Discovering What God is Doing in the World

by Mark Votava


I have always wanted to be a part of a community where I can share life with others.  But I have not always had the awareness of the importance of place to create a context for this to happen.  So much of my life has been a search for authenticity within myself disconnected from place and others.  This is noble to some extent, but I do need shared life to live into the way of Jesus.

Insecurity and anxiety have arisen within me at times as I have stepped into a commitment to place where I have become rooted and linked to others.  There will be struggles I must face my whole life as I seek to know and be known by others.  But I am discovering that there is a hidden communal imagination within me that is leading me to love, grace and humility which is who I am in my true self.

  • Reconnecting to place

Each person’s journey back into place will be different.  But we need to get reconnected with a place, a local context to inhabit as the body of Christ in our day.

  •  Moving back into the neighborhood

As Alan J. Roxburgh says, “We discover what God is doing in the world and what it means to be the church as we move back into the neighborhood.  This is both a simple and radical proposal.  It’s radical because for many of us there is little connection between where we live… and what it means to be a Christian.  That’s the tragic state of Christian life in North America…  A radical way we can re-form Christian life in our time is by the simple decision to reconnect with our neighborhoods, by asking what God is doing there.”

  • Being ready to listen

The neighborhood has an unceasing number of relational revelations to teach us if we are ready to listen.  God has been working and manifesting himself in particular places for centuries.  That is where relational, holistic ways of living take place.

  • Large enough to live life together, but not so big there is a relational disconnection

Some people want to care for a large city or region — perhaps even a country — but when it comes to relationships of care, these are all too big.  The neighborhood is large enough to live life together, but not so big that there is a relational disconnection due to an overwhelming number of people and places.

  • When life becomes fragmented

Tim Dickau in his fascinating book Plunging Into The Kingdom Way gets after this problem: “If you work in one place, shop in another, play in a third and ‘go to church’ (which is bad theology to begin with) in a fourth, life becomes more fragmented.  When you are part of a community that inhabits a neighborhood with a vision to be involved in its transformation, life itself becomes more integrated and whole.  Our communities become kinder, and we begin to consider each other’s welfare as we make economic, social, and political decisions.”

How can we explore becoming connected to place again?