5 Reasons Why I’m Excited to Attend Thriving Cities

This post is related to our upcoming forum "Thriving Cities." Join us Wednesday, Oct. 21 for a public event and Friday, Oct.23 for an event geared toward ministry leaders and pastors.

I remember the first time I drank in James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of the Late Modern World (2010). I was in the mountains on a short trip with my family — and in every spare moment, I poured over the pages. I felt as if a new way of seeing the church in the world was opening to me.

In just two weeks, we are hosting Greg Thompson, Josh Yates and the New City Commons team here in Denver — their work is directly inspired by Hunter’s book. On Wednesday, October 21, I’ll get to hear them speak in person at "Thriving Cities” (6-9pm), a public forum open to all Denverites. Then on Friday, I’ll have the chance to join a gathering of pastors and ministry leaders for “The Church in a Thriving City.”

As the anticipation builds, I’m sharing five reasons why I’m excited to attend “Thriving Cities” (and why you should join me). 

1. There’s nobody in the U.S. that thinks more clearly about cities than Josh Yates.

Josh is leading the way in researching and speaking about the nature of cities today. His Thriving Cities project is a breakthrough: He combines sociology, human ecology and a broad perspective across sectors to ask better, deeper questions about what it takes for an entire city to flourish.

He also realizes that all cities are unique, and history has given each city unique “endowments” or strengths. His categories — the good, the beautiful, the true, the prosperous, the just and well-ordered, and the sustainable — connect the dots for me between my daily work (I happen to be in nonprofit world) and the role I play in the well-being of Denver today.

My friend Dave Runyon at City Unite (and author of The Art of Neighboring), who’s friends with Josh, agrees. If we care about seeking the well-being of the city to which we’ve been sent (Jeremiah 29:7), we should listen to Josh.

2. To Change the World changed my paradigm for public engagement. 

On that family trip where I first read To Change the World, Hunter’s thinking changed me.

His critique of overly intellectual views of Christian influence on culture; his insight into the roles of networks, leaders, institutions in culture change; his challenge of Christian attempts to use political power to change culture; and his suggestion that we embrace a new paradigm for public engagement around the idea of “faithful presence” — each gave me both the motivation and curiosity to explore what such a faithful presence could look like in Denver.

To Change the World also played no small part in my founding Denver Institute for Faith & Work. 

And now, to have the New City Commons team to Denver — an organization that flowed out of Hunter’s book back in 2011 — well, needless to say, I have a few questions to bring with me to the events. 

3. Greg Thompson, Josh Yates and Emily Gum combine brilliance with humility. 

I attend my fair share of conferences. And I’ve come to prize one trait in speakers over all others: humility. 

On a conference call last week with Greg, Josh, Emily and Justin Straight (all of New City Commons), I couldn’t help but be impressed with both their knowledge (Ph.Ds galore) but also their humility. These are the kinds of people I want the DIFW community to know and spend time with. 

Each comes with a genuine desire to learn from us here in Denver and to share their insights from their experience and research in Virginia. 

4. Understanding the church’s role in culture is tough — and Greg is one of the best voices out there on the topic. 

Greg is a pastor, theologian and scholar. And having just finished his Ph.D. on Martin Luther King Jr. at the University of Virginia, he opens himself to hearing diverse voices to address the toughest questions of our time. What is the church’s role in a pluralistic culture? What does it mean to follow Jesus in late modernity? And what does it mean to be the church in our time?

If you’ve ever longed for a world made right — and been dismayed at either the church’s fear of culture or accommodation to it — then come join us on October 21. Maybe we can find a better way…

5. I want to meet other people in Denver who care about these issues.

Truth be told, 20 percent of the value of an event is the content. But 80 percent is who you meet there. 

I’m looking forward to meeting men and women from across the vocational and demographic spectrum who want to serve this city well. This is what God has been doing at DIFW for years and one of the lasting benefits of our events for those who attend. 

At our last event, we came away with a list of action points that inspired me to take action in creating good jobs for at-risk communities in Denver. Lord willing, on October 21, I’ll meet men and women with whom I can join hands discover new ways to embody the gospel in our public life. 

See you there. 

Buy Tickets Today:

Thriving Cities” public forum, October 21, 6:00-9:00 p.m., TAXI (Globeville)

The Church in a Thriving City: Pastor’s Gathering”, October 23, 8:00 am.-noon, Park Church (Highlands)