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7 Land Mines Churches Encounter When Reaching a City

7 Land Mines Churches Encounter When Reaching a City

Sometimes treasure maps have areas that say “Land Mines Here, Dragons Be Here, Proceed with Caution.” In over 30 years of city reaching in Ventura County, I’ve often joked that we could provide a fairly accurate map of land mines to new city-reachers. We’ve made every mistake possible at least once. We’ll probably make more mistakes, but as someone said, “if you’re not making mistakes you’re not learning.” This land mine map details just a few of our “learning” experiences. We provide them hoping to spare you an arm or a leg.

Land Mine #1. Assuming a Heart for the Lost in the People of God

When we first started, we assumed a heart for the lost in the people of God. Hopefully that lack of heart is a unique Southern California malady, but sadly it isn’t necessarily so. Actually it’s a rare minority who go to bed at night aching for people in their city to come to Jesus. We needed to educate people on the heart of the Father, and give them a reason to care that is not emotionally manipulative, or forced. This takes time. God enlarges the borders of our being.

Land Mine #2. Waiting on Everyone to Catch the Vision—Go With the Willing

We can get so preoccupied trying to get everyone on the train we never leave the station. Go with the willing, the present, the people who board the train at the first whistle. At the same time, put lots of energy encouraging everyone to get out of their La-Z-Boy recliners, get in touch with their inner Tookishness, and consider taking an epic journey.

Land Mine #3. Stretching the Net of Vision Too Far, Too Fast—Start with Micro Geographies

When we started decades ago, we encouraged everyone to get a vision for Ventura County. But that was a bridge way too far. They needed a vision for their neighborhood…that extended to their city…that extended to their county.

Leaders need big vision to engage. But we think everyone has a leader mindset.  Many won’t engage with vision unless it’s immediately doable. Start with doable, like your street.

Land Mine #4. Leadership Relocations

God’s purposes remain even when leadership relocates. At the height of Love Ventura, (when pastors were pledging their lives to each other through tears), our key convening pastoral leader moved to Texas, and our key Christian radio station manager, who used the station to summon people to city reaching and prayer, moved as well. The major Christian publishing company that hugely supported Love Ventura, eventually went out of business.

Into the vacuum of leadership moved faithful big hearted leaders, who did not have the convening anointing that other leaders follow. The old adage “it all rises and falls on leadership” is true.

When all the viable leaders leave, look to God for clues as to what He wants to do next…like a woman throwing a millstone over a tower, or Jael taking a tent peg in one hand while she sung lullabies to an enemy.

Land Mine #5. Not Realizing Where God is at Work

In many cities God is up to His elbows at work in the government, education, health care and social work. We ignorantly started very church-centric. We thought it all had to flow out of the church, so we were decades late in partnering with cities, governments and key influencers.

Land Mine #6. Thinking There Is an Importable Template

Because we had the headquarters of the largest Christian radio company in America, as well as a major Christian publisher, and pastors who had led their denominations, many ministries thought we were the perfect place to showcase their models. They were all good models, and we learned from them, but we forgot that God refuses to be in any equation because people are tempted to worship the formula. God keeps us dependent on hearing Him for precision details for our particular setting.

Land Mine #7. The Division between Influencers of People vs. Influencers With God 

Senior pastors of large congregations wanted to only be with people like them. Including intercessors lessened the value of a strategy meeting in their eyes. It is a hard dance, but it’s one we need to learn. Major influencers gravitate toward other major influencers. Create a culture of humility that understands some of the best intel is from people who have been locked in a closet with God for decades.

Each of these land mines can be potent saboteurs in seeing the dream of Jesus fulfilled in your city. God will not be thwarted. His purposes stand firm. But we can delay by decades the unfolding of His goodness to our cities by our lack of carefulness.

Here’s to you avoiding these land mines and seeing the fame and renown of Jesus spread in your city and region!

This article was provided by City Gospel Movements. City Gospel Movements is a ministry of the Luis Palau Association who, in partnership with many other like-minded organizations, celebrates and accelerates collaborative gospel work in cities around the world. Whether leaders are just beginning to catch the vision for citywide church unity, or have been seeking the peace and prosperity of their city for decades, we exist to share best practices around movement work, connect their leaders, and encourage evangelism as a central part of movements. Get inspired and equipped at www.citygospelmovements.org.