A City of God, by Doug Daugherty
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, And pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in this welfare will find your welfare.
In 1990, several Christian business people in Chattanooga, Tennessee, began to ask the question, “What is God’s vision for Chattanooga?” Out of this question have come a host of initiatives that we hope will ultimately lead to a discipled city.
The nest of much of this activity has been the Chattanooga Resource Foundation (CRF), out of which have flowed dozens of powerful ideas for Christ’s Kingdom. CRF is an entrepreneurial, not-for-profit organization finding creative ways to further Christ’s
Kingdom in the city of Chattanooga. So far we have seen positive results. Some of the outcomes have been citywide crusades, inter-racial partnerships, strategic prayer ministries, leadership development programs, public-policy initiatives, youth-ministry networks, a food co-op, and a host of publications and short- term projects.
Theologically, the Resource Foundation is evangelical and conservative, with a high view of God’s word. There are a few truths and a few values that have steered all that we do. Most Crosswinds readers would be familiar with the truths – which are the basics of orthodox, evangelical Christianity – but may not be familiar with the values. So let’s look at the latter.
First, everything that gets done in the Kingdom is relational. We have generally found no success in building programs, organizations, or events that do not have a relational base. The facts are that you can’t work with people you don’t trust and you can’t trust people you don’t know. This is especially true when it comes to areas of racial reconciliation and public policy.
A natural stream for this value is that networks are stronger than organizations. The Resource Foundation is all about building networks of Christian people with similar passions to have an impact in the city. Networks are not hierarchical. By definition, if you could draw an organizational chart of a network, it would look more like a spider-web than a pyramid.
Second, diversity is not merely descriptive – it must be part of our moral framework. We are convinced that no Christian or part of the Body holds all of God’s truth. We are also convinced that we are all captives of our own experience. We are, by definition, trapped in our own history. We also believe that without one another, we can never “be a mature man,” either individually or corporately.
The bottom line is that if you only hang out with people like you, you will never be able to fulfill either your own mission or the mission of the Church. This is most true in the way we are motivated. Most people develop their theology to support their basic motivation. In fact, our Leadership Development program has enjoyed a great deal of success because we help identify and affirm the diversity of motivations and passions that cause Christian men and women to provide leadership.
Third, our understanding of Biblical Worldview is that Christianity is not merely a matter of personal devotion, but that God and His Word are applicable to all areas of life. It is a claim for the rule of God over all Creation and the corollary that believers have a basic responsibility to exercise as much dominion as possible in their area of influence and responsibility. It should be added that, besides truths that are generally considered orthodox among believing Christians, there are two theological concepts central to a Biblical Worldview that play heavily into what the Resource Foundation is all about: The Kingdom of God and the Image of God in Man. It is very difficult to do Christian work in the marketplace without these two truths firmly in view.
Fourth, destiny is the notion that every individual and institution, including a city, has a knowable purpose. We often quote Paul in Philippians 3:12 when he says “. . . but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Paul spent his life pursuing God’s destiny for himself. You will yield much more fruit focusing on what you were made to do. Chattanooga, for instance, is a very generous city. In fact, it has the highest per capita giving to the United Way in America. It is also a very religious city. In a recent marketing study for a group interested in recreational pastimes, Bible reading was the top “hobby”. On the down side, we are a city that must battle against tradition and dead orthodoxy. We also have a history of exploitation, involving race and greed.
Fifth, the city is the only place where “it” can happen. Around the world God is restoring a “Theology of the City.” This is taking place in evangelism, prayer, missions, and development work. The city is the only place where we are together in one place. You can get your arms around a city. As the cities go, so goes the nations. If we can’t do it in the city, than we can’t do it. The “it” is the Kingdom of God, and God is very concerned with every aspect of the city – salvation, law, poverty, justice, mercy, racism, capital creation, unity, beauty, and so on. As God’s people exercise their diverse gifts and pursue their destiny in Christ with a biblical worldview, the city will be transformed.
We often define mission for not-for-profits, businesses, or churches in terms of what we do. At CRF, we have added the dimension of place to mission for Christian work, and the impact has been staggering. The Bible does not speak of many “churches” in a city, but always addresses its letters to the believers in Rome, Ephesus, or Philippi. There are not 600 churches in Chattanooga, but one church. That is the part of the dynamic of John 17:21. The city is a gateway. We believe we will succeed as we play to our strengths and are conscious of our opposition.
These are the five values that drive the Resource Foundation. We are seeing many fascinating developments as we pray, build relationships, and focus on a new vision for our city. That vision is the shalom of God for a mid-sized city in southern Tennessee.
* Doug Daugherty was the Executive Director of the Chattanooga Resource Foundation and one of its founders. The foundation changed its name in 2007 to Chattanooga Matters. The web address is www.chattanoogamatters.org. This article originally appeared in the summer 1995 issue of Crosswinds, The Reformation Digest.