The reasons for the widespread aversion to Christianity in our city are complex. Much of it has to do with deep misconceptions regarding what Christianity is all about. Many have experienced hypocritical church people, and some have even been abused by religious authorities. Social media is dripping with rants from political zealots, supposedly representing Christianity, which range from the insulting and disrespectful to the downright psychotic. All this has caused many people to take several steps back and say “no thank you”. It’s understandable.
But despite the widespread suspicion and disinterest there lies within the human heart a craving to be connected to the Creator. We all want to be happy and to fulfill the purpose for which we were designed. Even you reading this, whoever you are, if you're honest with yourself, have had moments, or maybe just one moment of clarity and honesty, perhaps during a time of crisis or contemplation, when you felt the gnawing sense that there must be more. Kierkegaard called it 'angst'; Sartre called it 'nausea'; Buddha called it 'suffering'—that unbearable sense of life's overwhelming absurdity and the exacting urgency of the need for meaning. It is this hidden craving, shared by so many people, that motivates us in the CityLove initiative.
Many think Christianity is something different than what it is.
While we have no desire to push anything on anyone, we are also convinced that many people hold profound misconceptions regarding the message of Jesus. Many think Christianity is something different than what it is. In other words, they don't know what it is they're rejecting. Nothing could be more tragic than to die of thirst surrounded by water without ever taking the time to taste it.
That’s where CityLove comes in. We want to help people in the city who have perhaps never felt the love of God to experience it for themselves. Our hope is to paint an accurate and beautiful portrait of Christ. It’s our passion to gently and creatively let the city know that Christ is real, good and beautiful. We are convinced that when a person sees just how much God loves them it has a way of melting the heart.
We know because it happened to us.
Traditionally, the message about Jesus is communicated in churches, through sermons and by reading the Bible. Most people in our city, however, will never be touched by these things. They aren't practicing them and they have no interest in starting.
Because of the fact that most people will never set foot in a church—and certainly aren't going to be cracking open a Bible anytime soon—we want to do whatever we can to make the message of God intelligible. This means creating opportunities to help people understand the heart of God from outside the walls of the church, using things like public art, music, film, writing, architecture, installations, print design, and other creative means. It’s about translating the message of God into a language that is accessible and understandable.
[CityLove] is about translating the message of God into a language that is accessible and understandable.
We are convinced that there are great numbers of people in Providence who are disconnected from God, but who are curious deep down. They want to know God. They secretly hope that the Creator loves them and wants them. They aren’t sure about all the church stuff, and some Christians really repel them. But while they're uncomfortable with some parts of church culture, nevertheless they find themselves wanting to understand about Jesus. They wonder if it could possibly be true. It is for these curious souls that CityLove exists.
Because of the pressure in society to keep religion private, it's very tempting to pitch the CityLove vision as a merely fresh initiative seeking to beautify the city. And without question this would elicit maximum applause. But that wouldn’t be entirely honest. Sure, we love the city. Yes, we want to come alongside all the wonderful efforts to make her more beautiful. We want to help people in practical ways. We want to empower the poor. We want to fuel opportunities for the under-resourced. Absolutely. But our deepest passion has to do with those curious souls outside the walls of the church who secretly want nothing more than to be found by God. We want to find them. This characteristic of searching for the lost marked the ministry of Jesus and we believe it continues to this very day through his people. We are trying to be faithful to that call to search for the lost and bring them home. This is our passion.