between Asia and the West, it is globally significant in fashioning culture and signalling sociological trends. But our very success as a city masks profound spiritual confusion and social dysfunction.
God wants us, his church, to join him in seeking after the shalom – the holistic wellbeing – of our city. Why? Because this is our calling as his people, and because he has bound our own shalom to our city’s (Jeremiah 29:7). He is already empowering us through his Spirit to labour effectively for the spiritual and social transformation of our neighbours and neighbourhoods. If together we say yes to God, Vancouver can become an ideal laboratory for 21st Century mission in, to, and from cities around the world.
Over the next year, the Vancouver Consultation will use a process honed in 250 cities worldwide to engage leaders across the diversity of churches and ministries in
- discovering and documenting highly effective local examples of mission
- dialoguing with leaders of other sectors (government, health, education, etc.) for the common good
- praying in a concerted, informed way for our city
- discerning answers to three overarching questions ….
If we had to prove that God is alive and active in Vancouver, where would we take people to show them? What is God doing in our churches and neighbourhoods – where do we see signs of hope and deep flourishing?
What are the primary spiritual wounds, idols, and social injustices in our city?
How is the Holy Spirit prompting us to encourage, learn from, and cooperate with each other as well as with people of good will so that we become catalysts for peace and wellbeing?
The Consultation process is a (spiritual) exercise regimen building up the Body of Christ “for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10). In our highly secularized context, it is this way of life – cooperating in the mission of Jesus to bring healing to our neighbourhoods and the city as a whole – that will testify most winsomely to the truth and power of the Gospel.
The ultimate outcome will be three aspects of a single dynamic: life in the city will be measurably improved, congregations will be strengthened, and the faithful will become more mature as new avenues of discipleship open up for serving the common good in the places where we live, work, play, and worship.
While the Consultation involves the non-profit sector and the marketplace, it centres on what local congregations can be and do. Beyond the Downtown Eastside, parachurch organizations have little presence, so churches are virtually the only available delivery vehicle for Christian ministry and social concern throughout 95% of the city. Anyone wanting to see the Christian community in Vancouver contribute more to the public good must work with and through congregations, not exclusively but primarily.
The Consultation is like a familiarization trip to an overseas mission context in advance of a long-term intensive commitment:
- gaining insight about core aspects and institutions of the local culture
- identifying experienced guides, best practices, community assets, and service gaps
- yielding fresh frameworks and new data for approaching Vancouver theologically and sociologically
- reducing unnecessary duplication (and cost) of effort
- speeding the launch phase and improving most any project.
The Consultation is also like a dating service for congregations and ministries, increasing collaboration by helping groups find, trust, and work with each other (even despite denominational or cultural differences). Whether their shared interest is their geographic parish or an issue that touches the entire city, their work will be more efficient and effective and sustainable when they leverage their respective strengths.