Setting priorities and fulfilling those priorities are essential if we’re serious about sharing the Gospel and expanding Christian communities in cities around the world, says Rev. Javier Garcia, Director of Agape Europe based in Barcelona.
Quoting scripture, a range of philosophers and thoughts gleaned from decades of worldwide ministry, Rev. Garcia shared his message of inclusiveness and practicality with an enthralled audience at 2016’s Movement Day Global Cities.
“The Christian faith is not for me alone, but to live it out where God has placed me. We need to develop a complete vision of the city and a narrative that is understandable,” says Rev. Garcia. “The Church has to equip and send disciples to be light right where they are.”
He emphasizes the importance of Christian teamwork. “No local church alone will be able to reach all audiences and social communities in a city.”
Quoting Kierkegaard, he called on his listeners to seek excellence. “Being a Christian means being salt and sacrifice. The opposite of salt is mediocrity and nonsense.”
Movement Day’s emphasis on spreading the gospel through cities around the world was woven throughout Rev. Garcia’s address. Cities have always played a key role in spreading the Gospel, as God’s message spread from rural Palestine to the cities that dotted the Mediterranean, where it grew, he says. “
“In 2020, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities. We are becoming a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious global city,” he says. “Our challenge is now to connect with our culture today, so that Christ’s message reaches and transforms our society.”
In the last 50 years, the world has changed more than in all of humanity, says Garcia, attempting to put our mission in historical perspective
“As urban leaders, we need to anticipate the future,” he says, “The 21st century appears to a be a period of constant change, uncertainties and tensions.” He mentions hyper-modernity, ultra-modernity and liquid-modernity—we’re in this era.”
He lists what believes to be the church’s top five priorities:
1. Our Challenge. Understanding our culture
2. Our Priority: Proclamation in word and deed
3. Our Mission: To make disciples who are salt and light where God has placed them.
4. Our Strategy: To be rooted in the life of the city, growing in visibility, working with excellence and with the commitment to add value.
5. Our Need: To unite our efforts
Jesus’ Holistic Approach
Jesus, says Rev. Garcia took a holistic approach to people, teaching us to never separate our social responsibility with our evangelistic task in the city.
“Jesus went through all towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness,” Garcia says. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Taking a page from the marketplace, Rev. Garcia emphases the importance of growing visibility, credibility and added value, a principle he believes Jesus would fully embrace.
“Without visibility, we will go unnoticed. The church has to be real on the streets, but being visible is not enough. It has to be committed to the needs that surround it,” he says. “Being visible is not enough if credibility is not raised. A divided church in one city will be a weak Church.”
If we add value we not only become visible, but we will grow in our credibility and we can add value by meeting people’s needs. We must use language people can understand,” Garcia says, adding that churches need to spread the Gospel through the Internet and social networks.
Rev. Garcia emphasizes the importance of working with our communities to create signature events around art, music and other aspects of culture.
As an example he lists the extremely popular annual “Night of Faith” event in Basel, Switzerland, which has “brought together 15,000 people for 75 events as testimonies of faith,” he says. “The artists didn’t hide their faith in Jesus Christ.”
“We will grow in our credibility and we can add value by meeting people’s needs. we must use language people can understand,” he says adding that churches need to spread the Gospel through the internet and social networks.
“Without any doubt, Jesus and his message is our greatest added value.”
Call to Action
Throughout the address, Rev. Garcia urged the church and its members to set standards and follow them, urging a new era built around belief, ethics, commitment and values.
“Faith and action must work hand in hand with everything we do,” he says. “Brothers and sisters, if we want to contribute to the welfare and progress of our cities and their people, we must respond to this new era. And become agents of hope and change.”