In 1984, Sheriff Leo Samaniego allowed prison ministries in El Paso, Texas, and the result was startling. The city with the third highest violent crime rate in the nation became the second safest major city in the U.S.
"When Christians pray and work together, we see exciting changes take place in nearly every field in our society. Faith, hope, and love in Christ have their impact on peoples lives and transform our world," said The Rev. Glenn A. Barth, facilitator for City/Community Ministries of Mission America.
Top executives from mission groups, youth ministries, and denominations came together to transform Americas cities at the grass-roots level by partnering with influential leaders from all sectors of society.
Sixteen of some of the most active Christian leaders now make up the new Steering Committee for the city-centered initiative, Loving Our Communities to Christ.
Spearheading it is Mission America, which is represented by Chairman Paul Cedar and Executive Director Jim Overholt. Mission America is the American arm of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism.
The new initiative attracted several notable figures from church denominations, including Bill Hamel, the President of Evangelical Free Church of America; Jack Hayford, President of Intl. Church of the Foursquare Gospel; James Leggett, General Superintendent of Intl. Pentecostal Holiness Church; Thomas Trask, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God; and Tom Nees, the Director of Mission Strategy, USA of the Church of the Nazarene.
From campus ministries/missions organizations came: Alan Andrews, U.S. director of Navigators; John Dawson, President of YWAM; Steve Douglass, President of Campus Crusade for Christ Intl.
Executives of national associations that took part included Ted Haggard, President of National Association Of Evangelicals; Danny de Leon, President and Founder, Hispanic Association of Bilingual/Bicultural Ministries; John Perkins, Founder of the Christian Community Development Association; and Mary Lance Sisk, Chairman of the National Lighthouse Council.
Rounding off the group is evangelist Luis Palau of the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association and Lloyd Copenbarger, Founder and Partner of Copenbarger and Copenbarger.
Together, they command a large body of Christians, resources, and vision. According to Barth, facilitator for City/Community Ministries of Mission America, this development fulfilled a dream that took "ten years in the making."
With my two colleagues, we've been working to identify and connect resources and empower transformational leaders across the nation for the past nine years, said Barth.
While working for the City and Communities arm of Mission America, Barth and two colleagues realized that there are other leaders also working at the city level to achieve similar aims.
Thus, the mission to call Gods people together to love our communities to Christ, was unanimously adopted at the Mission America meeting in November 2004.
The leaders will choose 5-8 pilot cities to work with in the adopted framework. They have already begun to reach out to local leaders in El Paso, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri.