“Love (Your City)”
By Jacob Bloemberg
Summary of Chapter 5
Chapter 5: The Posture
In Chapter 5, Bloemberg discusses the posture of the church towards the city. As he learned to love Hanoi, he had to transform his beliefs about his role and the role of the church in the city. This chapter explains the postures of the church, the posture of the church towards the city, Christ-Centered Civil Renewal and its five elements, the posture of the church towards its local community, and the posture of the church towards the poor.
Postures of the church. Bloemberg identifies three church postures:
- Church-centric, where the church wishes to rule the city and control events. The church can be perceived as condemning and judgmental.
- Church-escape, a separatist approach where the city is seen as sinful and secular and the church holy and sacred. Outreach is done to the city and for the lost. The church can be seen as compassionless and arrogant.
- Church-integral, where the church sees itself as an essential and indispensable part of the city and works across society’s sectors with those sharing common values.
Posture towards the City. A church-integral approach requires collaboration with groups and other institutions across the public and private sectors to truly “seek the peace and prosperity of the city.” The church is already present in the city in five different ways: its congregations, as an institution, through the jobs of its members, through the connections built by Christians, and through intercessory prayer.
Christ-Centered Civic Renewal (CCCR). CCCR has five elements: Church unity, leadership humility, civil society, embrace of spirituality, and community development. Drawing on the work of H. Spees, Bloemberg explains that the model can be seen both horizontally and vertically.
The horizontal aspect involves public and institutional dimensions that reflect the relationship between the church and the city. It can include quantitative factors such as finances or facilities. This relationship has a tension related to the sources of power – for the church, authority from God, for the city, authority from the people or the electorate. The church must first establish its unity of purpose as a way to seek shalom and then work to serve the city. When the church and the city share a unity of purpose built around the pursuit of the common good, the tension in their relationship is reduced.
The vertical aspect centers on the personal/individual dimension and brings qualitative factors such as values, vision and character into the mix. In these relationships, humility in leadership and acceptance of others as they are, among other qualities, come into play. Spees says that accepting the downward call, the attitude of Christ in laying down his life for others (Philippians 2:1-11), provides a strong biblical and theological foundation for CCCR.
Spees notes that horizontal relationships can be centrifugal because they are so diverse. They can pull groups apart. The vertical factors can be centripetal and pull groups together.
Posture towards the community. The experiences of parish priests in the Philippines show us that we need to learn to “journey with the poor” as Raineer Chu has written. Drawing on the book The New Parish, Bloemberg introduces the concept of a parish, a place of “all the relationships (including the land) where the local church lives out its faith together.” Historically, the parish was defined as a geographical area committed to one pastor. The new parish is identified as a neighborhood where the church has an integrated focus on community, formation and mission. It seeks out partners from other faith perspectives who have common hopes for the neighborhood. Bloemberg argues that for an expatriate community church, the city can become a parish, so long as its members remember the downward call in order to recognize their common poverty and be mindful of those with less.
Posture towards the poor. Bloemberg writes that if churches use the framework of Jesus’ mission as stated in Luke 4:18 – to restore all things unto the Father – congregations can take a more holistic view of poverty. Poverty could be defined as the absence of shalom in relationships with God (spiritual intimacy), with self (being), with others (community), and with the rest of creation (stewardship). The goal for alleviating poverty should be “working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.” If we “embrace our mutual brokenness” when working with the poor, the results are likely to be more positive for everyone. Those who wish to help should remember that the materially poor are often richer in joy, hope, love, and faith. Bloemberg closes with the example of Aaron Smith in the Botocan squatter community in Quezon City. People prefer to stay in this community when they could move because of the wealth of family and community relationships.
*Next chapter: Chapter 6: Process