Vision New England Blog

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The general blog of Vision New England dedicated to equipping and encouraging New England Christ followers to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly and make disciples.


Author: Bob Atherton

Bob Atherton's Blog

God and The Power of Humility to Change A City

Miracle in Bridgeport 

Business Insider ranks Bridgeport, CT as #4 on its list of “Most Dangerous Cities in America.” Bridgeport is, in many ways, a microcosm of the racial and political tensions that have been filling our country’s headlines, and it’s been that way for a long time. As Pastor Luis Burgos of City Wide Christian Church puts it, “the history of unity here is bad, as bad as it can get.” 

 

So, when the Holy Spirit put it on Pastor Luis’ heart to provide a host site for a Ten Days of Prayer initiative – designed to bring churches together – he was understandably skeptical. How far can this go, really? The prospects looked iffy at best, but he decided, in humble faith, to say “yes” to God’s call.   What followed is nothing short of miraculous. 

 

When Pastor Luis shared the “Ten Days” idea with the leaders of his church and a handful of close friends, they bought in so deeply that they agreed to take vacation time from work so they could be “all in.” They decided as a team to host a dinner for local pastors that would introduce them to the “Ten Days” vision, and 50 (yes, five-zero) pastors attended. They were so moved to be part of it that the team decided to host a second dinner so those pastors could invite others in their networks. 70 MORE pastors came to that second one, and responded with similar enthusiasm. What??

 

With such a strong response, the team decided to move the 24/7 prayer into a 1,000-person tent placed in a neutral location, so the focus would be on Jesus instead of a particular church. Their strategy for each day was to pray for 22 hours, and spend two hours hearing from the Scriptures.    

 

Those times in the Scriptures led to unusually deep times of repentance. God moved powerfully, leading pastors who had been at odds with each other into a profound reconciliation. Jesus was exalted above racial and doctrinal differences, and the Holy Spirit began moving different ones to confess their attitudes to one another and take steps toward a new and supernatural unity. 

 

It became so obvious that God was doing something special that people started inviting their non-Christian friends; and, starting with the second night, many came to know Christ. On the third night, they brought in a portable pool and started baptizing these new believers and encouraging them to connect with a local church – ANY local church – so they could become part of a faith community. Already, many have.    

 

David wrote in Psalm 133,

 

“How blessed it is when God’s people live together in unity!  For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.”

 

In Bridgeport, humility led to prayer and confession, which led to reconciliation and unity, which led to blessing and life. I guess David knew what he was talking about.

 

Why a humble, united church can be the best hope for a city’s healing and change 

Tensions are part of the story of every town and city. More often than not, those tensions started generations ago and became ingrained in the city’s culture. They caused otherwise-sane people to hold tightly, and often blindly, to arrogant and condemning attitudes towards whichever group of others was on their radar.    

 

When Christians and Christian churches take an honest look in the mirror, we often find that, despite all our talk about Jesus, and love, and not slipping back into the patterns of the world, we aren’t all that different; more than we’d like to admit, the arrogance that blinds them blinds us, too.

 

Certainly, within every town and city there are people who care deeply about its health and have great dreams for its future. When arrogance goes unchecked, though, people keep doing things that undermine progress; and regardless of how noble those dreams may be, it’s likely they’ll never get the chance to be realized.  

 

On the other hand, when we own our arrogance and work to overcome it, the doors open for tensions to actually be put to rest and for a new and respect-based unity to emerge. Unfortunately, going down that road requires a level of humility, courage and persistence that most people just don’t have.      

 

That’s why Jesus, working through a humble and united church, can be the best hope for a city’s healing and change.  Jesus “humbled Himself” (Phil. 2:4-11) in a way that makes any of the humbling we’re talking about here look like child’s play. The fact that He now lives in us is the game changer that opens a whole new world of possibilities we didn’t have before. The humility, courage and persistence we couldn’t muster before are now possible.

 

As Bridgeport shows, the Holy Spirit gives us a whole different type of power to work with, a power that shatters tensions by breaking down lie-plagued mindsets with truth, covering long-standing wounds with grace, and creating new cultures built on treating those we used to look down on with love and value. He creates “new normals” in a way that political efforts and just try harder never could. 

 

Sure, the events of September only touched a portion of Bridgeport; but now there is a pocket of unity that didn’t exist before. The people who experienced it, and especially those who lives were eternally changed by it, can now describe to their family, friends and co-workers “how blessed it is when God’s people live together in unity.” As humility continues to take root and become their norm, and as they learn to value those they once condemned, the culture and the story of Bridgeport will change – the story they live out now, and the story their children will live in future generations