What Makes a Community Great? Livability, Church Planting, and Missions

Globe, Arizona

Most often when I teach classes related to cities, whether urban history or understanding cities or something along those lines, I always begin the semester with the question, "what makes a city great?" Greek historian Herodotus asked that same question over 2,500 years ago. Initially there is a long pause and then one by one students begin throwing out suggestions. I've found that most often this is a question most of us have never considered nor thought about.

What makes a city great? You could even reduce the scale of that by talking about your community or even neighborhood. But what makes one great or good?

Answers usually revolve around ideas of diversity, a strong and diverse local economy, safety, affordable housing, a beautiful built environment, and so forth. Since most often I'm teaching here in Portland then I ask a follow-up question, "Is Portland great?"

What this little exercise does is begin to challenge our thinking and assumptions about what makes places great, vibrant, healthy, and the like versus those that are declining, unhealthy, broken, ailing, and full of other maladies. If the class is tied to ministry it then opens up the door of conversation as to the role of the church in these settings. Should the church be about improving a community's livability? If so, then what and how? If not, then is our only role to simply be about "spiritual activities" without any recourse to the community's plight?

Maybe these questions are too obvious, but unfortunately they are not. Because it is easy to answer one way or the other and it is a whole different circumstance to do anything about those questions (assuming one were to answer that possibly one of our roles in a community is to truly make it better).

If there were ever to be a main thrust for Intrepid it is along the lines of this whole conversation. If we take a holistic look at making a community great then the way forward is to not only plant churches, but figure out other things like improving the built environment, stimulating and catalyzing new jobs, creating educational pathways for young adults, strengthening marriages, and even other things like buttressing a sense of civic pride.

This is where we're going. Will you join us?