by John Sprecher

discouragedRockford, Illinois, the city that I have been serving in for the last 33 years regularly makes some rather dubious lists. We’ve regularly made the bottom ten of the top 300 most livable cities in America and recently we made number three on the most miserable cities in America, behind Detroit and Flint, Michigan. A few weeks later we appeared on another list identifying one of our neighborhoods as the 14th most dangerous to walk in, in America. We certainly have our challenges and as in most communities there tends to be more hand wringing than positive action.

If we are to make a difference as the Church of Jesus Christ, God’s people here on earth, it requires a different attitude then the rest of the community. We are not called to reflect the community we live in, but demonstrate the Kingdom of God in it. I believe the words of instruction Jeremiah sends to the captives in Babylon, are instructive for us today; “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and begat sons and daughters… that you may be increased there…Seek the peace of the city where I’ve caused you to be carried away captive and pray to the Lord for it, for in its peace, you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7) For many, our city is seen as in such high need that we tend to try to run away, find another place, look for another ministry, or heed a different call, when in fact, God may be calling us to engage in the community that we are in!

For the past three years Rock Church has engaged in the center of the misery in our community. Fully half of the houses here are boarded up and the majority of the people are unemployed or underemployed. 53% are below the poverty line and many absentee landlords have simply abandoned their properties and walked away. Drugs are readily available and street violence is all too common. Three years ago at the invitation from some of the residents who could not get help from government programs we were asked to help. The first year we were joined by a team from our fellowship church in Duluth and we cleaned the streets. Last year we went back and were able to do some additional work on a couple of houses.

This year we’re going back for a week in partnership with 12 agencies and groups including five other churches. One of the churches joining us is our FCA church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Lighthouse Christian Assembly. We will work together to bring some positive visual change to the community, but more importantly to bring change to the hearts and lives of people through the power of the Love of Jesus Christ. 24 hour prayer will be going on throughout the week and at the end of the week an outdoor service in the neighborhood. Our youth got the idea of doing puppets during the lunch breaks for the kids, and some of our other teens decided they wanted to create a “blessing basket” containing some hand-made and home-made items that they will deliver to the residents on the street to show the love of Christ and to help end the misery.

We certainly don’t have all the answers to our community’s needs, but we do know that Christ can help us as we are seeking to allow Him to work through us. Another fellowship church in our city, Mosaic, led by Pastor Dave Spooner, is in an area where there is significant poverty. One of the significant things they do each year is a “give-a-way” garage sale. It brings many people in the neighborhood, not only to their facility, but opens the door during times of need. When all of us begin to do something, it begins to change the climate of the community where we live, so let me encourage you. Let’s end the misery in our families and in our communities.


What ways has God led you to help demonstrate the love of God to your community?


John Sprecher is the Senior Pastor of Rock Church in Rockford, Illinois and also serves the FCA as a Fellowship Elder and on the USA National Board.


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