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Using Collaboration to Impact Your City
By Kim Johnson and Bob Greene
This is a journey of ordinary people learning to behave what they say they believe. It has led to church, civic and business leaders coming together to dream about an idea: “What could we do together to impact our community if we don’t care who gets the credit?”
Going back ten years ago, during a season of grief and loss after a terrible hurricane, God began to teach a network of 68 Southern Baptist congregations near Pensacola, FL, about the importance of doing life together. As leaders of that association, we started Peer Learning Groups, structured so that pastors meet together monthly, become good friends over the course of those months, and begin partnering together to accomplish Kingdom purposes.
Connecting Church with Business Leaders
In the midst expanding the Peer Learning Groups, God began to tug on our hearts to connect with the business community.
This is where the story of Influence Pensacola formally begins. We created a community development arm of the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association with the expectation of connecting to our community in a broader way. For two years, through many ups and downs, we searched for ways to connect to the business community, intentionally building a network of Kingdom partners who were outside our Baptist tribe.
The Health and Hope clinic offers health care for medically indigent persons that have no other resources including primary medical care, dental, physical therapy, laboratory and pharmacy services.
In February 2013, after a coaching from Reggie McNeal from Leadership Network, we pulled together community leaders for our first conversation. Many didn’t know us or Influence Pensacola. Yet almost everyone we called and asked to meet with us agreed to join us at the table to answer this question: What one or two issues if addressed would make the biggest difference in the community?
Over the course of two days, 40 community leaders from different domains came together in small groups to speak into the conversation. At the end of those days, we narrowed the focus to two different initiatives: accessible healthcare and literacy. We formed a design team from the participants for each of the initiatives and began to meet regularly with them. Now, eleven months later, we are making progress in both areas, defining the “it” we are after. There has been nothing easy about this. It is hard work with a steep learning curve in an unfamiliar environment with people we didn’t previously know. And, we love it!
Bob Greene gives a blessing for the city of during the New Year’s celebration. The video highlights also contain a band and flash mob dance of over 1,000 people in downtown Pensacola.
We Had Influence, But Weren’t Using It
The story is still being written. We have learned so very much about Matthew 9:13 (“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”) and Jeremiah 29:7 (“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you”).
The relationships we are building throughout our community are encouraging and stretching. We are able to see Kingdom opportunities because we have been establishing a place in the hearts and lives of the people here where we live, work, and play. After each of the meetings with the design groups, we leave and think to ourselves, “that was awesome and we are just not that good.” We watch God show up and the Holy Spirit break down walls that are totally impossible by our own human capacity. We are grateful and humbled to be given access to the very best leaders in our community. Whether it’s praying with a healthcare executive who after 25 years in his role realizes his job is a platform for Kingdom work, or standing on the platform with the chief of police and mayor praying for our city, we can’t help but see God is so far ahead of us and loves our city far more than we do.
We are in this for the long-haul. We are discovering the leaders in our community are receptive and desire to be connected to us and to one another. We are being invited to the table of other community organizations. We are paying closer attention now to what matters to our community. We enjoy favor with our mayor’s office, with the superintendent of schools, area healthcare systems, universities, business owners, media outlets, and others. God gave the favor.
We are working to change for the better the culture and perception of the church in northwest Florida. At the end of the day, Influence Pensacola is a community development organization that is about three things: we do good deeds, to cultivate good will, to share the good news. Influence Pensacola is becoming the way we empower our network to engage the community with the Gospel, and these initiatives are just the beginning of what it looks like when Kingdom and community partners work together.
We had influence all along and were not using it. Now it’s up to us to make the most of the opportunity God is giving the faith community around us.
Dr. Bob Greene serves as the director at Influence Pensacola and Kim Johnson is the Director of People and Community Development at Influence Pensacola.
Check out the Influence Pensacola webpage with its theme: “Do Good Deeds. Cultivate Good Will. Share Good News.” Click Here