What If We Could Give A Valentine To Every Person In Rome?

What if we could give a Valentine to every person in Rome? There once was a church who was known for compassion, empathy, and concentrated efforts at making their city a place that was welcoming and inviting to all. A church that sought to turn its focus outward into the community and to “pour themselves” into the people who lived in the city and surrounding area. The members of this church gathered to worship and study together on Sundays and for the other six days of the week volunteered, served and gave of themselves and their resources throughout the whole week to live out their understanding of what it means to be the church.

The church enjoyed a long and illustrious history of finding creative solutions to issues and problems that arose in their community. There was not a single helping ministry or community service endeavor in the city or surrounding community where a member of the church was not involved in helping to make the city a better place for all its citizens.

This church had long been at the forefront of making a difference in the city, community, state and beyond. So, the members of the church looked at the facilities they owned and used and asked the question - What if there was a place that could offer non-profits space for their use during the week and help the non-profits’ donated dollars stretch even further to help the people they seek to help? What if instead of paying rent, utilities, and office overhead individually – a group of cooperative, like minded, non-profits could gather together and share their resources to expand and extend the reach and scope of their shared work? What if through the synergy of the collaborative, cooperative efforts all the needs of the citizens of their town were addressed and met? Wouldn’t you want to live in that city? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that church?

What if Rome First is that church? A Church with a Heart in the Heart of the City …What would it be like to be known in a city as the church with a Heart for all people? A Heart for Loving God, Loving People and Serving the World? A church known for “giving itself away?” For more than 15 years it has been a topic of conversation among leaders of non-profits and supporters of non-profits in Rome to find the ways and means to consolidate, collaborate, communicate, coordinate and concentrate the “good works” of helping one another. What if it were possible to use space that was already paid for and underutilized to invite ministry partners to share in collaborative and creative ways to further the individual missions of the respective ministries/missions and to make the non-profits’ contributed resources go “further” to help others?

SERVE ROME – The Time is NOW! – A Confluence of Community Ministries. Your governing board – ONE BOARD, met on Saturday, January 6 for a time of annual planning. (SEE MINUTES in this Herald or on the Rome First Website www.romefirst.org.) During the One Board meeting your leaders prayed together seeking to discern God’s Will and asking for divine direction as we consider how to be faithful disciples and good stewards.

You may remember, we held a church conference on December 3, 2017 to consider the option of purchasing the First Christian Building. The decision at that time was not to move forward with the purchase of that building. However, significant interest was generated around the idea of providing a shared space that would benefit the area non-profits and the residents of Rome.

Going back even further, in early 2015 the vision/pathway team worked for over six months to conceive the concept of SERVE ROME, a non-profit collaborative to assist non-profits in Rome by offering the opportunity to consolidate overhead costs, collaborate on “big picture” issues, conserve the time, energy and resources of volunteers by connecting and combining the collective physical plant and human resource needs while extending the fiscal resources of the several individual entities connected through the collaborative. The individual ministries/non-profits would retain their identities, logos, brand recognition, staff, etc... – However, rather than being spread all over the city they could be “housed” in a central location that is easily accessible by all and convenient for all, with good parking, adequate space to hold “special events”, and truly be in the heart of the city.

Rome First is positioned both ideologically and geographically in the heart of the city, and the time has come for Rome First to fulfill her destiny. Many of the city’s oldest and most respected non-profits were “birthed” from Rome First, so now is the time to make a “Legacy Decision” – a decision to “give ourselves away, completely” Matthew 16:25

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports that every day, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty goes down by 217,000. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity, and 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. In another fifteen years illiteracy and extreme poverty will mostly be gone. Since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, breastfeeding promotion, diarrhea treatment, and other simple steps. These remarkable advances were facilitated by people who did not personally have the problem they set out to solve. University of Texas Basketball player, Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia and has begun treatment. His jersey now occupies a spot on the Texas bench. A halftime video offered tributes from nearly every UT team. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins have voiced their encouragement. None of them has Andrew Jones' disease, but he has their support. The old truism is true: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Mainline Protestantism and Institutional/Organized “religion” is on the decline among individuals under 40 in most developed countries. Has the Church become so obsessed with internal arguments over dogma and doctrine that we have neglected the Sacred Trust of being the Church?

The Church faces many challenges today. One of many challenges that faces the Church today is that of Trust. “Who Can You Trust?” is the title of a new book by Oxford scholar Rachel Botsman. Her research documents the breakdown of institutional trust in our culture. Some of the issues examined in the book - If you can't trust those in charge, who can you trust? From government to business, banks to media, trust in institutions is at an all-time low. But this isn't the age of distrust--far from it.

Botsman reveals that we are at the tipping point of one of the biggest social transformations in human history--with fundamental consequences for everyone. A new world order is emerging: We might have lost faith in institutions and leaders, but millions of people rent their homes to total strangers, exchange digital currencies, or find themselves trusting a bot. This is the age of "distributed trust," a paradigm shift driven by innovative technologies that are rewriting the rules of an all-too-human relationship.

If we are to exist in this emerging “new normal”, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost, and repaired in the digital age. In the 1970s, according to Gallup surveys, 70 percent of Americans believed they could trust key institutions to do the right thing most of the time. In 2016, such confidence had fallen to 32 percent. Trust in Congress fell from 49 to 9 percent. Trust in the church fell from 65 to 41 percent!

Millennials are the most dubious. According to a 2015 Harvard study, 86 percent of millennials distrust financial institutions. Three in four "sometimes or never" trust the federal government to do the right thing, and 88 percent "sometimes or never" trust the media.

Yet, at the same time, we are learning to trust strangers in entirely new ways. We rent homes on Airbnb, we arrange transportation on Uber and Lyft, we buy products on Amazon, e-bay and Craig’s List. But before engaging in digital transactions, we check the reviews. Airbnb properties and guests are rated, as are Uber and Lyft drivers and passengers. Products on Amazon, e-bay and other social commerce sites get "stars" and voluminous consumer reports. According to Botsman, the key trust indicators are competence, reliability, and honesty. So, what does this "trust revolution" mean for those of us who seek to change our culture for Christ? What are the implications for Rome First as we seek to offer radical hospitality by welcoming and inviting all as partners in transformation?

Because tomorrow is promised to no one, we should find a need to meet today. Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If we make the problems of society our problems, we earn the right to share our solutions. We know the needs! We possess the resources to address the needs in our city. We are already connected to virtually every serving, helping ministry, and service in our community. The time is ripe to establish a community collaborative, not merely as a concept or in a virtual reality, but to offer the use of space at Rome First to “house” the SERVE ROME CONFLUENCE CENTER. I invite you to give prayerful consideration of the efforts now underway to draft a proposal that will enable the congregation of Rome First to offer this unique and timely opportunity to our city. What a great Valentine for ALL!

I am excited to be a part of something so big and AUDACIOUS that only God can make it happen. I am humbled to serve alongside talented, dedicated, loving people who make Rome First their Spiritual Home.

Robert ><>