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April 9, 2020

Transforming a City

Os Hillman • Workplace, City & Nation Transformation
Can a city be truly transformed for Jesus Christ? Does it seem like such a lofty goal that few will ever attain it? Well the reality is that today there are no fewer than 200 cities across the world that are in some form of transformation, according to Alistair Petrie, who spoke at the 2004 International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM) Workplace Transformation Summit. Petrie cited these cities as having a level of transformation in every aspect of their public, governmental and business life.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.John 17:22-23

Can a city be truly transformed for Jesus Christ? Does it seem like such a lofty goal that few will ever attain it? Well the reality is that today there are no fewer than 200 cities across the world that are in some form of transformation, according to Alistair Petrie, who spoke at the 2004 International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM) Workplace Transformation Summit. Petrie cited these cities as having a level of transformation in every aspect of their public, governmental and business life.

Webster's Dictionary defines transformation this way: "to change in nature, disposition, heart, or the like; to convert . . . a thorough or radical change."1 A transformed city is the answer to Jesus' prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). It is God's kingdom manifested here on Earth. What does a transformed city look like? It is one that has experienced a spiritual awakening or revival, a declining crime rate and an increase in economic stability.

Workplace Leaders Are Key to City Transformation
One of the first cities in the Bible to be transformed was Sychar, in Samaria, when the Samaritan woman met Jesus at the town well. As we read in John 4:7-26, when Jesus revealed to the woman that He knew she had had five husbands, she was amazed and came to believe in Him. She shared her newfound faith with others in the city, and "many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony" (John 4:39).

One of the first things that must take place for a city to be transformed is that Jesus must be invited into that city through the city "gatekeepers." This is what happened in Sychar and what is happening in cities where transformation is taking place today. One such city is Kampala, in Uganda. At one point, 33.3 percent of the population of Uganda had AIDS. The World Health Organization predicted that the nation's economy would collapse by the year 2000 because there would be only widows and orphans left. So people sought the Lord and prayed. The results?

New city leaders invited Jesus into their city to be Lord over it. Christians have replaced the evil dictatorship of Idi Amin, whose brutality in the 1970s led to the executions of hundreds of thousands of people and plunged the nation into chaos and poverty. Today, the people in Parliament pray, the police fax prayer requests to judges, and a major bank even plays praise music on all 11 floors. In some communities, crime is down 70 percent and AIDS has dropped to 5 percent.2

Another important step is that the city must repent of its sins. Jesus went into the cities and did great miracles. Yet many of those cities did not repent, and this angered the Lord. "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent" (Matt. 11:20).

Workplace leaders are important to city transformation because they are often in places of power to make changes. Dr. Peter Wagner makes the following observations in the foreword to my book, The Faith@Work Movement:

For years we have sought after transformation of our cities. We have prayed, held pastor prayer conferences, prayer-walked our cities, etc. Still, not one U.S. city has been transformed. Why is that? I feel I finally know the answer to that question. It lies in the fact that pastors and church leaders do not hold the authority in the cities where the change must originate. Business and government leaders hold that authority. So, until we in the church equip and release the apostles in the workplace, we will never see our cities transformed by Jesus Christ.

Dawie Spangenberg and his wife, Isebel, lead a worldwide prayer initiative called Transformation Africa. He once made a startling comment to a Christian workplace lunch group in Atlanta: "If a business owner is operating a business in a city and is not directly involved in transforming that city, he is raping that city. He needs to leave that city!" These are strong words, but Spangenberg is convinced that business leaders need to stop trying to see what a business can do for them, start determining why God gave them their business, and then seek to build the kingdom of God in their communities.

The problem that exists today is that workplace apostles are not being recognized-nor do they even recognize themselves. They have not seen their careers as holy callings and have not understood the redemptive nature of their work and calling. Consequently, they often resign themselves to being financiers of God's work instead of being major catalysts for transformation of their workplaces and cities. And yet, when a man or a woman becomes willing to be used in the context of the workplace, God can accomplish a great deal.

