By: Katie Sobiech
God works through the lives of the transformed, and through each individual transformation He is able to change communities.
Hosted by the ACTS (Akron Community Transformation of Society) group, the Community Transformation Conference on October 16th-17th addressed certain issues of the community including the division within it, particularly along racial and political lines.
River of Life Community Church in Hudson hosted the conference which included special guests Dr. Alistair Petrie and Steven Fry. Petrie has served parishes in England, Scotland and most recently as Rector of Brentwood Anglican Chapel in British Columbia for over 15 years. His call has been to bring forth transformation and evangelism in the Church, which has led him to serve in many nations on six continents. His goal is to discover cutting edge insights of turning a community towards Christ in order that a community, city and nation can be positioned and prepared for revival.
Fry, Senior Pastor of The Gate, in Franklin Tennessee, and also President of Messenger Fellowship, shared his wisdom as well.
What’s Happening in Akron
“Several years ago a number of us got together and out of that, Dr. John Perkins came in. Love Akron was involved in bringing him in and out of that came the Imagine Unity group,” Joe Daltorio, Pastor of River of Life Community Church, said.
He recalls Mark Ford, Director of Love Akron, calling the group of Pastors and leaders in the community together shortly after Dr. John Perkins visit. Perkins is known by his John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development.
“We (Pastors and others in the community) all got together and said ‘Let’s start building relationship’. We dialogued over the division and how to heal and restore,” Daltorio said. “We also felt there needed to be a coming together of church leaders to break down the walls and establish the Kingdom, instead of us each building our own little church Kingdom.”
Daltorio believed there needed to be something more, and that is how his group, ACTS began. Shortly after, he met Pastor Mark Anthony, who runs “ACT” (Alliance for Community Transformation) in Canton. The focus of both groups: community transformation.
Since then they’ve connected with people from all over Ohio including Ashland, Newark and Cincinnati.
“There’s been a networking that’s been taking place all over the state and it’s unprecedented,” Daltorio said.
Connecting with Alistair Petrie
“I met Alistair while in Amish country in Eastern PA where they just had the shooting in the Amish school. All of these churches came together over this terrible injustice and there was healing that needed to take place and I thought ‘That’s what we need to happen in Northeast Ohio’,” Daltorio said.
Petrie also felt it was time to address the issues in Northeast Ohio. So this past weekend he came and shared principles of what has worked in other communities.
He mentioned defilements, such as bloodshed, idolatry, sexual immorality and broken covenants that have occurred and how that affects communities.
“You can do a whole historical approach or geographical approach, and that’s what we’ve done,” Daltorio said.
“Alistair’s belief and mine is that God has a design for every human being and He has a design and destiny for every community,” Daltorio said. “There’s a counter destiny that Satan has. He wants to give us a false identity, but what is the original destiny here in North east Ohio?”
Daltorio shares his desire to see a greater networking with purpose.
“Not just networking where we have coffee and orange juice and love one another; those are wonderful, we start there, but where we can actually get together and pray and say ‘What is God’s strategy for us?’” he said.
Anthony added, “There are a lot of people that have wanted to see community transformation take place. With Alistair, people get an insight on the ingredients required to accomplish the goal. It’s going to set a standard from which people can build together.”
Ohio’s history is fascinating
“At one point Ohio led in the number of Presidents,” Daltorio said, “and it was the generator for ideas and leadership throughout the United States from everything from automobiles, to tires and flight. Policy was flowing out of Ohio to other parts of the country. I think God wants to restore to this region a sense of leadership and identity that we’ve lost, and I think that’s the next season America is coming into. I think that we’re going to be a contributor – not just the rust belt.”
The goal of the conference is to get leaders talking and thinking in a way that leads to networking and moving into God’s original design.
Learning by Example
Pastor Mark Anthony is passionate about connecting not only with the community, but the marketplace.
“What I’ve seen in the past is that the church does their thing and society does their thing and for many different reasons the church hasn’t connected well with what’s going on in society and that has mushroomed into division,” Anthony said. “And society responded with ‘Ok we’re going to separate church and state.”
Because of this, he saw the importance of building relationships with leaders throughout the community. He and his church began projects and outreaches to the point where the Mayor got involved. They also built relationships with other churches, ministries, leaders, and even the police department.
“It started a pattern where we started to deal with real issues within the community,” Anthony said, “We’ve taken the power of the gospel and Jesus into the community, but in a non-offensive fashion.”
Anthony’s ministry has done everything from working on people’s houses in the community, to pouring concrete so that one woman would have a place to park her car. They’ve also fixed porches, painted and cleaned.
“God wants to accomplish an entire community transformation,” Daltorio said, “That’s every situation and every venue, whether it’s business, sports, education, or medicine.”
God Working Through Believers
“When we like Jesus submit to the King, the King has authority over us and over the sphere that we influence,” Anthony said, “If you’re a believer, then when you show up at work the Kingdom of God shows up in manifestation through you.”
He continued, “We recognize that we are transformation carriers as individuals into every aspect that God has privileged us to touch. Jesus didn’t go anywhere without affecting the community around him. We’re all created to make an impact. It’s recognition of the fact that we’re world changers for Jesus.”
Anthony has been invited to be on the Board of the Neighborhood Council. He has also gone through leadership training to attend city Neighborhood leadership Council meetings.
“This brings me into spheres where I can share a voice with them and bring the wisdom of God into a situation. Ohio’s motto is “The Heart of it All”, and what influences the body more than anything else? The heart. Sixty percent of the populace of the United States is within 600 miles of Northeast Ohio. This is one of the most historically, spiritually, and currently influential places in the nation, as God does what he wants to do to bring transformation.”