UrbanLife exists to see transformed people transform our neighborhoods THROUGH CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES AND VIBRANT MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES THAT LOVE GOD, NEIGHBOR, AND ‘HOOD.
UrbanLife is a non-denominational, faith-based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that actively plants and cultivates Missional Communities through the principles and methodology of Christian Community Development.
We must go to where our current friends and future friends are. We do not wait for people to come to us. Like our Lord, we seek to “become flesh and blood and move into the neighborhood” (John1:14). We want to eat meals in each others' homes, share in our youth and kids' sports games, and visit each other in the hospital and pursues the many other ways to integrate our lives together.
Appropriately, the nature of incarnational ministry creates an atmosphere characterized by friends working with one another to transform their personal lives and ‘hoods, rather than working for others as objects dependent on our charity. As UrbanLife staff and volunteers live and/or minister in the ‘hood over the long term, our work to improve the quality of life around us will reflect a sense of shared ownership and personal investment... as we love our schools, our block, our parks.
Jesus said that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To love our neighbors well we must pursue authentic friendship, so that our neighbors do not become objects of our good intentions, but our friends whom we listen to, know and appreciate, and spend time with. Only then will our sacrificial service, “laying down our life,” affirm their God-given value and dignity, respecting them as unique persons, with unique gifts, dreams, and needs.
We strive to build positive authentic friendships in our ‘hoods that last for life, extending beyond their involvement in our projects and programs, centered in God’s love. We will offer many opportunities to our friends to engage God, to grow and develop, and to respond to Him in obedience. However, we will leave the specifics of our friends’ process, how God wants to work in their life, and what He is calling them to be and do, to God. If we love people so that they do something or go somewhere (i.e., come to our church or program) we have ceased to love them and have moved into manipulation. We have God- sized hopes, dreams, and visions for what our friends can become, but if none of those ever get realized the friendship remains.
Our Missional Communities are tied together through hundreds of growing friendships in City Heights and Southeast. Many of these friendships have been in place for the last six years or more.
FAMILY ON MISSION
We affirm the missional nature of the church which understands and organizes itself around being God’s agents of mission in the world. To this end, UrbanLife seeks to inspire, equip, and engage our people to serve sacrificially in our ‘hoods. Our Missional Communities are “covenanted community.” Much like a successful sports team, we know that everyone is submitting themselves to disciplines and practices, finding and executing their unique role on our team. This is critical to forming a “high challenge” culture that cultivates radical acts of love and service on behalf of our ‘hoods.
We hold in tension the reality that the church is more than a social service agency that gets people doing a lot of good things, but, a spiritual family committed to authentic friendships characterized by seeking God together through spiritual practices, knowing one another beyond a superficial level of relationship, and supporting and serving one another through difficult times.
We believe that learning to work hard in God’s Mission together, with worship of our Lord at the center, and family-like depth of relationships, creates both a necessary discipleship pull towards action, along with a family to help nurture and support us along the Way.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that, “the church is the church only when it exists for others.” As we seek to cultivate church communities whose primary purpose is to love God and “others,” our neighbors and their ‘hood, we find that “success” is measured by neighborhood impact.
UrbanLife's goal is to allocate 90% of its resources to Christian community development. That looks like our budgets, our time and energy, and our creative passions being committed to holistically loving our neighbors and our ‘hoods through the practices of Christian community development. As we evaluate success, beyond exclusively focusing on the numerical growth of our missional communities or other UrbanLife programs, we will ask, “How are we sacrificial and strategically being used to bring a little more wholeness and health to the lives of neighbors?” “How is our neighborhood better off for us being here?”
The Christian Community Development Assiociate states on their website that “the primary goal of leadership development is to restore the stabilizing glue and fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so prevalent in poor communities by developing leaders. This is most effectively done by raising up Christian leaders from the community of need who will remain in the community to live and lead.”
UrbanLife is committed to building friendships with our neighbors and to offer appropriate leadership opportunities within our mission in and outside of our programs. We are committed to a long term process of growth and development, expecting that, especially for young people in our ‘hoods, development requires years of investment and trusting relationships.
We believe that our friends and neighbors who have grown up in the ‘hoods we serve are best equipped to offer long-term solutions to the challenges and problems our communities faces. We hope to cultivate whole and healthy neighborhoods, through living out God’s vision to love our neighbors and ‘hood as employees, students, family members, and volunteers.
EMPOWERING & MULTIPLICATIVE
The ultimate goal of leadership development is empowerment, which will lead to innovative and multiplying ministry all over the place. As radical disciples of God's boundary-less love, we will follow Him to the margins, making disciples from all nations, neighborhoods, sub-cultures and affinity groups.
As relationships and missional activity increases in breadth and depth, the need for a “mission family” that actively inspires, equips, and nurtures a people in mission, will become apparent. We hope that as individual Christians are inspired and equipped to engage through evangelism and social action in their work, school, and neighborhood contexts, more people will be added to our number. We also will continually identify and equip leaders, and then form new leadership teams characterized by complementary gifting, to form a core team for a future community.