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Back in the day, churches generally speaking were essential to the American landscape. Sadly, that isn’t the case any more. I can give you a brief walking tour right in our own neighborhood of “ghosts of churches past.” The American Church is herself partially to blame for this malaise and the increasing closure of her doors. Honestly, a church “closes” long before the real act when its members close the door to sound doctrine, care less about the lost souls around them while caring more about cultural relevance or preserving its past traditions. But, let’s consider: What is lost when a church closes its doors? Well, if it’s a liberal church or an altruistic, religious group pretending to be a church, then nothing, thankfully. But more specifically, let’s ask: what would be lost if our church folded and was replaced by a house or condo building?

  1. There’d be one less spiritual home for the tenants of that new property and their neighbors.
  2. A light of a “city on a hill” is extinguished, making the spiritual darkness darker.
  3. Moral/social conscience and prophetic voice is silenced.
  4. Service that actually helps the community’s needs vanishes.

What else would you add?

Can you imagine the day when the bar owner, alderman’s office, local school councils or chambers of commerce and neighbors publicly insist on our church’s effective impact on the neighborhood? You might think: ‘Yeah, that’ll be the day.’ But don’t give up on the idea. It’s happened before in church history. Pastor Tim Keller told of this: “When Julian, the last Roman emperor, tried to revive paganism, he built temples and spruced them up, but Christianity was spreading faster than he could compete with. In the midst of this, he wrote to a friend: ‘Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of these Christians as their charity to strangers. The impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor but for ours as well.’ The early Christians were promiscuous with their charity.” To sum up our series on what accomplishing the ASCC mission would look like, in the end, we’d be considered a vital part of neighborhood  identity and Jesus would be unignorable through the presence of his known people. This is huge!

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Known for ONE Thing

How will we know if we are accomplishing our mission? That everything about us (both actual and perceived) will be known for ONE thing: Jesus.

This means that people from our parish neighborhood actually are members here (they “walk” to church!). Now, there’s nothing more spiritual about living close to our church or walking to it. It’s great to have folks commuting in from other parts of the city, thus maintaining a “citywide” flavor as well. BUT, It’s just as strategic to have a growing number of people from the community making up the community church. So, whether you are here, downtown or Rogers Park, YOU are Addison Street Community Church. If that is true, then is the presence of Christ notably felt by your neighbors as they see you go to work, rake your leaves, buy groceries and engage with them past the usual niceties?

Being known for the “one thing” means that we should be a viable, reliable, and relevant source that people can turn to in times of personal crisis or national trouble. Will our parish neighborhood be looking to us for guidance and light? How else do they know that if it weren’t for the people?

Having property on Chicago’s north side for many Gospel-proclaiming churches is becoming both an advantage and a commodity. While buildings do not a church make (people do!), they are a helpful tool if they are used in the right way and communicate “the ONE thing”. A church building communicates not only visible presence and stability, but also it conveys values and an aesthetic. This goes far past whether we’re keeping the lawn cut, sidewalks salted and the mice away. Does our building signal to passersby and our neighbors that Jesus is the most singly important ‘thing’ here? Or, does it distract from that? Our building should simply support what we say is most important to us, and it should project something about the beauty and simplicity of our Gospel.

The ASCC mission is being accomplished more and more as our parish neighborhood no longer identifies us as the homey building on the corner or as a polling station or by flags but by actual Christians they know from here.

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