I was privileged to live and pastor in Atlanta, Georgia from 1994 to 1998. Atlanta is one of the most beautiful cities in America. And it has one of the most vibrant Christian communities in the U.S., with well-known pastors such as Charles and Andy Stanley. I am familiar with the city and grateful for its remarkable churches and ministries.
This week, however, I learned about a gospel movement in Atlanta I did not know existed. What I learned encouraged me greatly. Meet Chip Sweney, who grew up in Illinois, attended Duke University, and went into business. He was invited to a businessmen’s Bible study, where he committed his life to Jesus. At the age of 27, he left business for seminary, then became a student minister and staff member with Perimeter Church in Atlanta.
In 2002, Perimeter decided to seek a major impact on the city, working for mercy and justice with a burden for the poor, widows, and the oppressed. Chip began mobilizing students in their church to serve “the least of these,” and started meeting with staff leaders from other churches. In October 2003 they launched Unite!, a multi-sector collaboration.
Today, more than 200 partnering churches pray for each other, their communities, and their city. They serve together in word and in deed. And they celebrate what God is doing in their city through praise and worship, and by being a blessing to each other. Those working together through Unite! have identified three impact areas:
- Education: their goal is to ensure that every metropolitan Atlanta student has the opportunity to graduate from high school. Thirty churches with 500 mentors are working in Atlanta schools, and hundreds of churches are connected to schools in other ways.
- Justice: their goal is to ensure every child is safe from domestic minor sex trafficking. They work to build awareness and affect legislation in fighting this atrocity.
- Family: their goal is to ensure that every foster child has a home. They note that if one family in every church in Georgia decided to adopt a foster child, there would be no more foster children in the state.
They have also joined in a prayer collaboration from Easter to Pentecost. To what end? As their website states, “We long for a season where a city experiences thousands of its residences unifying themselves in the Word and Works of the Kingdom.”
Other results of Unite! include the Good Samaritan Health Center and Street Grace, an alliance of churches working against sex trafficking. And leaders are becoming brothers and sisters. For instance, Chip says, “I wish you could see my twin brother Bryan.” Bryan is 6’2″ and black; Chip is 5’9″ and white. According to Chip, “We are brothers of another color with different mothers but with the same heavenly Father.”
Who is your “brother of another color”? How are you collaborating with others in the body of Christ to change your city and culture today?
NOTE: Each month, I am honored to highlight a gospel movement such as Unite! in collaboration with Movement Day and my friend, Mac Pier. Movement Day is catalyzing leadership teams from the world’s largest cities to serve their cities more effectively by advancing high-level, city-changing collaborative partnerships. This initiative was launched in 2010 by Dr. Pier, founder and CEO of The New York City Leadership Center.