A time of devotional worship, then we filed through the brunch line, took our seats, munched and listened to Frank Heinrich.

Elected as a member of the German Parliament in 2009 to represent his town of Chemnitz in eastern Germany, Frank also served as a Salvation Army officer for 12 years, opening 614 Chemnitz in 2007.

Frank described the church’s mission in the city as an expansive one.  It means being at work “for the good of the city”, and working together with any and all who mean well.  Citing Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms, of how God rules in the world via the earthly of law and the heavenly of grace, Frank challenged it, suggesting rather that the role of God’s people in mission is to serve as a connector between the two.

It was interesting to note that presenters last night and this morning referenced Jeremiah 29:7 as a warrant for this expansive understanding of mission “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

I find this verse appealing, but am not convinced that it is warrant for community development work; I will need to work on this.  Something does not ring true when a verse, or in this case a number of verses if we use verse 5 and on, is cited without dealing with its larger context.  Explain how it is in this passage God’s people reside in the city as exiles, and that destruction is prophesied of Babylon.  Community development by a captive punished people in a city which will be destroyed in a few decades?

Back to Frank.  He likened his ministry model to that of operators of the ancient telephone switchboard who pulled out and plugged in lines to connect callers.  Community development, for the welfare of the city, means connecting those who want to and will work for development.  And at times this will mean that kingdom work will surprise us by the people with who we, Salvation Army evangelical Christians, can work.  Muslims, the gay community, people of widely divergent political persuasions.  Frank cautioned us against demonizing, against drawing lines in our hearts.  God’s kingdom may surprise us; “his network is more than we think” for when it comes to the business of judging, sorting sheep and goats “there is no in or out.  That’s His job.”

There’s a bit more to share about the 2011 Urban Forum and I will try to get it in the next day or two.