As I reflected on my trip back to Amsterdam, my mind was constantly thinking, “why is this collaboration of churches working so well?” Why is there an unusual level of unity, such a sense of purpose, clarity and intentionality in the partnership of ministries and churches? Why is the atmosphere in the city so much lighter spiritually?
I’m always in search of city transformation examples and here I was in the middle of one of the finest I’d come across in my 40 years as a transformational leader.
A core of leaders in Amsterdam began partnering to get the “mind of Christ” and establish a collective strategy for their city. Here are some of the highlights of a pathway they discovered together.
- Granular Research. Early on they concluded they had to research their city together before engaging in any activities together. They needed to get to know it at a granular level. Much of their findings were put into a 280 page paper analyzing characteristics of the city’s history, demographics, worldview as well as discovery of God’s “thumbprint” in the city
Second, they did a thorough research of the state of the church. What was the vision and ministry of faith leaders? Where were they located and how were they engaging their neighborhoods? What vision of the Kingdom did God’s leaders carry or not carry, and did it conform to a biblical framework.
- Establishing an Ecosystem. The Dutch are a very organized and deliberate society. But when it came to working together, they felt led to develop an ecosystem rather than an organizational construct. An “ecosystem” is a relational, interdependent, multifaceted community that draws life from Jesus and delivers it to the city together through the various graces imbedded in the community for the sake of city’s welfare. This is a relational, organic process that eschews roles, and simply “doing good things for Jesus.”
- Organic above Functional Unity. The leaders became friends, realizing that the collective life-source is Jesus and their fellowship in Him, not organizational power and authority. Their vision was to see the whole church demonstrating the whole gospel to the whole city.
- Prayer as a Lifestyle. As a “lost city,” it was imperative to increase and coordinate the prayer of the church as an imbedded priesthood in every district of the city. Led by Lynette Kong, a canopy of prayer was raised in the six primary districts along with teams and team leaders appointed for each district. A communication strategy was developed between leaders and intercessors so that requests and answers to prayer were vibrant, encouraging and coordinated.
- A Citywide Kingdom movement. It was imperative the to the leaders that they move away from a “church centric” theology, to one that established a “Kingdom centric” orthodoxy and orthopraxy at the heart of all their unified endeavors. The tangible expression of extending the Kingdom of God was:
- Planting new missional minded churches and bringing biblical renewal to existing churches.
- Establishing a disciple-making culture in the participating churches that sought to mobilize all of God’s people as “ministers of the gospel.”
- Adopting ethnic and socio-economic neighborhoods, (Red Light District, millennial Dutch, Muslims and other old and new immigrant populations.)
- Unity through partnering with relevant churches and ministries across denominational and ethnic lines.
- New language was adopted that highlighted the biblical concept of “Shalom,” the peace of Jesus dispensed throughout the city by God’s ambassadors.
- Geographical assignments became a priority. Beyond local church ministries was the understanding that each believer was assigned a place in the city and appointed to bring the presence of God and His kingdom into their sphere of life. They realized they were to carry the presence of God into a city that had rejected Him.
- Contextualizing the gospel: Amsterdam is a postmodern city known as the “most liberal city in the world.” They considered how they would “become all things to all men” without compromising the essence of the gospel of the kingdom. Extensive studies were made of the “postmodern” worldview, and what alterations the church would have to make in its understanding of the gospel (without compromising it) that would penetrate the cultural blindness and rejection of God in public life.
- Comprehensive training. The lead team began designing training components for city-wide church and ministry leaders and for members of the various church families. They laid out a vigorous menu of biblical truths that would equip the church to participate in Jesus’ vision for the city. The primary topics were:
- Discipleship making that feeds Church planting and renewal.
- God’s Transformational Mission through “new creation.”
- Evil and Brokenness
- The mission of God after the Fall: Israel and the covenants (Abraham, Moses and David)
- The ministry of Jesus, his fulfillment of those very covenants and the release of the transforming power of God to bring “new creation” to the city.
- Kingdom transformation as a direct result of the power of the resurrection and the Holy Spirit.
- Defining God’s mission through his church, the “new community” imbedded in the city.
- God’s Transformational Mission through “new creation.”
- A cooperative relationship with the government and the business community. The church in the city has cultivated political and marketplace allies that are beginning to see the church as a servant, not an antagonist, that is seeking the welfare of the city. As a predominantly socialistic society, much of the funding for the programs and services to meet the needs in city comes from government coffers. It is common knowledge that these coffers are running dry and other sources of funding will have to be explored. Enter the Christian business community. There is an increased number of marketplace leaders emerging with transformational strategies and resources to strategize ways in which the Chrisitan community can meet these increasing shortfalls in at-risk communities.
- Meeting Together. Not only does the core team meet regularly, they have also instituted an Annual City Consultation to foster learning and strategic collaboration based on the Lord’s vision for them. Much of this is the result of responding to the outcomes of research. As a result they:
- Made recommendations for change and implementation are then made.
- Developed a spiritual infrastructure to serve,
- The making of disciples
- Equipping believers as Kingdom ambassadors to the city.
- Increasingly becoming a community of faith and action to targeted neighborhoods
- Championing and supporting various ministries as they sought to bring shalom to the city.
These items all came online in a systematic, deliberate, prayerful and collaborative way. The leaders realize that all churches and ministries wiould not engage with others at the inception of the collaboration. As they have journeyed together, an increasing number of churches have begun to participate. Nearly 20% of the churches and ministries are currently partnering together.
This list is seen as a pathway rather than a model, led by the Spirit, dependent on agreement and all done to see the name of Jesus and His kingdom be expanded into the city. Piet Brinksma, and the team of leaders of this movement in Amsterdam represent almost all of the five-fold gifts of the Spirit and have become gifts to the city – not out of compunction but love.
Ken and I, through CityTable, have been invited to bring “city teams” to Amsterdam to learn from the leaders, dialogue, pray and be encouraged that, if God can do this in Amsterdam, he can do it in our cities.