Two hundred of us stood hand in hand singing, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.” We were all Christian leaders from Philadelphia, but we were joined together in a dedicated corner at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
It was Movement Day 2016.
Tim Keller had just reminded all of us that our identity is in Christ. Not our political party, ethnicity, or denominational affiliation.
A Catholic bishop and Protestant minister had shared with us the story of their churches joining forces to share Christ in their Canadian city.
And Christians from over ninety nations exchanged words, embraces, and of course business cards.
Back in our Philly corner I looked around at the array of faces: African-Americans, Asian-Americans, European-Americans and Latinos all stood in our circle, each representing his or her own expression of the Christians faith. Among us were Presbyterians, Anglicans, Charismatics, Baptists, and non-denominational Christians, and all were given the chance to share their visionary goals for the next 3-5 years in Philadelphia. These goals would be formed into a unified mission statement for all the Christians represented by the leadership in the room.
The central goal of our mission was, of course, the gospel message. Making more disciples of Jesus Christ in Philadelphia must be the priority. Additionally, we all agreed that the Church in Philadelphia was in desperate need of the unity and collaboration that we’ve seen in other cities, and our goal would not become a reality unless the territorialism we’d experienced was defeated.
But beyond this, we discussed what Christian action should look like in our city.
How would we love our neighbors as ourselves?
How would we seek the peace and welfare of the city?
How would we act lovingly, mercifully, and justly as those who claim to represent a God of love, mercy, and justice?
And how could we all join together and make marked changes in our city?
We separated into groups, discussed, and prayed. One by one different voices called out from around the room:
“Large scale acts of mercy”
“Sustainable action against poverty”
“Prayer, prayer, and more prayer”
I can’t lie. It felt like an historic event. I felt privileged to be a part of it. I was excited to see denominational and racial barriers start to come down. It was a very small ecumenical picture of the new earth, and I was glad to be witnessing it.
But these were just words.
They were just ideas.
Maybe nothing would happen.
But I was hopeful.
I was hopeful because I saw more than just words. I saw leaders from majority culture take on the posture of students. I saw humility.
I also saw minority leaders given the platform to speak and lead. This act of healing was a small bit of salve on the wounds of history that we were all keenly aware of in that moment.
A few months have passed since I began writing this. And in recent weeks the floodgates were opened and we learned just how divided Christians in America really are.
But I’m optimistic. I believe God is working. And if He is…
Maybe we really will come together.
Maybe we will make a mark on our city.
Maybe we will see reconciliation.
Maybe we will see people following Jesus in mass.
Maybe we will really see God’s love, mercy, and justice be manifest through us.
I know that I’m hopeful, and you should be too.