Our Local Church and God's Global Purpose
Given we are very much an embryonic community at Passion City Church, we're not in a position to say too much about “what we do” or “how we do it” when it comes to missions and the local church. So I thought I would just suggest the path we are seeking and let time unfold how well we do.
To do this, I’d love to simply come around the purpose statements that define who we are as Passion City Church. As the pastor of a new church plant, it was important to me (and our core team) that we get the message right given we are convinced words reflect intrinsic values and shape destinies. So, at Passion City Church we are choosing to orient our tribe around four simple phrases: Passion City Church — For God. For People. For the City. For the World.
While there can be healthy debate about the aim of the Church and her mission, we believe that the primary outcome of our existence as a local community of faith is the glory of God. Thus, at Passion City we start with the hope that we exist “for God.” In other words, we want our very being to amplify his. Believing the whole of Scripture harmonizes and condenses in God’s passion to make his glory known throughout the universe, we believe this, too, is the purpose of the Church. As Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20-21,
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
For some it may represent a small modification in words. But for us, to begin with the phrase “for God” marks a giant shift of focus and direction. Like a theological GPS, those two simple words shape our motivation, which in turn informs our actions and our destiny.
Yet, in the same breath we add, Passion City Church is “for people.” We don’t believe God’s passion for himself supplants his love for those he formed in his image. On the contrary, God has chosen to live in relationship with humanity, intrinsically wedding his eternal future to ours. It is by his choosing that “in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27).
But, being “for people” can be somewhat nebulous, so we added two additional lines: for the city, for the world.
For the City
Passion City Church is rooted in a neighborhood on a 50/50 line in the midtown area of Atlanta, a city of close to six million people. The 50/50 terminology reflects that we are bordered by rich and poor, black, white and Latino, the best of the best and the worst of the worst. In one direction you find shimmering commerce and glitzy high-rise wonders. In the other, you pass the largest concentration of “adult businesses” in town. We gather in an abandoned retail space that was tagged with gang graffiti when we found it, a “big-box” location directly adjacent to MARTA, Atlanta’s subway system. It’s not unsafe. Yet it’s not totally safe. It’s exposed, not insulated, the very cityscape itself providing a backdrop for everything we do.
For us, it’s a perfect place to gather, just the kind of neighborhood we wanted to call home. Already anchored in the text of Matthew 5:15, we were thrilled to land in the address of 515 Garson Drive. Now when we enter our building, we come in under the huge numbers 515 above the door, reminding us that the Church does not exist to get people inside its walls, but rather to shine the message of grace, truth and love into every corner of the city in which it exists.
The meeting place we had before this was a premier venue for rock concerts, originally built as a church building in 1911 that housed a medical clinic for children in the neighborhood. This kind of thinking and action, motivated by the gospel of grace, wraps our message in skin large enough to embrace all people at their point of need.
For the World
And lastly, we are a church “for the world.” By its very nature, the gospel-birthed Church is a global Church. Christ was crucified at a crossroad in a burgeoning world in the midst of a festival attended by people from a multiplicity of nations. Soon after his return to life, the gift of the promised Spirit resulted in people speaking out his resurrection story in every language known to man (Acts 2). And the mandate he gave us (in the event we just want to adopt his) is to take his message to all people on planet earth (Matthew 28).
We cannot afford to wait until we are a more “mature” church to look outward to the unreached and under-resourced of the world, for the very maturing process of becoming all God has intended us to be is in the going. Jesus said he would be with us on this mission, even to the most remote parts of the earth. So, to be with him is to go. To lose touch with him is to settle and stay.
So both for our sake (for we really want Jesus), and for theirs, our hearts are bent to the nations, our hands open to serve them in his name.
Passion City Church. For God. For People. For the City. For the World.