Jeremiah Lanphier is a good example of what I'm talking about. He was a businessman in New York City in the mid-1800s. A simple prayer, a willing heart and an act of obedience resulted in city transformation throughout the United States. Here's his story:

In a small, darkened room, in the back of one of New York City's lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" He was a man approaching midlife, without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He had made a decision to reject the "success syndrome" that drove the city's businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City's commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen's prayer meeting on September 23, 1857.
The meetings began slowly, but within a few months 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. The New York Tribune and the New York Herald issued articles of revival. It had become the city's biggest news. Now a full-fledged revival, it moved outside New York. By spring of 1858, 2,000 met daily in Chicago's Metropolitan Theatre, and in Philadelphia the meetings mushroomed into a four-month long tent meeting. Meetings were held in Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, New Orleans, and Mobile. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. This was an extraordinary move of God through one man.4

Learning from a Pioneer
When it comes to city transformation, it is hard to write about the subject without acknowledging Ed Silvoso, founder and president of Harvest Evangelism. He is one of the modern-day pioneers and a leading authority on the subject. His books My City, God's City; Prayer Evangelism; and Anointed for Business are three must-read titles. Ed became more involved directly with the workplace movement in 2002, when he saw how important the workplace was to reaching a city. He has discovered four ingredients that must be in place for us to begin to change the spiritual climate in a city.
These include:
 1. Speaking peace to the lost. Blessing opens the door to unbiased fellowship.
 2. Fellowshipping with them. Fellowship establishes a level of trust, allowing our neighbors to share with us their felt needs.
 3. Taking care of their needs. Prayer addresses these felt needs.
 4. Proclaim the good news. When we intercede for our neighbors, God comes near them in a tangible way.5

Ed Silvoso's ministry has a proven track record that originates from his work in Resistencia, Argentina. In 1990, this city of 400,000 had an estimated 5,100 believers scattered among 70 congregations (68 of which were the result of a church split). The city was notorious for being a spiritual cemetery. However, today there are over 100,000 Christians in the city and 220,000 in the province, making it the most evangelical province in the nation.

Silvoso reports breakthroughs in Argentina at high levels of government and business. In the fall of 2004, he made his annual trip to Argentina with a group of marketplace leaders and intercessors. During that trip, the president of a political party received the Lord and invited Jesus to be the head of it; the entire management team of the Argentine equivalent of the Mayo Clinic received the Lord and invited Jesus into the clinic; and the Argentine equivalent of Donald Trump and his wife-one of the most influential couples in the nation-received the Lord and invited Jesus to be the CEO of their business group.6

Silvoso cites the workplace (which he terms the "marketplace") as key to winning a city for Jesus Christ:
The heart of the city is not the Church, much less than the church building. The Church is the light of the city, but the heart is in the marketplace. Cities are often known by a signature skyline made up of buildings that represent the leading corporations in town. This is where the actions needs to be if we are to reach our cities.

The first European convert was a businesswoman who dealt in expensive apparel (see Acts 16:14,15). This was immediately followed by a power encounter in the marketplace involving a slave girl with a spirit of divination (see Acts 16:16-21). Luke recounts 22 power encounters in the book of Acts-all of them but one happened in nonreligious meetings, most of them in the marketplace. These events had a profound effect on the cities and, in some cases, the outlying regions.

For a city to be transformed, the marketplace must be transformed. The marketplace is where the battle for our cities should be fought, and there is an army already in place that needs to be commissioned and empowered: the so-called laity. Whether they run corporations or work for them, they are better positioned (than the clergy) to transform the marketplace.
Christians in the marketplace already have an anointing to share the gospel with the lost; but, in most cases, the anointing has not been activated, as the laypersons have been relegated to the second-class status in the church.7

What is Required for City Transformation?
There are four key ingredients required to see a city transformed. These include prayer, humility, unity and knowledge of God's ways. Let's discuss each of these in turn.
In every city in which transformation has taken place, believers have come together to pray for their city. Prayer changes the spiritual climate of a city. Some of the main areas of influence that must be the focus of our prayers include churches and businesses; the legal, political, educational and medical fields; and the media/entertainment industry. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). Workplace leaders must he strategically aligned with intercessors to impact their city.

God uses men and women who recognize that they need each other and who do not seek glory for their work. "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way" (Ps. 25:9). The workplace leaders that God is using today care little about being in the limelight. They have a Kingdom perspective that avoids bringing attention to themselves or any one group in order to impact the city for Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23). God calls each of us individually and corporately to represent Christ to the world, but our independence, pride and egos often prevent us from becoming unified in the purposes of Christ. We are scattered in our church affiliations and in our city transformation efforts. Unity is built when we roll up our sleeves and determine to work together-pastors, priests and people from every walk of life. The marketplace and the Church must come together to bless the city with practical initiatives that benefit the city.

