There’s an article at the V3 Movement blog that discusses the church’s mission in relation to ‘Alpha Cities’ – cities that are intrinsically connected to the rest of the world through complex networks of trade, migration and transport links*. We live in a world in which concepts of our neighbour now encompass both the person who lives next door and a Twitter friend who lives a couple of continents away.
Of course, that also means, temporarily or permanently, people come to us, be that out of choice or necessity, because of hope or desperation. Lovers, workers, soldiers, visitors, families and friends pass through our towns and cities all the time; some are just passing through, others make a home for themselves. Sometimes, through the evils of slavery and genocide and people trafficking, human beings are moved forcably and we have to find a way to deal with that too. Whatever the reasons, human movement, migration, has shaped human civilisation, and with it the church, for better or worse: missionaries or refugees, aid workers or colonisers.
For a couple of biblical examples of this, think of the Pentecost pilgrims, or Cornelius stationed in Caeserea by the Roman military. Both of these examples lead to major redefinitions of the mission of the early church.
So. Look at the town or city in which your church is based. How does it reflect the communities and neighbourhoods around it? Is it diverse? Homogenous? Why do you think this is?
The world throws up plenty of barriers between us – you’ve only got to watch the news from the UK or US to see that. But the church has always been a diverse, networked body made up of brothers and sisters from around the world and from every social class. This isn’t something scary and new that we’ve suddenly had to confront as the result of the modern world, it’s baked into the DNA of the people of God. And if we try and deny this, or actively work against it, we’re actually doing violence to the Body of Christ.
Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to celebrate the diversity, the breadth and depth of the church family. And the Alpha Cities and the urban and digital spaces in which we live help us to do that by bringing together our brothers and sisters from across the globe, helping our churches to see Christ from a thousand different perspectives, uniting us as one people, children of God our Father, talking about him in different ways and styles and voices and accents because God is too big to contain otherwise.
The world moves; people move within it. There’s an opportunity to move with them, safe in the knowledge that, wherever we end up, Jesus has gone before us, and that, when we end up in an Alpha City or just standing at a lonely crossroads, the Holy Spirit will be there, travelling in each and every direction.
*In this post I’m largely thinking about ‘physical’ networks, but we’re also tied into the digital Venn diagram that is social media. The question here is, where does your Web traffic come from? How might that impact your church’s mission?