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Working together to transform the community

When Henry Sanders started thinking about the ways churches could have an impact on the Madison-area community, a couple of things came to mind, he told a crowd Saturday at the Goodman Center for the formal launch of Selfless Ambition.

One was a verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) The name of the project played off the words “selfish ambition” by calling for “selfless ambition.

Then Sanders started visiting different churches, talking to a variety of church folk. One surprise for him: “There’s a lot of politics in the church body…There’s such a divide it actually breaks my heart. When I know Jesus, that’s not what I know.”

He also noticed that while there was “a lot of wonderful stuff going on in the churches,” people were not working together across the lines of their own churches or their own kind of churches. He warned those assembled that even though they may think they are doing good work, “how we view ourselves is not how the world views us.”

Sanders saw the potential of bring people and churches together across the lines that can separate or isolate them. In a community where he said people do pity well – they give some money and move on – the task for the churches is nurturing a compassion that will the build the kind of relationships that can lead to transformative action.

The question: how can Selfless Ambition be a model for bringing compassion?

Sanders sketched out the goals for Selfless Ambition as it heads into 2018 – big goals, but as he said, “I have faith.”

Schools – connect 10 churches to schools beyond the connections that some churches already have.

Community liaisons – hire two people to be on the ground, to work day-to-day to foster these connections.

Engagement teams – having churches work together in specific areas to connect with their communities.

Kingdom Building – a city-wide Christian volunteer day.

Rapid Response Teams – having people who can respond quickly to crises, whether hurricanes in the South or shootings in Madison.

Worship Event – bring together Christians from many different worship styles and traditions for a mega-worship service. “It would give a sense of the differences in the body, but we’d all be together,” Sanders said.

Immersion Greater Madison – take people in churches and give them a deep experience of the broad Madison community, modeled on the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greater Madison program.

Block Parties – Build on the experience of the past summer where 1,000 people came to a neighborhood party at Mendota Elementary School, 350 came to one at Leopold Elementary School and 300 came to one at Lighthouse Christian School.

“If the church as a large body wanted to address these issues, we could change Madison,” Sanders said.

At the end of the event, Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, said one of his donors had made a $1,000 challenge grant if Johnson could raise that much at the Saturday event. He called out the totals as people came forward and the donations on the spot exceeded $1,500.