One of the most important developments on the grouplife scene* is the idea that the group exists to do something beyond itself. More and more churches are designing their small group philosophy of ministry to be externally focused or to have a missional mindset.
Maybe you’re working through the implications right now…and you’re looking for resources that will help guide this new direction. If that’s you, I think you’re going to find To Transform a City, by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams, to be a must read. Co-author Eric Swanson brings the perspective of a seasoned veteran who’s taken more than a journalistic interest. As the co-author (with Rick Rusaw) of The Externally Focused Church, The Externally Focused Life, and The Externally Focused Quest, Swanson brings a wealth of experience. As a participant in Love Boulder, he’s been on the front lines of the kind of mission that can transform a city.
There are a number of aspects that make To Transform a City an important resource. First, although it provides a clear biblical basis for the priority of this kind of mission, it does it in a way that is very readable. Interspersed with stories of transformational practice, there is plenty to fire the imagination. In addition, a kind of blueprint for city transformation begins to emerge. It’s not fully developed, but there’s enough there to make out the pathway. Finally, each chapter concludes with a set of questions for reflection and discussion that can easily be used to help a team begin to take steps on the path.
A key distinctive of Swanson’s teaching style is the use of transferable diagrams and illustrations. The pages of To Transform a City are no exception. Easy to follow. Easy to explain the concepts to the rest of your team.
I found the chapter on partnering with others who care to be particularly helpful. With the challenges in every city too great for any one church to deal with, and the opportunities too great to keep to ourselves, this chapter offers a way of thinking that can help your church work with the potential partners in your community.
Finally, the suggested resources section in the appendix will be very helpful to any church seeking to engage in city transformation.
I think you’re going to find To Transform a City to be a very challenging read. Much like Swanson’s earlier book, The Externally Focused Church, you might find that you’ll begin to develop a new and different scorecard. You’ll definitely need one, because you’ll also find yourself playing a whole different game.
*See my article on current grouplife trends.