What do the following four influences have in common: a self-absorbed, inward focus, city ignorance, competing values and prejudice?

Let me get you started. One will recognize that these influences are nonpartisan. They are readily found in both nonprofit and for-profit businesses. One can find evidence of their existence on school campuses, within community sports teams and even among various social and special interest groups. They are equally not a respecter of race, gender, age or faith.

But wait, I've got more bad news.

When these four traits are permitted to subsist in one's culture, they will serve as a barrier against the city flourishing. Additionally, each stands as a threatening obstacle for successfully engaging one's city. I know this firsthand because these four impediments also exist in the church.

It saddens me to publicize that the average evangelical church in North America exists for itself. Pastors and church members are commonly so preoccupied with themselves, their routines, facilities and filling their buildings for performances that they remain disengaged from their communities and not fully relevant to them. The same might be said of many local businesses. This is a problem.

Fortunately for Costa Mesa, we have some above-average churches. The Crossing and Iglesia Harbor are two nonprofits that consistently share the love of Jesus in our community with rolled-up sleeves.

When you add into the mix, the steady generosity of local businesses, such as the Ursini Newport Rib Co. family, who are the Daily Pilot's DP 103 No. 73 pick for 2013, one can understand why Costa Mesa is the great city it is.

But what about you and me? If you have a desire to see Costa Mesa flourish, if you are looking for a way to help combat the effects that a self-absorbed, inward focus, city ignorance, competing values and prejudice produce, I offer this starting point:

Strategy No. 1: Study the City

There are generally five core areas that comprise a city:

•Community ( people);

•Commerce (business);

•Civic government (cops, city hall, city council);

•Campuses (schools) and;

•Churches.

A student of the city sleuths. Within every city, there are indigenous organizations and people groups who have spilled their lives. Honoring and understanding this historical story is vital for effective civic engagement.

A student of the city listens. There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth.

A student of the city practices a teachable attitude. A few years ago, in an effort to learn more about Costa Mesa, I tracked down one of our well-known city historians to "pick his brain" over a cup of coffee.

At the conclusion of our two-hour conversation, this longtime Costa Mesa resident offered to introduce me to a number of shareholders whom he felt could sharpen my city intelligence. I eagerly said "yes."

In the months that followed, trust and insights were graciously offered to me. Not surprisingly, as my institutional knowledge for our outstanding city grew, so too did my desire to protect and invest in it.

Here is my challenge: Who will you reach out to and initiate a coffee conversation with? One starting point might be to connect with each person on the DP 103.

Reach out to these stakeholders. Most will be eager to meet with you and offer suggestions for where you might get involved.

For those in the mood for a more challenging sleuthing assignment see what you can uncover about a group called Trellis that is beginning to add tangible value here in Costa Mesa.

And if you are really daring, give me a call. I'd love to hear your story.

MIKE DECKER is the lead pastor of Palm Harvest Church on the Westside of Costa Mesa and a chaplain with the Costa Mesa Police Department.