‘City transformation wasn’t something that I had always cared about. In fact, I was trying to get out of the largest city in Canada when God called me to commit the rest of my life to the transformation of cities. And… the city that God called us to, was a place where my wife and I had agreed that we would never live. We knew when God called us here, however, that it would be to see transformation that would be a template for other cities around the world.Brantford had been described as having “the worst downtown in Canada”. Upon my mother’s first visit to our city, she inquisitively wondered “if a bomb had gone off in our downtown?”. But, things have changed dramatically. Brantford is being hailed nationally and internationally as a city which has, and is experiencing notable transformation. The church in our city has now become known for “what we are for, not what we are against”. We are invited to most of the decision making tables in the city, to help bring solutions to what are still the challenges of our city. With this said, I didn’t expect that we would get to these tables through late night street BBQs, or hosting winter carnivals, or inventing a Superhero, or writing and teaching school curriculum about that Superhero, or doing public baptisms in our city Square, or the salvation of many in our city from every strata of society, or a myriad of other events; but apparently these were all on God’s agenda.
The truth is, the methods don’t really matter. What we do and what we encourage others to do is to find the places in their cities that don’t look like heaven, and intentionally change that reality. We think Jesus was serious when he said that he wanted his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”. So, as God’s Kingdom people, we see ourselves as cultural architects; bringing creative, Kingdom solutions to the city, so systematic poverty becomes systematic prosperity. At our 10 year anniversary, here’s what the Mayor of our city said about our church, “I only wish that Freedom House had started 10 years sooner, because then we would have seen transformation in our city way before now.”
Around the same time, our local, Member of Parliament, Phil McColeman made the following statement in our federal House of Commons about what was transpiring in our city: “Mr. Speaker, eight years ago, Freedom House, a church and Ministry Centre in Brantford began on a mission called the Kindness Project to see if a city could be transformed ‘by good into good’ using simple, but strategic acts of kindness. The Kindness Project seeks to uncover the untapped level of synergy in our community as a collective commitment to serving each other, it’s people helping people with what we all have in our hands to give. Mr. Speaker, we hope, together, to make Brantford known as the KINDEST CITY IN CANADA”.
How do I know our city is being transformed?
Well, we see tangible evidence of it everywhere, in every sphere of our city. The church in the city is being invited to many of the seats of influence to bring positive, consistent transformation. But, one conversation stands out to me as significant evidence to the transformation of our city. Many of the key leaders in our city were gathering at MP Phil McColeman’ s house that night to discuss a major event which his team would be running in a few days. I was chairing the event and the evening’s meeting. As I walked into the meeting, I was seriously wondering if years of relationship building and service to the community may have already been erased, by our bold stand for Christ at one of our public events the previous weekend. But, I walked out of the meeting, marvelling at the goodness and glory of God. I watched in amazement as God orchestrated the convergence of many of the key leaders of our city together in one place, spun the discussion away from the potential challenge, into an engaging and genuine dialogue about God and His designs on our city (with ongoing, positive impact to this very day).
While it was both shocking and exhilarating at the same time, I have seen God repeat this same type of scenario over and over again, as He reveals His great love and mercy to all who will listen in our city. No one person or organization could ever take credit for city transformation by themselves. We have found that there are many people in our city who are very passionate about having a prosperous and thriving city as well. We have come to realize that city transformation is in the heart of God and it comes out of many people, in various ways. I’m expecting that you will experience the same thing in your city.
There’s no mystery to city transformation. Get outside of the church – love & serve people. If you want to have influence, you have to have involvement. Jesus is raising up his church; dreamers, strategists and risk-takers to go to our cities with His kingdom power and plans. He is transforming people, who will transform cities with the ultimate goal of discipling the nations.’