After 10 years of use, I had to renew my passport last month. So this new one is blank. Empty. None of my previous stamps are in it. There were so many in my old one. Some were from missions, others were from work, and a few from personal trips. Each page evoked great memories.
I’ve been fortunate to walk the streets of Zürich, drive the hills of the Irish countryside, stand in front of the Strobe-lit Eiffel tower at night, and take the Yamanote-sen subway around the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo.
I’ve also boated upriver in the jungles of Guatemala, hiked the Luang Prabang mountains in Laos, and taken an all-night truck ride across Ukraine. This is a handful of countries I’ve been to. I’ve seen extreme opulence and heartbreaking poverty–a lot like right here. Columbus is like a country. A giant mission field for all of us.
I recently became a “missionary” to our city but for the previous 24 years, I worked for several Fortune 50s. My areas of expertise are innovation, strategy, and change management. I helped lead many major transformations with clients. When working with any organization, my experience showed that we needed to get about 20% of the workforce behaving the new way before it caught on with everyone else. (Scientific American reports 25% in one study) Why not 20% Christian collaboration in Columbus for Jesus?
I believe our city can best spiritually thrive by us working together as Christians. And this room is the beginning of the 20%.
Let me share with you some facts about the city of Columbus as if it were a country.
GDP $130.8 billion, 53rd largest in the world, just behind Qatar. Columbus is just bigger than population of Namibia or Botswana. It would be #143.
Infant Mortality 7.4. Same as Hungary, a Least Developed Country.
Diabetes 10.9% = Trinidad & Tobago
We have Some worker segments have life expectancy of <34 years old
The first Christian missionaries arrived 400 years ago
Columbus is experiencing a shifting industry to high tech, and our dominant population growth is from immigration
We are significantly behind in the number of low cost housing units
There is a large income inequality w/ The wealthiest 1% of households taking home 15.8% of earnings.
The poverty rate is 20.8% with some neighborhoods double that.
500,000 people don’t know where next meal is coming from.
250k+ never heard the gospel of Jesus
We’re growing at nearly 2%
2 1/2 years ago, I was driving on 33 at 270 near Dublin, when God told me he wanted me to share the gospel with everyone in Columbus. Why Columbus?
Columbus is special. We are the capital of Ohio. Cardinal Health, the L Brands, and Honda are here. We have the Short North, Muirfield, and the Hilltop.
Columbus is big. 3170 square miles big. Almost 2.2M people call our metropolitan area home.
When we throw a number like that out there, it’s hard for us to comprehend it. So if we lined everyone up shoulder to shoulder on I-70, it would go from Columbus to Kansas City.
The good news is, 750,000 of those people are born again, leaving about 1.4 million people that need the power of the gospel in their lives. The problem is, despite that number, we aren’t sharing individually; unfortunately, society isn’t listening anyway. 38% of our population doesn’t attend a church…at all. And that trend is increasing.
Today’s idea is that we can do more to impact our city by working together as Christians, or to borrow a term, we need a city movement here. And we believe it’s God’s heart too.
Power of Completeness
Few would argue that the biggest brand in our city is Ohio State Buckeye football. They have achieved that with a culture of winning. 37 Big 10 titles, 25 bowl wins, 8 national championships, and 7 Heisman trophy winners.
The fan base has grown. 12 years ago, if you wanted to buy Buckeye paraphernalia you had to go to campus or to a boutique Buckeye shop. Now you can walk in any Walmart, Kroger or gas station and find a wide variety of Buckeye gear. Go anywhere in the US and See what happens when you shout “O-H!”.
With 92 wins in the past 8 seasons, we expect a win every week. But there have been 9 losses. Even so, most of those could have been wins.
On Oct 20, 2018 Dwayne Haskins threw for 479 yards and completed 49 of 73 passes, setting an Ohio State record. He was incredible. It didn’t matter, Purdue crushed OSU 49-20. A QB alone can’t win. Had the team dynamic been affected? 4 days before the loss, team captain Nick Bosa announced he was withdrawing from OSU immediately to focus on the NFL draft. He went #2 Overall, but that single, painful loss cost us an invite to the playoffs, despite becoming eventual Big 10 champions. Excellence in isolation or independence does not help a team win. It must perform well in all positions, before & during the entire game. Everything each of us does affects us overall.
We’re familiar with the Four/Five Fold ministry of the church. Reading Eph 4:11-12 from the Greek says this: “Placing delegates, Inspired speakers, Gospel preachers, Protectors, and Instructors…to achieve fitness for those that serve and facilitate growth for the Church. How does that sound?
We have over a dozen periodicals exclusively covering Columbus. The activities of the Church are essentially absent from all of them. (We reached out to several reporters for today. One responded and is here.) Imagine the power of a united ¾ of a million people. If we all strategically aligned for our city, not one media outlet could ignore that. What if when the residents of Columbus heard Church they immediately thought of people being empowered to live life to the fullest through the gospel?
Our City’s Trends
There are tremendous forces at work in the spiritual world, pushing forward an agenda that makes God seem less important every day.
Columbus is no exception. Despite city growth each year, we are losing 1% of the population from the church. Every four years, that’s enough to fill Ohio Stadium.
We have about 1,100 local churches in the 7-county area (Franklin, Delaware, Licking, Fairfield, Pickaway, Madison, & Union). Every year we have new church plants but church closures too. There are several hundred, faith-based, non-profit, parachurch ministries that call CBus home. Additionally, there are many successful, Christian, business leaders who use their platform for Jesus. We have #2 fastest growing church in US here.
But we can’t expect isolated pockets of amazing work to win the city. Me winning doesn’t mean us winning. We all must work together. CBus is simply getting too big for uncoordinated, independent effort. 20% of us have to define and demonstrate practical cooperation.
