What happens when more then 300 European church planters and leaders get together to talk about the gospel? Listen to what one church planter from Saint Petersburg, Russia said; “It was very good for our us to come to the network conference in Lisbon. I left encouraged from fellowship with you and new contacts, from the teaching, the content. I experienced a sense of family and home, something I had been looking for and been praying for.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ motivates us to create new Gospel communities in our cities, but we are constantly challenged by the question of what these gospel communities should look like in its practical ministry expressions: How can we communicate the Gospel in a meaningful way in our specific situation? How does the Gospel address our cultural context? Through what kind of ministries could the Gospel be embodied in our neighbourhood? How can our church be faithful to the Gospel content as well as fitting to our cultural context? This is where the key concept of a theological vision or a so-called Gospel-DNA comes into place. At the Church in the city conference in Lisbon we thought about how a deep reflection of the Gospel and our cultural context can help us to develop a theological vision helping us to create fruitful Gospel communities in the cities of Europe.
While City to City is known around the world for church planting, our main focus has always been gospel movements in urban centers. It was clear from our 3 days together that the gospel was at the center of all we do. If we were to go the CTC conferences on the other 5 continents we would we would hear the same mantra, “Everything flows out of the gospel”. From the refugee crisis to training, even our worship and sermons, the gospel held center stage at Lisbon. If you know anything about Tim Keller you know his heart is about the gospel that the whole world needs, both for the unbeliever and the believer. This is what unites denominations that traditionally would not attend a conference together. This is what brings freedom to try and then fail in ministry and get up and try again. This is what gives us freedom form “sweat equity” righteousness or earning our sanctification. The Apostle Paul left us a model. Three times he told us of his standing before God; (1) “I am the worst of all sinners, (2) I am the least of the apostles, (3) I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people (the Saints). You probably have guessed what order these came in. 1Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15. Are we not supposed to get better every day? Like many believers I thought that our faith and Christian growth is like a ladder. I go up 5 steps today and down 3 steps tomorrow, but I am always headed up. Of course God helps us in this but I must do my part. Paul turns this completely around. It looks like he is digressing and not moving forward. The gospel is what moves us forward towards Christian growth. It is not “grit” as many preach, but it is the power that the gospel helps us to go forward and plant new churches that will embody the truth of Jesus, “I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, and I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope. (Tim Keller, Center Church).
388 churches have been planted in 45 of the leading cities of the world through CTC and its partners in the last 15 years. We are praying that God will continue that growth and fill the cities of the world with gospel hope.