Glimpses of a Flourishing Community

Recently, I was at the bedside of Gary, a friend I’ve known for over 40 years. We have watched our children and grandchildren grow up together. We have prayed and served together and had many wonderful moments simply connecting as friends. But this moment was different. Near the end of a long battle with cancer, we both realized this might be the last time we were together in this life. Though unspoken, we both clung to the truth in 2 Corinthians 4:18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 

I could see he was weak and in unbearable pain. After I said, “Goodbye,” I told him I looked forward to the next time we would see each other, whether that be in this life or the next. When I left, I felt deep inside, “This is not how it is supposed to be.”


Life has wonderful moments of laughter and celebration. However, life often reminds us that, in this world, things are not how they are supposed to be. Many streets in our city aren’t safe to walk at night. Chronic poverty plagues whole neighborhoods for generations. Despite progress, people experience inequality and injustice. Younger generations suffer from a lack of guidance and mentoring from older generations. Marriages and families throughout the city are frayed and fractured. Once vibrant areas for work and play in our city have become ghostly shells of what they once were.

In short, our reality is marred by sin, death, and brokenness. We see it inside our hearts and in our homes and communities. In the face of this reality, however, we desire more. We long to live in a world the way God intended. We long for a restored world. We long for flourishing communities where sin, death, and brokenness are replaced by joy, life, and wholeness.


The good news is that reality is not some “pie in the sky” dream or wishful thinking. It is what God has promised to give those in His spiritual family. Numerous passages in the Bible talk about it (Zach. 8, John 11:25-26, 1 Cor. 15:45-56, Rev. 21). One of my favorites is Isaiah 65:17-25 where God gives us a glimpse into the future reality of the new heaven and new earth. It is a place where:

  • Joy and celebration replace sadness and grief.
  • People live long and healthy lives.
  • Children are thriving.
  • There is economic prosperity for all.
  • Everyone feels safe and secure.

Those descriptions don’t match our communities today because that future reality is yet to come. So what are we to do? Do we accept that things aren’t how they should be and just get on with life? Or can we bring glimpses of this future reality into our present reality? Is flourishing possible here and now? Two passages from Scripture show us that the answer to these questions is a definitive Yes.


In Jeremiah 29:7, God’s people are in exile and told to pray for the city where they live and seek its prosperity because if it prospers, they will prosper. In Matthew 6:10, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God to bring heaven down to earth: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In both passages, we see a clearly stated mission for God’s people: pray for and seek the flourishing of the cities you live in and the people who live there.

In Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society, Amy L. Sherman explains how our longing for a flourishing community and our efforts toward it are related to the Hebrew concept of shalom:

The Bible teaches that we are made for four foundational relationships: with God, ourselves, others, and the creation itself. The Hebrew word shalom captures the notion of peace in these four relationships. Shalom signifies spiritual, psychological, social, and physical wholeness. And shalom is God’s normative intention for us. Shalom is what we find in his original creation, and shalom is what will characterize the new heaven and new earth in his consummated kingdom. Put another way, God designed us for flourishing. This is because, as Art Lindsey has said, flourishing is simply “shalom in every direction, personal and public.”

Sherman then identifies six marks that distinguish biblical flourishing in communities:

  • Communion with God
  • Beauty and Creativity
  • Learning and Discovery
  • Wholeness
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Prosperity and Abundance

From there, Sherman uses the Human Ecology Framework developed by the Thriving Cities Group at the University of Virginia to give six endowments (or domains) that are fundamental areas of community wealth and well-being. These six areas are the most recognizable understandings of human experience and thriving we can use to measure whether a community is truly flourishing. 

These six domains are:

  • The True – the realm of human knowledge and learning
  • The Good – the realm of social mores and ethics
  • The Beautiful – the realm of creativity, aesthetics, and design
  • The Prosperous – the realm of economic life
  • The Just and Well-Ordered – the realm of political and civic life
  • The Sustainable – the realm of natural and physical health


We cannot build a flourishing community through human effort alone. True and lasting flourishing can only come through a movement of God. Only by seeking God’s presence and following his design can we build a flourishing community that esteems truth, goodness, beauty, prosperity, justice and order, and sustainability. Here is where the Body of Christ fits into God’s plan. He brings flourishing to communities through his people, the Church. In the spirit of Jeremiah 29:7 and Matthew 6:10, God’s people in our city are working together to bring heaven to earth and build a flourishing community. 

That’s why we want to highlight the efforts of churches in our city that are making a difference and giving others a glimpse into that flourishing reality we all long for. Every month we will use one of Sherman’s six domains to show how God’s people are helping our city embrace the true, the good, the beautiful, the prosperous, the just and well-ordered, and the sustainable.

We look forward to what’s ahead as we share how God’s people are working in neighborhoods like yours to build a city that flourishes.

Together we can build a flourishing community!

Ray Williams (Co-Founder and Network Team Leader, CityChurch Network) and Chris Loux (Communications Director, CityChurch Network)

Postscript: Over the weekend, my friend Gary went home to be with the Lord. I grieve with his family and pray God will fill us with His comfort, peace and hope until we are with him again in the new heaven and new earth.

If you would like to learn more about the Thriving Cities Group, watch this video.

If you would like more information about Sherman’s Agents of Flourishing, read our review of the book as a recommended resource. 

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