One of the major traits of successful organizations is a team that has learned to work collaboratively across everyone. Dysfunctionality, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is perpetuated by “silos.” I haven’t seen an industry immune to it. I have found myself personally at the crossroads of marketplace, congregational, and parachurch, wondering where I fit and what I was supposed to do. They seemed to compete with each other. I harbored frustration with each while simultaneously being active in each.
Many of us have heard a quote attributed to Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.”
Secular civic, business and community leaders are trying and crying for help. They keep dumping millions into the traditional programs, hoping it works.
Check Out this quote from a recent Columbus Business First article on poverty, “When you really look behind the curtain of who’s being affected … it’s been like this for years,” Joy Bivens, director of the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, said. “We’re putting all this money into programs…but over those last several years, this data has been the same.”
Money with no meaningful change. Repetitive spend with no meaningful change? Sounds like insanity. Our confession time was beautiful. That is the foundation for unity.
It’s the church’s time to shine. But there is a dangerous shift away from evangelism in America and in Columbus.
So how do we reach the 1.4 million unsaved people? How do we reach the additional 1 million that will be here by 2050? 82% of our city growth last year came from four, non-Christian countries: China, India, Somalia, and Mexico. What if it was true? (WIIWT)—my non-profit—research shows that over a quarter million people in our city have never heard the gospel. If we continue the status quo, in <10 years, God could be as irrelevant in Columbus as He is in New England today, the most post-Christian area in the US.
Research by Barna/AlphaUSA tells us that over half of Christians don’t know the Great Commission; while 71% of the population isn’t on a quest for spiritual truth. Ironically, most people are still open to conversations about faith; however, the two most welcome methods are one on one casual conversation and casual small group conversation. Two main criteria must be present for successful engagement with the unchurched: lack of judgment and not forcing a conclusion.
Who is teaching us how to appropriately evangelize today’s world? How do we improve our reputation? There is the issue of “Church” that must be addressed first. We’re all lumped together by outsiders, typically with a focus on negative actions. Ironically, the Bible lumps us together too in John 17:21.
This was a comment string by an individual on a ministry Instagram post. I apologize for the crude language but I wanted to keep it raw. Comments read from the bottom up.
Of course, the human side of me wanted to get angry, but the Jesus side of me said, “What happened in this person‘s life to make him feel this way and how can we fix it?”
Barna Research tells us that among atheists and agnostics, the dechurched, and religious non-Christians, the most important things we could do for people to improve receptivity to Christianity are the following:
Churches cooperating together to solve a community issue
Improving the reputation of the church
Providing an eye-opening spiritual experience
Providing better evidence for Christianity
What joint solutions can we create in light of these four insights?
It’s Working Elsewhere…
Other cities are cooperating.
From 1989 to 2017, church attendance in Manhattan quintupled from 1 to 5%, with the majority happening in the last few years, after several churches began working together.
Relevant Magazine quoted Fernando Cabrera, founding pastor of New Life International Church in NY, “I’ve never seen so many pastors collaborate with each other—they’re sharing encouragement, strategy, communication. Everybody is now realizing that God didn’t assign one church to reach the whole city.”
Josh Kelsey, Pastor of C3 Church NY, echoes Cabrera’s sentiment. “New Yorkers are leading the way in terms of church unity,” he says. “They really want to see each other’s ministries succeed. We actually are for each other. If we want to see this city saved, to look like His kingdom … we would need a hundred Redeemer Presbyterians, a hundred Hillsongs.”
What about Columbus? A 100 Cypresses, a hundred New Salem Baptists. The parable of the sower in Mt 13:8 tells us, “Some seed fell on soil that produces a hundredfold,” But not just congregations, parachurch, or marketplace. All Christians. It requires a city-wide movement.
ARDA, the Association of Religious Data Archives, describes a city movement as this: “City movements represent an emerging paradigm in urban mission marked by partnerships between ecclesial, parachurch, marketplace, and civil leadership united by their faith commitment for the purpose of Christian witness and transformation of the city. City movements propose these 3 things:
Unity of churches throughout the city
Holistic witness involving both gospel proclamation and service to the community
Sustainability focusing on long-term engagement with local communities
Noteworthy among these City Gospel Movements is with the New York City Leadership Center (New York, NY).”
We don’t have time today, but God has done amazing city-wide things in Portland, Charlotte, Austin, and others. I challenge you to search and see inspiring examples of recent, unity-driven, gospel-growth winning cities around our country.
Whether we call it a city movement, an awakening, a revival or something else, we have a quickly growing mission field here to reach. In addition to the earlier statistics, Ohio is #5 in human trafficking, #2 in opioid deaths with Columbus leading the way in both of those stats in Ohio. Columbus needs Jesus. We have to work together.
As the host of the Columbus Area Church Podcast, I ask every guest, “What does good look like in C-Bus in 2025 or 2030.” If I was asked the same question. I would respond, “By 2030, Columbus is the first major metropolitan area that is wholly transformed, not a few pockets or a starting trend, but an entire city, for Jesus.”
That starts with the 20% demonstrating how that works. That seed can be planted by this room full of leaders and influencers of our city. People hear us, but more importantly they watch us. We live what’s important to us. It comes out in our posts, our actions, our unscripted comments. Our organization’s strategies. We can do more by working together than we can independently. Let’s figure out what that looks like.
It’ll be risky, but in a recent Passion City Church sermon, The pastor made this statement when referring to reaching the 6 1/2 million people of Atlanta, “We will attempt any risk if we think the reward is worth it.”
What can we do together to change our city? Today can be the start of the answer to that question.
Thank you! And to kickoff that process, we now have a table discussion time.