What are We Building: A City on a Hill

Leaders build. They build a sanctuary in time and a community of joy (see previous devotionals). Creating this type of community means living a certain way before the world and before each other. Living this way is a powerful reminder that one of the central truths of the church is that it is to be a picture of God’s coming kingdom. Michael Goheen comments,

Newbigin’s understanding of the church is fundamentally eschatological. It is nothing less than the new humankind incorporated into Christ, a sign and foretaste of the coming kingdom. As the one new humankind, the church cannot be reduced to a religious body that carries out religious rituals. That was the mistake of the enemies of the early church that classified the people of God as thiasos and heranos, private religious communities concerned with individual and otherworldly salvation. It was precisely the concern to maintain the public nature of the church as the new humankind that led them to adopt the word ekklesia. (The Church and Its Vocation)

The church is a sign and foretaste—that the world can see—of God’s coming kingdom. As Jesus says, “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5)

The word “built” in Greek is keimai. The word means to exist, with the implication of having been established and thus having continuity and purpose (Louw and Nida). Leaders build communities that have continuity and purpose. They build cities on a hill. The city’s goal is to do good works, so people praise our Father, who is in heaven.

Leaders building this city know this city shines before the world as:

  • A picture – a community that is visibly the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit

  •  A foretaste – a community that gives the world a taste of God’s present and coming kingdom of which Mary sings, (Luke 1.46-56) that Jesus declares, (Luke 4.16-19; Matthew 5-7, Matthew 25) and that the Scriptures display (Revelation 4-5, 21-22)

  • A scout – a community that discovers where God is at work and joins him there

  •  An ambassador – a community that serves as God’s representatives in every sphere of life bringing glory to Him and declaring to all “be reconciled to God” (Hab. 2.14, 2 Cor. 4.6, 1 Cor. 10.31, 15.58, 2 Corinthians 5)

Shaping this city on a hill is not an easy task. It takes energy, a holy imagination, resilience, and wisdom to follow the leading of the Spirit. Shaping this city is a long obedience in the same direction.

Shaping this city is not something done by a lone leader. Building this city happens in community, with the support and wisdom of those inside and outside the leader’s congregation. Any other way of building will lead to a crashing leader.

When we ask ourselves at this moment, “What am I building?” may one part of the answer be “a city on a hill.”