Shopping Cart


What Does it Mean to ‘Make Room’?

Monday, 4 June 2012  | Andre Van Eymeren

The statistics are in. According to 'Make Room: State Population Set to Soar' (a recent report by Miki Perkins published in The Age) by 2032 Melbourne’s population will hit 5.4million. The growth will largely be absorbed by interface communities like those in Cardinia, Wyndham and Wittlesea, however suburbs closer to the CBD will also be effected with an increasing density in housing. I’m fascinated by the question of what these communities will look like when 2032 rolls around. I know 20 years may seem a long way off; however, through my 17 years in grassroots mission and community development and now in my role as a trainer and community development consultant, I see many cracks in our existing urban framework - cracks that, if we don’t make significant changes to the way we do local community and with an increasing population, may just cause that framework to crumble.

There were numerous responses to the article ranging from things like 'we don’t want the growth, particularly if its source is migration', to concerns about already lagging infrastructure. The question posed by the article is: Do we want a big Australia? Personally, I’m in favour of a big Australia. However I long to see an Australia and, in our particular case, a Melbourne that reflects the Kingdom of God.

Would you imagine with me for a moment? What would change in your local community if the Kingdom of God was more present? What passages of Scripture help you know this to be true?

Whenever I ask this question, my mind goes to two passages in Isaiah. The first one points us to the true nature of worship... removing chains, freeing the abused, sharing our food with the hungry, sharing our home with the homeless, rebuilding cities. That’s Isaiah 58:6-12. The second passage is really a picture of shalom, centered around a community. Isaiah 65:17-25 speaks of everyone in the community being valued and having a sense that they belong, that everyone’s basic needs are being met, and, of course, there is the invitation to a vibrant relationship with God, which enables us to live a life full of meaning.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our communities, our city and our nation echoed the reality of these verses? People have argued that the passages are eschatological, referring only to end things. I would challenge that understanding. Jesus is quite clear in the gospels that because of his presence the Kingdom of God has come near. Of course Jesus’ presence endures with us through the work of the Holy Spirit, and so the Kingdom is already present on earth, but not yet in its fullness. In fact in the words of Tom Wright, Jesus through the resurrection was the firstfruits of a new creation, that we are invited to be a part of. Our role as part of the new creation, is to be working with Jesus, on the building of the Kingdom. Ultimately, it will be the Godhead that brings heaven to earth, with the Kingdom coming in its fullness, in the meantime we get to be partners in the venture.

[T]he surprising future hope which is held out to us in Jesus Christ leads directly and, to many people, equally surprisingly, to a vision of the present hope which is the basis for all Christian mission. To hope for a better future in this world - for the poor, the sick, the lonely and depressed, for the slaves, the refugees, the hungry and homeless, for the abused, the paranoid, the downtrodden and despairing and in fact for the whole wide, wonderful and wounded world - is not something else, something extra something tacked onto ‘the gospel’ as an afterthought. And to work for that intermediate hope, the surprising hope that comes forward from God’s ultimate future into God’s urgent present, is not a distraction from the task of ‘mission’ and ‘evangelism’ in the present. It is a central, essential, vital and life-giving part of it.

How do you find yourself responding to those words? When I first read them, the lights went on for me. The type of worked described in the quote is what I’ve been involved in for so many years and here was a learned theologian giving me a clear rationale and linking it directly with a Kingdom agenda. Tom Wright goes on to say:

Mostly Jesus himself got a hearing from his contemporaries because of what he was doing. They saw him saving people from sickness and death, and they heard him talking about a ‘salvation,’ the message for which they had longed which would go beyond the intermediate and into the ultimate future. But the two were not unrelated, the present one a mere ‘visual aid,’ or a trick to gain people’s attention. The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising, long term in the future. And what he was promising in the future and doing in that present, was not about saving souls for a disembodied eternity, but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so that they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose - and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project itself.   (Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 204)

Throughout my time running a missional community in Pakenham, we saw the truth of these words over and over again. As we concentrated on making life better for those around us, we gained an opportunity to share the good news. But by our actions the good news became something tangible, real. As faltering and fleeting as it was, we - with Jesus - helped to create glimpses of what the world could be like, glimpses of community, of connection, of the discovery of meaning and purpose. Glimpses of a future filled with hope.

Andre Van Eymeren
is Executive Director of P4T (Partnering for Transformation), an organisation dedicated to empowering and equipping individuals and communities to play their part in building for the Kingdom. He also sits on the board of Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society.

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment


Online Resources

subscribe to engage.mail

follow us

Latest Articles