We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city – then encourage others to read this post as well.
- The smallest church can reach out to a city. To be honest, it’s simple – find a ministry in a city, and partner with them. Whether your church is itself urban or rural, with 10 members or 10,000, you can do something in the city. The needs are so great that opportunities are there for everybody.
- People are in the cities. This reason is basic, but not insignificant. The world has been more urban than rural for several years now. The ten most populated cities in the U.S. have almost 26 million people in the actual city boundaries, with 105 million people in the ten largest metropolitan areas. The church needs to be where people are.
- Evangelicals aren’t always in our cities. Though this picture is rightly changing, evangelicals have not been strong in cities. We have emphasized evangelism but have been cautious about engaging some of the most obvious mission fields in the world. Gospel-witness voids still remain.
- The nations are in the cities. Years ago, I was privileged to minister in a Vietnamese village in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been with Hispanics in South Asia and Europeans in Southeast Asia. If the Lord would allow me, I would live in the middle of New York City – an urban setting where more than 800 languages are spoken. If we want to reach the world’s people groups, the city is the place to go.
- World influencers are in the city. Think about the potential of influencing the world if we reach leaders in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai. The worlds of the arts, literature, politics, sports, media, etc. are there. What would happen if the gospel influences them?
- The needy are in the city. Poverty in the city offers significant opportunity for the church to minister. The combined stresses of poverty and urban life often threaten families, foster division, and invite crime. The church has the answer to these issues – if the church is there.
- Job opportunities are often there. That’s not to say that everyone will find a job, but the sheer size of cities often provides employment opportunities. Here’s the reason this point matters: believers can move to cities to be a light in the darkness, trusting that finding a job will not be an impossibility.
- Reaching the city requires partnerships. No single church can reach millions of people, even with multi-site approaches. City reaching requires us to push beyond our differences to work together. That unity is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and it wouldn’t hurt us to work together for the Great Commission task.
- City churches can help rural churches. A focus on urban work does not diminish the work of reaching rural areas. In fact, urban congregations might help provide needed resources and training for the rural church that is seeking partners.
- The job is too big for us. Who can reach 23 million+ in greater New York or the 38 million+ in Tokyo? Who would even know where to start? God does, and He requires us to seek Him and His wisdom. If the city drives us to our knees, that’s a good place to be.
What other reasons would you add?
Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.