Home Outreach Leaders How to Be a Pastor to Your City (5 Tips)

How to Be a Pastor to Your City (5 Tips)

reach your city

There’s more happening in your city than meets the eye. It can be easy to think God’s activity is confined to what we see in our single church congregation or non-profit organization. But do you know how to view God at work at work to reach your city? Our team—City Gospel Movements at Palau—champions leaders who are not content running programs in the four walls of their church. These leaders are restless to see local churches unite and work together for the peace and prosperity of their city.

This tapestry of God at work to reach your city through dynamic collaborations is what we call a gospel movement.

These collaborations pursue holistic city flourishing and invite the participation of anyone who believes Jesus can transform their city through the unity of the Church (Jeremiah 29:7; John 17).

Is your heart beating for the same thing? If so, you’re in good company. Over the last two years, our team has spoken with over 300 leaders from the USA and around the world who are working to unify and mobilize local churches to participate in the gospel movement in their city.

Learn five steps we see these leaders consistently taking so you can join the gospel movement to reach your city:

1. Reach Your City by Searching for Fellow Collaborators.

Don’t go alone. Take time to find and develop relationships with those who already have a passion for your city. They’re out there! You aren’t alone in your desire to see your city flourish, but you may need to step outside of your industry to discover others with the same passion. You will know you’re in the company of a collaborator if they are willing to share connections because they recognize you share a common mission; they don’t care if their name or organization is displayed on a program; and they understand they have a key role to play in the city but believe greater impact can be had through working with others.

Some of the most dynamic collaborators won’t share your job title. If you’re a pastor, reach out to a fellow businessperson. If you’re an executive director, offer to buy coffee for a school superintendent. Hear their dreams for your city and be expectant to find overlapping visions. This process takes time because it is all about building genuine relationships. But be encouraged because once you meet one collaborator, they’ll likely connect you to another. As you meet these people of peace in various channels of culture, each leader’s expertise adds invaluable perspective to a citywide strategy, and a unique network they are uniquely called by God to influence.

2. Reach Your City by Picking Brains to Learn What Not to Do.

Sometimes we think we’re the only one thinking a certain way. We can think: “Why am I the only one who cares that pastors are dying for a safe place where they can show up as they are?” or “Why don’t all people in our city care about the homelessness epidemic?” Full of passion—or angst—we start an initiative, program or non-profit to address these issues, often forgetting to do the research to understand who’s already in the game. Give yourself permission to pump the breaks and do a little market research to find out who in your city is already working towards a similar goal. This process may motivate you to join or partner with a good thing that is already moving, or tweak your plan so that you’re filling a real gap that exists.

3. Reach Your City by Giving Yourself Decades, Not Years.

Seeing a city change takes years (if we’re being completely honest, think decades). City transformation is a long game. Building relational trust on which collaboration is driven takes years, and then planning initiatives to pursue together also takes time. It can feel like an overwhelming goal to change the statistics on homelessness, foster care, and education in a matter of years. We’ve found that leaders experience more creativity and freedom to dream big when they frame their engagement in the city in terms of decades.

4. Reach Your City by Planning Events but Don’t Forget to Strategize for Lasting Impact.

Events are catalytic moments in the timeline of a gospel movement. Events spark conversations around critical topics and can unify local leadership around a common goal. They can also provide an opportunity for multitudes to hear what God is doing in the city and receive an invitation to participate in the wider movement. Leaders who have hosted successful events like community-wide service days, Global Leadership Summits, or large-scale gospel festivals enjoy the benefits of increased conversations, unified leadership teams, and more people wanting to participate in the movement of God in the city. But it is common—and healthy—to ask: “What’s next?” When leaders understand that an event is not really about an event, their strategies and metrics for success take into account the long game, rather than a short-term win.

Some ways leaders strategize for lasting impact around an event include: planning smaller luncheons with roundtable conversation for marketplace leaders leading up to or following a Global Leadership Summit; inviting other local churches to pray for people on the streets in a 6-month lead up to a public gospel festival; or setting meetings with government officials to learn how they see a community-wide service day as an on-ramp for further engagement in the city.

5. Reach Your City by Watching God Do Everything Humans Can’t.

As much as we believe in developing strong networks of leaders, crafting strategic plans, and learning and re-learning our city, human efforts can only move the needle so far. God is the one who ignites and sustains gospel movements. God is the One who transforms cities through the power of His Holy Spirit. We get to co-create and partner with Him in this incredible endeavor of creating Kingdom culture in urban centers, but we live in dependence on God to open the eyes of those who don’t know Him yet, and redeem broken systems and mindsets to align with the truth of Jesus Christ.

One of our favorite—and reoccurring—moments is when we are talking to a leader in a city who is doing incredible work who says: “It’s really not me. It’s all God’s grace. He’s doing the impossible in our city. We are so grateful.” They may be seeing large numbers of people coming to events, pastors deepening genuine relationships with one another, funding coming in innovative ways, and visions casted for the next big thing, but at the end of the day, they know Who’s to credit for lasting transformation.

Are you leading collaborative work in your city? See if you’re on our gospel movement map, or let us know so that we can include you!

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Lizzie Burke is the Analyst and Designer for the City Gospel Movements team at the Luis Palau Association. She compiles data from gospel movements to create resources which provide common language around gospel movements and helps leaders in key focus areas. The City Gospel Movements team exists to celebrate and accelerate collaborative gospel work in cities around the world. Visit citygospelmovements.org for articles, podcasts, and more.