Taking the Gospel to the Cities: Breaking the Myths & Casting a Biblical Vision

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

    And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  (Luke 19:41)

 We have been back in South Carolina a few days after our trip from Atlanta.  As I continue to play catch up in life and ministry,  I want to continue to cast a vision that I hope will grasp hearts for taking the Gospel inside the perimeter of Atlanta and to the cities. Last post I gave a basic introduction to the collaborative Kingdom effort of Urban Atlanta Church Planting (UACP). As I continue to unpack from our trip (literally and in debriefing mentally, spiritually, etc.) I want to help build a foundation biblically for urban church planting and ministry.  So before we continue and meet any church planters and discuss Atlanta I would like to do that with a few thoughts from some help of some UACP folks dispelling some myths below. My hope is that this study my help propel you to connect  (sending, going, partnering) to the cities that need the Gospel so desperately. J. D. Payne has helped us see the need of the Gospel to the cities by the sheer  numbers of the current & future fastest growing cities, but I hope God’s Word would further propel us with that vision. In doing so, we will read a few verses, ask some questions to think on, and then do a little praying.  I would love to hear your feedback.  Let’s Go!

We’ll getting started by seeing :     Two Myths of the City

Myth #1:  The City is Too Secular

For many years, there has been this mentality that the city is too secular, and that Christians and churches have a hard time thriving there.  Although the city does have a lot of secularism in it (greed, lust, violence, injustice), that is no reason to flee it as if God is not working there.

In fact, did you know?

  • Christianity was largely an urban movement when it first started.  By the year A.D. 300, the urban population of major cities was mostly Christian.
  • Paul, the apostle, was an urban missionary/church planter who went to the major cities of his day (Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, and Rome).
  • Tim Keller, an urban church planter in New York City, says, “As the city goes, so goes the culture.  Cultural trends tend to be generated in the city and flow outward to the rest of society.”
  • What cultural trends do you find in cities?  The arts, academics (major universities), business, the technology industry, fashion, the media, etc.  In order for culture to be impacted with the gospel of Jesus, discipleship and church planting must take place in the city and be infused in these different areas.  Paul understood that if the gospel could reach the city, it could reach the whole world.  And that is what happened.

As of 2000, over half of the world’s population lives in cities of 1 million people or more.  162 million people live in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in America, and according to a recent NAMB statistic in 2007, 80% of the U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas.  The New York City metro area (21 million), Los Angeles metro area (16 million) and Chicago metro area (10 million) equal a whopping 47 million people!

Myth #2 The City is Too Dangerous 

When people think of the city, they think of crime, drugs, prostitution, dark alley ways where burglars lurk, and so on.  Although typically the city does have that, the church, in many ways, has reacted negatively by moving out of the city instead of positively by reaching into it.

Consider this:

  • More and more people (especially younger college-aged and twenty-something’s) are moving back into the city after most families moved out twenty years ago.
  • In fact, the most unreached people groups, in our nation, are young urban professionals that live in trendy, downtown areas of major cities like Atlanta.
  • The nations of the world are drawn to cities in North America. In Chicago and New York, for example, there are 200 languages spoken in the city. Major cities in North America have “Chinatown,” “Greek Town,” “Korea Town,” “Little India,” and other ethnic neighborhoods where English is a second language.  Currently, Toronto, Canada is the most ethnically diverse city in the world!
  • If we are going to reach our country and North America with the gospel of Jesus, we must re-thin the importance of the city.  With that said, church planting should begin in the city rather than the country and suburbs.

 Verse to ponder: And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”             (Luke 19:41).

What do you see when you look at the city?  Why would Jesus “weep” of Jerusalem?  When you look around a large city (Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas), what do you see? Maybe it’s just on the news or TV that you catch a glimpse of the cities but when you do, are you seeing the  individuals?  Do you see individuals with specific needs?  Pray and ask God to help you “see” people as He sees them.

Biblical Foundation

We are going to look at two cities in the Scriptures, each with different characteristics and expressions.  The goal is that we would understand God’s heart for the city and the importance of the city as a vital mission field.

First City: Babel      Read Genesis 11:1-8

Questions:

  1. Why did the people want to build a city?  What was their purpose?
  2. For whom were the people building the city?
  3. What does Babel represent?  How do you see “Babel” in our culture?  Do most cities in North America resemble Babel?  Why or why not?

Second City: God’s City    Read: Jeremiah 29:4-7

 Questions:

  1. Why did God tell His people to move into the city?
  2. Why would God tell His people to pray for the city?
  3. What, then, would you say is God’s perspective of the city and what should our perspective be?

It’s interesting that certain prophets (Jer. 29:8-9) were encouraging the Jewish exiles to forget about the city and live away from it.  Although Babylon was a very secular city (where they worshipped many gods), God told them to move into the city, get involved in the city, and pray for it.

One of the “roles” we must consider as we think about what church planting is all about, is the role of the city.  God’s heart breaks for lost people; and His heart breaks for cities because cities are where large populations of people live… and that is what God is all about – people.

Take-Away: Although not all Christians are called to live and minister in the city, we should be willing to see the city as a mission field, pray for it because God loves the city, and be willing to go if God calls. If you aren’t committed to pray for a large city (assuming you don’t live in a large city), would you take a look at these current & future fastest growing cities (as a starting point)  and commit too? I would love to get some commits or maybe what city(ies) you are praying for.

 “Should I (God) not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11)

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  1. […] Will you participate? There are still three days of ministry left so if you get join us for the ministry projects or join us for worship at Oak Grove . Urban ministry isn’t always at the top of churches’ ministry priorities, will you help cast a Biblical vision for it? […]

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