Uniting and Igniting! OurCityOnAHill
I grew up in the Episcopal Church, where the hymns and processions at Easter and Christmas still linger sweetly in mind. And communion was a beautiful and powerful experience. Will and I joined a Methodist Church when we first got married and heard some amazing and thought-provoking sermons that opened us up to deeper discussion about our faith. I was saved in a charismatic mega-church and now belong to a non-denominational church with Baptist roots. Some of the biggest teaching influences in my life are Presbyterians. I’ve felt as if the earth was shaking from hearing the angelic and soulful choirs in an African American Church and have knelt to pray quietly in some of the most breathtaking and historic Catholic cathedrals of Europe. My husband and I are in Bible study with seven families that represent five different churches, and in keeping our eyes on Jesus, our different teachings serve to strengthen us. What is most amazing to me is in recent years serving at Choose Life and Lincoln Village, I have sat face-to-face with people I may have never crossed paths with and have little in common on the outside…but as we’ve shared a common love of Jesus, it immediately tears down those walls and unites us as people who know the joy of being called out of darkness and into His wonderful light. There is something healing about this to me. Christ tears down the dividing lines I unknowingly put around myself and others, and washes them away into a higher truth…brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of the High King.
Sometimes I picture heaven looking a bit like my church or neighborhood, but really – the throne room is going be incredibly colorful with people from all over the planet. “For God so loved the WORLD, that He sent His one and only Son…” (John 3:16) Not just the Baptists or Methodists, Americans, Asians or Africans, but the WORLD. We often look at denomination and doctrine, which I believe are important. It is great to feel passionately about knowing as much as we can about our Creator. But also great when our cultural and worship style preferences are secondary to our common love of Jesus, who rescued us and brought us into a new family. “You are members of God’s family. TOGETHER, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NLT)
I believe God sees us all as broken people in need of redemption, as equal before Him, as nothing without Him, and as righteous in Christ. He has used ALL of the voices, styles of worship, teachings and people to pursue me into a beautiful relationship with Him and open my eyes to the truth in His word. We have a creative Creator who made us all unique, and I am thankful for the many different ways to find and worship the One who made us for His glory.
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up ONE WHOLE BODY. So it is with the body of Christ….All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1st Corinthians 12:12,27 NLT)
What gets me FIRED UP is a group of different people who all rally around Jesus. It’s almost as if you can hear God’s heartbeat when see people, hundreds of people, very different people, gathered in the name of Christ. To me, it feels like a taste of heaven. There’s an energy that could fight off any darkness and unity that reflects God’s heart:
“His purpose was to create in himself ONE NEW HUMANITY…And in him you too are being BUILT TOGETHER to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:15,22 NIV)
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for YOU ARE ALL ONE in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they MAY BE ONE as we are one.” (John 17:22 NLT)
“Love the family of believers.” 1 Peter 2:17 MSG
I saw this in a powerful way when my friend, Katie Wilson, and I went to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last fall. Thousands gathered for worship and teaching – many voices, almost all denominations, much global diversity and unique talent, but one voice came through – HIS. The leaders opened the with the question, “who are you?” and “what breaks your heart?” and suggested your answer to those questions unlocks the change you are meant to bring to the world.
What breaks my heart is when people do not know the extravagant love of the Father, and how He sees them through Christ. I wish everyone knew they do not need to hang onto their shame or past sins, but believe in the One He has sent and know they are the righteous in Christ who has died to make them worthy to wear white before a Holy and Perfect God. How these aren’t just words but realities. That we don’t just “move on” but are truly FREE in Christ. I came home with a passion to spread the word of Choose Life’s Healing Hands ministry and started meeting with church leaders in the community about it. Choose Life’s mission applies to all walks of life and denominations, and this work has expanded my view of our city. As often happens when we serve, we are doubly blessed. I have met some amazing people and leaders who are seeing the Gospel move forward in their churches and who have incredible stories themselves.
As I’ve met with these people, it has sparked a desire for everyone I know to meet them and connect to what’s happening. There is so much God is doing in our city, and a lot of great efforts to unite people, but not enough connecting all of the dots. There are many events I’d love to go to if they were just on my radar. There are many amazing believers in this city of all races and denominations I’ve never had the chance to connect with simply because there are no bridges to connect our paths. These are brothers and sisters and we live in the same place! There are many churches I’ve never even driven by. And incredible ministries where the Gospel is changing lives I’d love to lend a hand, resource or referral to if I knew more. I desire to connect more in Christ, and I get the sense many others do too. Why connect? Because when the flames of two candles touch each other, there is more than twice the light. We all have the same enemy, the same Savior and same call to the lost. How much stronger are we together!? And how beautiful when we can see ourselves united in the One who gave us differences to reflect the many facets of His glory.
Katie Wilson (the other half of Catalyst Team Katie!) came home with a desire to write and blog and teach, all of which she does beautifully (see her blog). Her boldness in writing and sharing her faith is part of what inspired me to start a blog. We put our heads together over lunch one day to share our takeaways from Catalyst, and felt God leading us in the idea to create a website called “OurCityOnAHill”. Our hope is to create a place with no walls for people from all denominations and walks of life to connect to each other, God’s word, testimonies, the hearts of pastors, prayers, voices of our past, dreams for our future, ministries, local events, and Bible studies.
Our mission is to make Christ known and unite believers. God has pulled together a team of people with different backgrounds, and one thing in common – we love Jesus and love to share Him! “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 MSG) We are volunteers with limited resources, and it has been amazing and humbling to see God bring us helping hands with different skills. We pray His power continues to be made perfect in our weakness. This site is not in any way about us; it’s about Him and the Gospel that is transforming one life at a time in our city!
We pray those who come will “taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8) We are launching this site on Easter Sunday. We feel God is moving in a powerful way in our city and this is just a part of it. There are different groups all over the city praying for gathering, praying for revival, praying for the Holy Spirit to blow through every inch of Huntsville. We feel we are just participating in the uniting and reviving work HE is already doing.
I have to admit, this is a bit scary at times…as it always is to follow God’s lead. When you bring a bunch of people together, it can indeed get messy. It’s not perfect, but we know that HE is. And ONLY He is. Our desire is keep our eyes on JESUS and pray He is glorified. Will you pray He is glorified? And will you come to OurCityOnAHill.net? Will you share your voice with us? Our hope is that we can connect on OurCityOnAHill and then connect face to face through the many events we’ll promote.
Come connect to where God is moving in our city. Come to connect to people, but mostly, come to connect to Him. And let us connect to you! God has given each of us unique gifts, passions, talents, trials and spheres of influence to be agents of change in the place where we live. Who are you? What breaks your heart? And what is your special role to play in a world that is yearning for hope? What’s your dream for our city? A dream is not seeing what is, but what could be. We’ve asked children to dream for our city – come to our site and check out what they’ve said. Here’s a sample:
Share your dreams. Isn’t it great God didn’t see what was? He saw what could be. There was darkness, brokenness, sin and death and rather leaving it that way, He sent His perfect Son to die on the cross and be raised to life so that we may be righteous, blameless and reconciled to our loving Father.
My dream is for the world to know Him…for each person in this city to grasp “together with all the Lord’s holy people… how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:17) that the “eyes of hearts may be enlightened…that we may know the hope to which he has called us,” (Ephesians 1:17) and that believers will unite as the family He has made us… “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) I kneel with the team of OurCityOnAHill and many others and dream that…as a city we can unite and ignite in a way we never have before!
“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14 MSG)
See you April 5th! www.ourcityonahill.net