You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
~Chris Tomlin “God of this City” lyrics
I am moved each time I hear this song affirming that our God is indeed God of this City. For those of us who are trying to be a light in our community or called to penetrate cities that have banned, blocked or removed the welcome sign to Christians and the gospel, we need to be reminded of who truly reigns.
I believe God gives you geographical favor. He places you where He wants you to have influence. Or He places a desire in you to affect another geographical location.
For those of you who have a heart for remote places like Africa or El Salvador–wherever it is that you can physically leave, but it just won’t leave you, you know what I’m talking about. That dilapidated building, the smell, those haunting eyes, you can’t stop thinking about how to help, envisioning your next trip there. That’s God putting His City-love into you.
You cannot effectively reach your City if you do not know who lives there. So here are some tips to help you quickly bridge the gap between the theology of the City, and how to effectively reach yours:
1) Understand your City. Know thy City. Study it, research it, experience it. Here are a few general principles that are pretty much true of any city in the world to get you started:
- The origins of the City are rooted in sin. It goes back to Cain (Genesis 4) who rebelled against God, left to start over, and relied on himself for his own safety and well-being.
- The City is a magnet. It is the best of everything in one place–food, art, sports, drama, education, medicine–and we all want the best. So we go to the City to get it.
- In the City, everything is for sale, even humans. Commerce thrives because greed is insatiable. Man in the City often loses himself and becomes merchandise of the City.
- We are currently experiencing the largest and fastest migration of urbanization in the history of mankind. For instance, China plans to move 250 million rural residents to towns and cities over the next decade.
- The City is filled with people, and God loves people. In order to reach them, we have to understand City life.
People are flocking to the City. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York city says, “It is imperative that the Church understands how to reach out to the expanding cities of the 21st century.” That means creating an urban interpretation of what Church looks like instead of simply duplicating the suburban church model in the big City. Here are three basic steps you can take toward preparing for ministry in any City around the world:
2) Instill a robust faith. Not only must you and I have a strong faith deepened by knowing God’s Word, we have to be intentional about instilling deep faith through Biblical literacy into our children, the next generation. Chances are great that they will end up living in the City, and we want to send them in prepared to stand strong.
1 Peter 3:15 says, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
3) Be purveyors of hope. Many go to the City for a new beginning, to live out their “destiny”, and often at a great price. Their leaving rips apart the rich fabric of family and tradition, and seekers find unmet expectations, hard living conditions, and a sad, lonely reality. These deflated aspirants need to hear a truly fulfilling message of hope.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. –I Peter 1:3
4) Above all else, love. The City–teeming with people–is often a lonely place. The Church was invented to be a community of love and place to belong. We need to have proximity, exude peace and extend welcome to all.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. –1 Peter 1:22
So, what’s your “City”? Write it down. Research and find out everything you can about it. Build your faith and that of your young people, then intentionally craft ways you can specifically begin to spread the aroma of God’s love in the rapidly expanding urban mission field.
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2 thoughts on “Know thy City: 4 steps toward effective urban ministry”
Thanks for this Rob. Been doing some research around urban ministry and the stats are telling. 70% of the worlds population are predicted to be living in urban environments by 2050. About 1 billion will be living in slums. Yet, today it is estimated that fewer than 1 in 500 foreign and only 1 in 10000 national missioners work in slums (http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/). A real mission field.
Wow. The numbers tell quite a story, don’t they?