Over the past few years, it has been my personal observation that God has begun to do some unique, profound things in Western New York. I certainly loved Good Friday at First Niagara Center downtown! But I also believe that there is a groundswell of activity that is beginning to happen in the areas of greater body partnership and geographic intentionality. With regard to greater body partnership, I have seen how God has personally begun to work in the lives of men and women in leadership of the Church in the region of Western New York, bringing them together, finding common ground in ways that I don’t recall have ever happened around here. In regard to geographic intentionality, the way in which the Church has begun to think about taking ownership for the needs and issues that are prevalent all around us has been palatable. In sum, if anyone is a CS Lewis fan, I believe that Aslan is on the move.
While the manifestations of what is going on are prevalent in church plants, church partnerships, and church events (e.g., Good Friday), I personally sense that God is doing some profound things in the lives of normal people here in Western New York. In my job, I spend a good deal of time meeting with other church leaders throughout Western New York. As I continue to develop relationships with other leaders, I have begun to see stories in which normal people want to join God on mission, and it is in their ordinariness that profound things are happening. A common thread that I see in many of us- a commitment to pursue intimacy with God and a willingness to be in Christ-like in relationships (both to believers in Christ and those yet to be convinced of the Gospel). God is helping people like this find each other, and when we do, we have begun to see that kindred spirit and sense of purpose drive them to trust God for great things.
With regard to intimacy with God, there are times when some of us as believers perhaps can lose focus on the goal of pursuing God. Perhaps it is more knowledge. Perhaps it is a greater sense of favor. In our brokenness, there are times where we can miss the mark. For me personally, the last few years have yielded times with the Lord where I have gained a clearer sense of Missio Dei (God on mission) and have felt compelled to join in. Probably the greatest breakthrough that has happened for me has been in the area of taking ownership of a geography and starting to pray over it. The two places where I have spent time extensively in the past two years specifically have been in praying over my neighborhood (for individuals that reside all around me) and driving through the city of Buffalo. This time of prayer for me has been incredible. I have begun to realize that God will use normal people to do extraordinary things. In essence, two-three years ago, I feel as if I had put my “yes” on the table with God, telling Him that I wanted to be part of what He was doing and join Him where He would have me be. As a result of that, I have loved the role that He has given me. I feel like He has asked me to repeatedly be committed to my neighborhood and the city of Buffalo in prayer. The joy of being able to pray for the lostness of this geography is something that I am grateful God has given me a passion for.
I am not alone. As God has been doing this in my own life, cultivating intimacy with Him, I have picked up my head and He has brought other men and women into my life, and they have shared the same sense of burden and passion for the lostness of Western New York. This is where I have begun to see the love of normal people making a difference in the region. Granted, there is much more to be done. Partnerships must continue to be developed without pretense or poor motive. Other men, women, and children can play key roles in joining God on Mission. And when they do, they become part of a larger community of followers of Christ who have begun to live with Christ-like love for the relationships that God has given them in their domains of influence. And to me, this is the genius of God. Normal people realize that they have something to offer in bringing the kingdom of God to their community. When people live with such faith that God can and will come through, we can be part of saturating this geography- giving every man, woman, and child the repeated opportunity to hear, see and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It may be a group of widows gathering to pray faithfully. A cohort of soccer moms may begin to gather and pray for the children in their soccer league. Pastors of any size of church and context in Western New York may begin to look differently at what it means to be successful in the region. College students believe that they can change the world with the hope of the Gospel. I believe that we are beginning to see that very manifestation happen here in Western New York. There is more to be done, but I believe we are living in a fascinating time here in this region.
Ryan Kozey is Director of Strategic Initiatives at The Chapel at Crosspoint and a National Delivery Team Member of Christ Together.