“Love (Your City)”
by Jacob Bloemberg

Summary of Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Process

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

How do churches & Christians go about missionally engaging their communities? Chapter 6 looks to answer this Process in some depth. 

Author, Pastor Jacob, points us to the story of Nehemiah as the (OT) biblical example of how a process can effectively be put into place, in his case, Jerusalem. Pastor Jacob describes this city’s revitalization process as “unique and remarkable” and outlines the 6 stages or events as being:

  1. Mazeway (worldview) reformulation: an individual’s new vision (Hearing a call)
  2. Communication: transferring of this vision to others (against the odds – meeting resistance)
  3. Organization: of the community in accordance with the vision’s requirements
  4. Adaptation: in light of the community’s resistance and to overcome obstacles
  5. Cultural transformation: the wide acceptance of the vision and community commitment
  6. Routinisation: making the changes and taking on new challenges     

Rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall was a short-term project (a quick win) to raise the momentum needed for the true transformation of the people and their leaders. “Better to do a project to meet people’s real felt needs first before trying to change their beliefs and behaviors.”

THE MISSIONAL CYCLE:  “What we believe influences what we think, which influences what we do and how we interact with other people, which then results in what we have.” People function at four levels: At the top is religious (what you believe), then intellectual (what you think), after that social (what you do), and at the bottom is material (what you have).
Nehemiah started by rebuilding the city’s walls. “It is better to start ministry at the bottom level by meeting material needs….. Jesus often ministered to people’s material need (bottom) before sharing the good news of the kingdom’s arrival (at the top).” So we should build from the bottom up as being much more effective.
Additionally, “When Jesus helped people, it was with no strings attached, with unconditional love.  Jesus’ intention was to see them (those he helped) turn around and follow Him, but repentance was not a requirement for receiving His help.” e.g. of the 10 healed lepers, only one returned and he was a foreigner – Luke17:11-19  (The book’s narrative also gives present-day testimony to illustrate this process.) 

CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (CCD)  is a cycle of action, integrated with the Missional Cycle.

  1. Involvement: A Christian group becomes involved with their local community (outside the church) including sectors in need. Nehemiah responded to a desperate situation and it became a call.
    2. Context Analysis: Getting to know in depth and assessing the situation on the ground and understanding what is affecting it. Identifying the real problems as well as assets and potentialities.
    3. Vision: Christians cannot assume to know all the answers or expect anyone is ready to listen. The goal is to create ownership among the people and leaders. That was also Nehemiah’s challenge.
    4. Concept: Priority must be given to what recipients view as most important. Work together but never impose outside ideas. After an initial project succeeds, people will be more open to new ideas.
    5. Planning: Work with, not for, the people on all projects while discovering their gifts, skills and resources. All this is paramount to success.
    6. Action: Have fun while carrying out activities. This helps build relationships, love and trust. It also enables learning about people’s stories of hope and belief. The Missional Cycle is now in action!
    7. Evaluation: Both formal and informal, evaluation helps communities and implementers to assess what succeeded and what can be improved next time with this group and/or in other communities.
    8. Celebration: Often culturally important, a closing event shares experiences in a new way and motivates for further action and cooperation. It also further deepens relationships and is a thank you for all involved. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for outsiders, such as authorities, to discover what has been done, with testimony directly from those who have been or are benefitting.

ASSET BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (ABCD):  This is a capacity-focused process by which communities can solve their own problems and overcome obstacles exclusively from their own resources. A “glass half full (not half empty)” approach concentrating on strengths, not problems.   The role of the implementer(s) is as a consultant, facilitator or mobiliser, connecting people with one another.

Methods include:
Identifying available resources in the community: community mapping to include all physical and service resources, thereby creating new, potential community networks.
Demographic grouping: locating the elderly, street children, disabled, refugees, drug addicts, local artists, ethnic minorities, etc. and establishing ways these groups and resources could become partners.
The church is a potential partner and a source of support volunteers but it would not necessarily be the central hub. The church is a blessing to the community but its objective is not to seek self-interest. It can set up support groups, help find funding, develop communication with civil authorities and local businesses.
In the ABCD development model, the poor must come to believe in themselves as being self-reliant and not to become dependent on the church or development agency. If such dependency happens, the project will have failed.

ABCD considers at least seven types of capital assets:
1. Human Capital: e.g. skills development and capacity building, labour diversity, education, artistic appreciation
2. Social Capital: e.g. community relationships, investment of time and energy, community centres, public spaces, diversity in leadership, public health
3. Physical Capital: e.g. Housing, roads, railways, bridges, sewers, water, electricity, vacant land, affordable access, available access for the disabled, homelessness and knowledge of markets and regulations
4. Financial Capital: e.g. available credit, access to services and grants, micro-credit for start-ups
5. Environmental Capital: e.g. tree planting, natural resources, clean air and water, land, fauna & flora, risks of flood, fire, pollution, waste disposal, noise. Benefits from recreation, beauty, heritage, light. Problems of overcrowded areas, lack of sewage, poor sanitation.
6. Political Capital: e.g. Power of communities, influence on policies and authorities, winners of critical decisions (historically), local power structures and access to the powerful.
7. Cultural Capital: e.g. Historic buildings, archeological sites, museums, farmers’ markets, arts, music, drama facilities festivals, sports. (Many of these are overlooked as being, incorrectly, “not for the poor”). 

SEED PROJECTS:  are small and can be implemented without partners. They are a blessing to the community. Often they are reliant on another project to provide some facilities – e.g. a stall at a bazaar or fair run by others, a pop-up promotion in a shopping mall.   
Seed projects are a good place to start. They can be effective and provide initial experience and confidence for church members and an opportunity to share an activity with outside members of the community. Relationships are not so difficult to build due to the small number of people involved.
To be successful and effective, such projects need to be well-organized and planned using only local resources and volunteers. The activities should be directed outside of the church. It is best if they are well-balanced (volunteers and community people) and that the activity can be properly focused and on-going. Not just once or twice in a year. Pastor Jacob provides a wide variety of no less than 39 possible seed projects to consider. (The 40th is for us to add!)

Pastor Jacob’s sums up:
“Loving your city and getting involved in the community to bring revitalization is a PROCESS. It starts at the level of people’s felt material needs. This is where we can most practically express the love of Christ in tangible ways, not unlike Jesus Himself. Working with people rather than doing things for them is the way to go about it, building on their assets instead of relying on outside resources.”

*Next chapter: Chapter 7: Partner