21 Nov Loving Your City Well by Gary Hart
Today I want to talk with you about blooming where you’re planted, particularly how to love your city. I love this topic because it’s my story. I really felt that God planted me in Great Falls, MT. It’s kind of funny, but when I met my wife out in Bible school, knowing that she was from Great Falls, I told her, “I hope you’re not a mama’s girl because I will never live in Montana.” Forty years later, I’m still here.
When God opened the door for me to come to Great Falls, I had a passion to obey Him, and that got me through the early years when I wasn’t too fond of Great Falls and didn’t want to consider it my home. But in the process of things, God began to change my heart. I began to see this is where God wanted me to be.
Today, I truly love Great Falls. Whenever we leave and go somewhere else, we’re chomping at the bit to get home because this is the place that God has planted us.
Let me share with you = a couple of keys that we have applied to help us bloom where we’re planted. The first may seem rather elementary, but I think it’s vital; If you’re going to bloom where you’re planted, you have to truly love your city. Now, before we started in Great Falls, I honestly didn’t really love it there. I told God that I’d stay as long as He wanted me to stay, but I didn’t want to stay a day longer. After 38 years of ministry, I guess He decided that He didn’t want to move us! I had to stop tolerating Great Falls and have a change of heart. That’s when I realized I needed to change my perspective on the community God had assigned me.
If I was going to be fruitful and blossom here, I knew I had to embrace Great Falls as my forever home. I changed my attitude. I changed my confession. I started speaking blessings over the city and talking about all that Great Falls had to offer. I changed my mind completely about our whole region. I prayed and asked God to change my heart. Now I can truly say that I love Great Falls and I’m so grateful to God that He’s given us the privilege of pastoring here for all of these years.
Some people see their current assignment as temporary or maybe even as a steppingstone to somewhere better. I know in the denomination that I grew up in, we had six different senior pastors in eighteen years. There was always a constant turnover of pastors. You never heard of a pastor staying in any one place. The byproduct of that turnover was you never found real faithfulness. Churches struggled in transition and in accepting someone new who was most likely temporary. Our church, however, has experienced incredible strength because my wife and I are not looking for greener pastures. We’re here. This is our city. And we consider it a privilege to pastor here.
Resist the temptation or the mindset of a temporary assignment because you never know if you’ve already embarked on God’s permanent assignment for you. I don’t want to see you waste valuable time and energy looking for other opportunities and greener pastures elsewhere.
Think of Luke 16, where Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much.” Learn to be faithful where you are, and let God be the one to promote you. Make the decision to bloom where you’re planted. Fall deeply in love with your current city.
If you’re going to love your city, then I say make it a part of your mission and strategy. Here at Victory, we’ve dialogued about this a lot. We define our mission and strategy this way: We exist to change the world by helping people find and follow Jesus, by creating environments where people are encouraged and equipped to pursue relationship with God, partnership with God’s family, and proclaim the gospel to the world. Inside of that strategy we have three key disciplines that we believe will help people grow and fulfill those practices. We develop relationship with God through worship, prayer, and the Word of God. We develop partnership with God’s family through fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship. We proclaim the gospel to the world through our personal witness, community outreach, and world missions.
Loving our city through community outreach is a very significant part of our strategy. We talk about it all the time. We also recognized a long time ago that we weren’t here to build a great church but to impact our community. That would be virtually impossible to do if we expected everybody to come to us, but we never went to them. In order for us to love our city, we had to get out into the city, get our hands dirty and make an intentional and ongoing investment.
We look for ways to bless our city regularly. We look for ways to demonstrate God’s love for them. For instance, at the end of this last school year, we held a mini carnival in our church parking lot. We sent out flyers. We posted it on social media. Everything was free. We just wanted to be a blessing. We had games with prizes and free burgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, snow cones, and popcorn. We offered face painting for the kids, and they absolutely loved it! We put up bouncy houses, did balloon art, and so much more. We also gave tours of our new church building and had a prayer tent where people could come if they needed prayer.
What was so cool is that we had several thousand people come onto our campus in that one little outreach. We didn’t do it to build our church, but several families were added to it. We did it to show our community we love them. Our heart was to bless them. We can look back now and feel like we did an excellent job because several people took an interest in God and His plan for their lives. They even decided to visit our church!
As you accept God’s call and determine to bloom where He’s planted you, my prayer for you is that you will develop a love for your city and make it a regular activity to find new and creative ways to demonstrate your love outside the walls of your church. Go into your community. Love them where they are, and let the Holy Spirit move on their hearts draw them into your church.