You know a book is going to be good when you tear-up reading the introduction. Zondervan recently sent me “To Tranform A City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City” to review as part of their church blog tour and from the introduction. I was eager to glean the inspiration and knowledge laid out by authors Eric Swanson and Sam Williams having moved to Cleveland only seven months ago. In our move to Cleveland, Dave and I not only felt called to continue our work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, but to be part of a church and community that is at work as it says in the scripture in Jeremiah 29: “seek the peace, restoration and prosperity” to the city.
As a person who both seeks to live and teach a holistic gospel, I was thankful for the message Swanson and Williams present “Jesus must transform your heart before he can begin to use you to transform a city” highlights both the need for personal and communal transformation that can only come from God. Many times I work with students who are gung-ho to be activists and change the world yet the inner-work that Jesus must do to develop compassion, practice forgiveness and learn what it means to love isn’t as appealing. It takes time, can be painful and the results aren’t as concrete as seeing a bare food pantry stocked.
These guys also seem to be the type that you’d want to have at a party; not a lame church party where they only play CCM songs, serve watered down punch and day-old baked goods while people politely smile at each other- but a dancin’ in the streets with the neighbors while the smell of a pig roast wafts over crowds laughing, playing and doing life together.
A key thread of this book is; in order to see a city transformed by God, you must love and be part of the city. Whether this is caring for patients in an HIV/AIDS clinic, painting the walls of an elementary school whose funding has been cut, or providing help to Muslim immigrants to learn the public transportation system, find ESL classes and have families who help to welcome them into the community. I also enjoyed that they provided examples of city transformation from across the world from several different leaders who have been both praying for and working to care for the needs of their cities.
If you’ve struggled to help others understand a vision for Jesus not simply working through the church as an establishment, but long to see people being what the church is intended to be- an agent of transformation in every sphere of life this book will help to cast a vision for what it can look like practically.
*I don’t get paid to blog about Zondervan books, I am however compensated by receiving a free copy of the book to review 🙂