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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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It’ll Be More Colorful...

Diversity is not merely a value of a democratic society. In other words, it’s not a “political” ideology. We don’t have to live in the American 50s/ 60s or South African apartheid to understand that we are a nation broken by hatred, superiority and a festering racism. These aren’t new phenomena and unfortunately come well-embedded in our sin nature. But, Jesus’ cross death saves us from that, too, and reconciles us to the Father. Consequently, it became a model of what we can experience in real life.

As the book of Acts unfolds, the Church becomes more colorful. The “thread” of ethnicity starts out as (Jewish) homogenous, but by the time you get to the end of Acts, it is multi-ethnic. God’s plan all along is to save from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).

A church honestly reading the Scriptures sees this and then aligns her values, priorities and strategies to become it. Sometimes, churches try too hard or force it, but sadly, more often than not, they haven’t tried hard enough. If we were a church in rural Wisconsin, it might be harder to achieve diversity because the towns themselves are predominantly homogenous. However, we live in in a big city where the nations tend to migrate. But in our city of 77 distinct neighborhoods, there’s still noticeable racial division. It’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The most divided hour in our nation’s week is Sunday at 11am.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Unity, opportunity, liberty and justice “for all” weren’t just MLK’s dream. He had the courage to speak up and labor for it. It’s been God’s idea all along.

While it’s not untrue that Chicago’s northside is predominantly white, it’s incomplete. So long as we live in a global city, we should be open as a church to reflecting the diversity of our city. As we intensely focus on our parish neighborhood, we ought labor hard to be a multi-racial and multiethnic church. Let’s not to be mesmerized, however, by diversity as a romantic ideal, but instead, be willing to repent of our classicism, racism, apathy and ignorance working hard to disciple all peoples into mature Christ-followers.

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