The Verbs #11 (Build Up Your City)

10 When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers;

when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates.

11 When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes;

evil talk turns it into a ghost town in no time.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 11:10–11). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Years ago, a man told me, “as the church goes, so goes the city”.  I have taken that to heart in my life and more importantly, in my pastor ship. I want to be a church that is impacting the city. My dream is to be a church that is so impactful, that we cannot be ignored by the city. The Worship Center is made up of people that come from many cities. I have determined that I may not be able to reach every city in the same way, but I would make it an important part of my life and our church’s life to lift up our cities.

Upon arriving in Southern Illinois as Pastor of the Worship Center, I began a series of sermons. I called them “A Church on Purpose.” It has become a mantra of our church.  There were three sermons specifically in that series that have stuck with us. Today, you see them on sweatshirts, t-shirts and across our social media platforms. We are a Church on Purpose; across the aisle, across the street and around the world. It has become so engrained into our fiber as a church, that there have been campaigns to change the church’s name to Purpose Church, Church on Purpose, along with some other not so catchy names. I have stepped back in awe as I watch people live out that sermon, vision and purpose, and yet close to ninety-five percent of our church has never heard that sermon. The people who did hear it, practiced it, and preached it through their daily lives. It has become a sermon, a vision that isn’t taught; it’s caught.

Starting out, we didn’t have the resources to impact the cities like we do now. We began by doing small things. One of the most powerful things we did, was to pray for our cities. We took that responsibility seriously. I chose to build up, talk up, and pray up my city. I chose to lift my city up versus tearing it down. Words are so powerful that if you keep saying something often enough, people will begin to believe you, good or bad. For example, if you continue to talk down about where you live or talk down about the people that live around you, people will start to believe you. However, if you start talking up, lifting up and building up your city and the people around you, they’ll start believing you as well. I want to make my city the best that it can be. Remember these words, “speak to those things that are not, as though they already are”. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to sit around and criticize and point out the negatives. The person at the table who can point out all the problems and issues, isn’t the person who holds the power. The person who holds the power is the one who can come to the table with a solution to the problem. Our cities know they have issues, and they have enough people telling them about them. What our cities need is people to become a part of the solution.

Southern Illinois is a great place to live. I have come from the outside, and I was told you’ll never fit in. You’re right, I haven’t, but the people have accepted me anyway. My children moved in from a different school district, we haven’t had any issues. The teachers here were so accommodating. We feel like we’ve been here forever.  The beautiful scenes of southern Illinois are too many to list. We just need to keep lifting up the city, building it up, and praying it up.

For too long the church has sat on the sidelines and allowed our communities to drift! I have witnessed in my time here, that as the church has shown interest in the community and uplifted the community, the church has grown and been strengthened. I am now witnessing the turnaround in many of our communities, including my own. As the church goes, so goes the city. I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us. If we the church, begin to lift our cities, our leaders and our nation up in prayer, then the city flourishes.

I challenge you to get involved in your community. Here at the Worship Center we put sweat equity into our cities by participating in community clean up days and the rebuilding of parks, just to name a few. We will continue to do those initiatives here, but we must also ensure that we are praying for our cities. Rebuilding a community to greatness isn’t an easy task, but we are well on our way to rebuilding, reclaiming and putting Southern Illinois on the map.

Melissa and I take Jeep drives through the various communities that make up Southern Illinois. We take note of the many businesses, restaurants and stores that weren’t here when we first moved here eight years ago. As a city boy, I am thrilled for the many “new” establishments that have invested into our communities. As a Pastor, I am seeing the results of God honoring His word. Now on our Jeep drives, we try to stop at the unique places of Southern Illinois, including a lot of the Mom and Pop restaurants and stores. I make it a point to invest back into the businesses that invest in their local community.

So, let’s do our part to bless our city, bless our community and if we do those things, ultimately we bless Southern Illinois!