For those who know me well, I have been known to mention the name “Portland, Oregon” with a dreamy twinkle in my eye. My wife has gotten to where she simply sighs and rolls her big green ones after years of hearing about it. Enough with Portland, already. But I cannot shake the niggling in my mind, or spirit, as the case may more accurately be, that I am somehow tied to that city (“ooooh, Scott’s getting spooky on us…”) and that I may wind up there someday? Time will tell.
In the meantime, I came across some notes from a conference held in the City of Roses recently whose topic included a phenomenon called “City Reaching.” The plenary speakers were Tom White, of Frontline Ministries, and George Otis, Jr. Some years back, Mr. Otis produced a groundbreaking video called “Transformations” (1999) in which he and his team at the Sentinel Group identified four international cities that had undergone true sustained spiritual transformation. Within a few years, that number had quadrupled affording a second documentary (“Transformations II”) and now the number has multiplied to include 250 cities worldwide* that have been touched by a sustained move of God to transformation.
During said conference, known as the City Impact Roundtable for the Pacific Northwest, Tom White gave what is seen as the criterion for what amounts to a city’s “transformation” and these are as follows:
- an increase in holy living
- spontaneous conversion growth in churches (not transfer growth!)
- decrease of crime
- increase of social justice
- unity in the body of Christ and the healing of denominational breaches
- sustainable evidence
- increased generosity
- fully engaged brothers and sisters serving the Lord together
- redeeming of the arts
Of course, the precursor to all of this is a band of intercessors in each city coming together with a mutual yearning for a move of God during a heightened and sustained atmosphere of prayer. Mr. Otis wisely said,
“It won’t happen until there is a deep, deep, deep hunger for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In these cities, people became desperate for spiritual awakening. The greatest breakthrough today is where the Spirit of God comes down and attaches Himself to the broken and humble. It’s where God goes when He wants pleasure.” (emphasis mine)
Otis has also documented about 550 “salty places” in the world, cities that are rife with the true marks and beginnings of revival. God is supernaturally calling out these cities—and the list is growing exponentially—to stimulate thirst for God in the earth. What will stimulate this thirst? When the people of God become family and no longer passing acquaintances.
All this has me twitching in my wheelchair, antsy and cartwheeling for a move of God in my city. I know I would like Portland but I LOOOOVE Atlanta and the Lord is raising up intercessors within her and their collective cry is for the Lord to answer His own prayer in John 17 that His people “be one.” Every move of God in the New Testament era, starting with Pentecost, has always begun with unity and a prayer movement. Even from my limited vantage point I see that happening and it stirs me, but there is a fair ways to go.
As with anything that smacks with the name of Christ, there is certainly some controversy. Counterfeit revivals, some call it. Reconstructionism, others label it. Ecumenicism, voices rise in protest. And I’m sure some of this is founded. Some are uncomfortable with the perceived shift of the “City Reachers” from the individual’s responsibility as sinful beings before God to it becoming more of a city or regional issue. I don’t know. I just know that I have never in my life experienced anything close to the Welsh Revivals, or the Great Awakening or the Wesleyan movement, the Hebrides Revival, the Korean Pentecost or the Cane Ridge Revivals…
And, if memory serves, each of those moves of God were the answer to a handful of humble intercessors’ cry for a holy visitation. And most, if not all, had a counterfeit laid alongside them by the enemy, sparking divisions and quarrels. Are we so foolish not to realize that when God moves, satan counter-moves? I’m just dumb enough to believe that a small clutch of intercessors asking for God to come on their city will not be disappointed. In Portland. In Atlanta. Wherever.
But, to be completely honest, and selfish as this sounds, I’m still praying that God will utterly and completely transform me. Anyone else with me? I gotta get my eyes off of everybody else! There’s a holy work I’m wanting to see finished in me. And if you feel the same about you, and if so-and-so does the same, and on down the line, well sir, we’ve got ourselves the beginnings of a sure enough transformation.
“The Lord, He is mighty, and we do not know Him.”
*cities in Colombia, Uganda, Kenya, Canada, and even California, for instance