In 2011, Seattle's Union Gospel Mission broke tradition with their Church Development Department. For years the Mission sent representatives to congregations throughout the Greater Seattle Region to request donations and funding from budgeted line items.
A radical shift came when The Mission decided to engage the Church in the work of the Mission rather than asking for monetary contributions to do the work of caring for those in greatest need. Jeff Lilley, President of SUGM says, "Jesus didn't leave a rescue mission- he left the Church". So, in order to engage congregations and encorage, equip and inspire the Church to love and serve, the Mission created the Community Engagement Division and the Light Up the City team.
Light Up the City initially formed through a collaboration of Christian leaders in the Seattle region whose desire was to serve their city in the love of Jesus. These leaders are responding to a movement of love-in-action throughout the PNW region: churches are engaging with one another across denominational boundaries in their respective cities and forming city-focused church networks. In the greater Seattle region, over 25 of these networks in 25 different cities (from Edmonds to Enumclaw) are beginning to discover a shared sense of mission for their city.
These 25 networks, which represent hundreds of congregations, gathered for the first time on May 31, 2013 at Seattle Pacific University. At this gathering it was determined a task force was needed to discern the direction of this city-focused "network of networks".
The Purpose Statement the taskforce developed for the Light Up the City network is: Connecting networks of local efforts to transform the Seattle region through the love of Jesus Christ. We feel this expresses
our desire to serve Seattle in the love of Jesus Christ, primarily through connecting and collaboration with one another.
The task-force also landed on three primary foci: prayer, a network website, and organizing city leaders. Of the three, prayer is the primary focus. The task-force felt the network would not be successful at transforming the Seattle region through its collective service if it did not first pray to know what was on God's heart and tap into God's love for Seattle. Therefore, the task-force encouraged churches to pray together for 40-days (April 30 to June 8, 2014) with the emphasis, "What is God’s Heart for our City?" This question was personalized for each participating city, e.g., "What is God’s Heart for Burien, Duvall, Shoreline, etc.?"
The prayer effort was a success with over 200 churches participating in prayer, and then a follow up LUTC event on June 10th, 2014 in which the Light Up the City network was officially launched.
After the 40 day prayer effort, we surveyed participants: what areas and issues do you feel called to engage? Prayer, homelessness, incarceration, sex-trafficking, foster care, immigrant and refugee rose to the top of the list. As new cities from the greater Seattle region (and even across the entire Northwest) join the movement, we are all expectant that God the Father will speak and reveal His heart for the city.
We hope that our blog will connect ideas, people, and resources; highlighting stories and events that will benefit our readers. Posts are contributed by the Light Up the City staff at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission.