By Bill Behr

I recently was honored to hear architectural/urban designer Mel McGowan speak at Summit Church.  McGowan, who describes himself as “a card-carrying member of the Supreme Architect’s fan club,” is the president of Visioneering Studios, the nation's leading designer of Christ-centered communities, specializing in architectural evangelism for churches and ministries.

He is the first architect I have heard speak about the “Theology of Place.”  He believes in redesigning neighborhoods so they can be places where our neighbors “live, worship and play” together.

This is what Mr. McGowan says in his blog:

“Just as God called Nehemiah back to restore the city of God, I believe that God is calling Christians today to redeem and restore sustainable Christ-centered community back to the heart of our communities, even where endless agglomerations of suburban subdivisions have never previously had a heart. Every believer can start by following Christ’s command to ‘love your neighbor’ and taking the ‘neighbor’ thing a little more seriously. …

“Choosing your neighborhood is choosing a mission field; prayerfully consider God’s leading in the same way that a missionary would. This singular decision is also the one that will have the greatest impact on our creation care footprint. The choice of where we live in relation to daily life needs: work, school, the grocery store, etc. is the single biggest variable with influence on the economic and environmental sustainability of our communities. …

“The challenge can sometimes seem daunting: to create sacred space in the heart(s) of the city … to bring a bit of the kingdom of heaven to earth; to build something that just might last the trial by fire. May you follow the God of Nehemiah on the journey to real community. …

“When choosing where to live, have you ever considered the issue through the lens of a ‘theology of place’? Why or why not?

“How does the physical location of where we live, shop, work, or go to school apply to our faith and mission as God’s people?

“How does the place you live — whether in the suburbs or not — make developing genuine community difficult? What could you do to overcome those barriers?

“Do you believe your church has a theology of place? If so, how? If not, how might you be a catalyst toward that end?”

Mel McGowan asks great  questions that we should  prayerfully consider and discuss with our neighbors and your church.  Do you see your neighborhood as “sacred space”?  Jesus called all of us to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” and that means moving into their space, to build real community.

Lord, help me to be more like Christ by reaching out and getting to know my neighbors.

Bill Behr

Bill Behr is the Associate Campus Minister of Summit @ 33rd St. and can be reached at bbehr@summitconnect.org.

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