Knowledge of God's Ways
Those of us in the workplace are often zealous for God, but we can move in presumption instead of in a faith that is rooted in knowledge of God's ways. Such was the case of David, who wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem. He was zealous for God and celebrated as he brought the Ark into the city. However, the ark was being carried into the city on a cart instead of by priests on poles, as God required. When a man named Uzzah reached out to catch the Ark when the oxen stumbled, he was immediately struck dead by God. "When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God" (2 Sam 6:6-7). David was devastated.

We must connect with our priests and pastors to jointly work on bringing the presence of God into our cities. Otherwise, we will fail like David and be guilty of presumption. "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge" (Romans 10:2).

City Transformation "Trinity"
I also believe there is a city transformation "trinity," if you will allow me to use that word in this way. I believe three groups of people are vital to bringing change to the spiritual climate in a city: (1) intercessors, who are called to intercede for the city; (2) apostolic nuclear church leaders, who are church leaders with a vision for their cities; and (3) marketplace leaders, or more specifically, workplace apostles. These are men and women called to impact their cities through their spheres of influence in government, business and education.

In 2003, the Lord began to impress upon me that I was to start bringing the workplace leaders and ministries together in the city of Atlanta for a vision of transforming the city. We partnered with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in April 2004 to host a workplace conference for the city. However, nothing really sparked any ongoing initiatives from that meeting.

I continued to meet with the workplace ministries, but nothing seemed to be happening. I kept trying to find intercessors in the city, but I was unsuccessful. Finally, I got to know Alistair Petrie when I had him speak at our international conference in October 2004. Alistair is an authority and researcher on city transformation. When I shared my frustration with him, he said, "Oh, you need to meet Jacquie Tyre. She is your city intercessor." I met with Jacquie, and things immediately began to happen. I began connecting with some of the city church leaders.

A short time later, in February 2005, Graham Power, founder of Transformation Africa and the Global Day of Prayer, came through town. I was asked to host a meeting for Graham to share the vision of the Global Day of Prayer. Up to this point, the city had not made any decisions about joining this initiative; but that day about 100 leaders in the city came to hear Graham and by the end of the meeting made a commitment to hold an Atlanta Global Day of Prayer. Things started moving fast. Within 30 days $125,000 was raised, a 20,000-seat venue was reserved and the city began coming together.

I believe the reason that all this happened is because these three groups of people came together in a unified effort to impact our city-intercessors, apostolic church leaders and workplace leaders.

God Is Birthing City Coalitions
City coalitions are forming in larger cities around the United States, as well as internationally. These coalitions usually include workplace leaders, pastors, non-profit workplace ministries and intercessors. When you combine these four groups of people, you have a very strong core of leadership that can impact a city. However, the challenge is bringing these leaders together in such a way that there is real unity.

Rick Boxx is a workplace leader in Kansas City who saw the need to begin such a coalition. "I felt the Lord leading me to develop a citywide model that would be effective in living out John 17," he says. "The desire to see a unified effort between the different ministries and business leaders who have influence over the workplaces of Kansas City led me to contact several of them for our first meeting. We determined to begin meeting on a regular basis to see what God might do with this group." Their first cooperative dinner meeting had more than 600 in attendance. They are now seeking God's vision for transformation in their city. Similar coalitions are now under way in many cities, including Atlanta, Georgia; Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Spartanburg, South Carolina; San Marco, California; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in the San Francisco Bay area in California, just to name a few.

The Bible says that we are called to disciple the nations. You cannot disciple a nation until you disciple a city and the people in that city. I believe that God has begun to move upon His people in the cities, for the sake of the nations.

How About You?
 1. Do you think a city can be transformed for Jesus Christ? Why or why not?
 2. What would your workplace or city look like if it were to be transformed by Jesus Christ? List three things that would be different.

Reprinted with Permission from The 9 to 5 Window, by Os Hillman, Regal Books.
Visit www.faithandworkresources.com link to the right of this page for more on this resource.

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