A former missionary to Nigeria says churches are responsible for the spiritual climate of a city. In his new book "City Impact: How to Unify, Empower and Mobilize God's People to Transform Their Communities" (Chosen Books, 2004), Daniel Bernard explains that it takes more than prayer to effect citywide change.

Bernard is president of "Somebody Cares Tampa Bay," an organization that works to unify churches across racial and denominational lines to reach cities. He says every believer can be used to help transform their town or city, "whether you're a pastor or a business person ... you can – right where you are – influence and impact your community, impact your neighborhood, impact your school."

Churches must see their cities as opportunities to reach the hurting, disenfranchised, and downhearted, the Christian author says. He notes that in less than a decade God has used Somebody Cares Tampa Bay to bring area churches together for clothing and food distribution efforts, sports clinics, and many other activities designed to serve people's needs, reach the unchurched, and transform the community.

When the work began, Bernard recalls, it was a humble beginning, but God blessed and multiplied the effort and its effects. "My wife and I and my six kids moved in the area and just had a vision for it," the ministry leader says. "We began to knock on doors and cast that vision and, with no finances or anything, seven years later, we're filling a stadium at Tropicana Fields. It's an incredible thing, what God can do."

The Word of God promises that He would command a blessing, "even life forevermore," when people will come together and work in unity, Bernard notes. "We're experiencing some of that commanded blessing here at Tampa Bay," he adds.

And other believers can see similar results in their communities, the author of "City Impact" asserts. All throughout the book, he offers creative examples and inspiration. "I've got 56 ways how your business can be a vehicle for ministry," he says for example, "and there's a lot of different stories, and ideas, and ways you can be encouraged [to see] how you can make a difference in the community where you live."

There is always hope for a city's redemption, Bernard contends, but unity is key. In working to transform communities, he says, the Church needs to agree on the message that God wants to convey to a particular city, then work to emphasize unity and core values.


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