The Church and The City

I have a lot of interest in urban planning. If I had not been called into ministry, I think I may have found my niche in city governance. So, one of my hobbies is to keep up on things that are happening in various cities. I also like to dream about city missions, because I think cities are often more hopeless, lost, and needful of the gospel than anything overseas.

I’m from Michigan, so I pay especially close attention to Detroit, which is falling apart. (If you don’t believe me, check out the archives of this Detroit blog) Here is an article from today’s Detroit Free Press… schools are closing all over the city, and the mayor is desperately trying to bring in any schools that he possibly can. And this from a city that has steadfastly refused the influence of most charter or private schools in the past!

I see this as an amazing opportunity. I mean, what better way to reach the inner city with the gospel than to open a solid private school funded as a sort of missionary outreach? A gospel-centered education, teachers who truly care, high educational standards… in fact, this is a pretty common approach among missionaries overseas.

So why do I feel so cynical about whether this will ever happen? Money and willingness. Evangelicals are quick to open their pocketbooks for parachurch ministries like InterVarsity (don’t get me started on THAT particular issue) or go on a missions trip to Mexico, but they steadfastly refuse to participate in significant ministries to the inner city. Unless, of course, you count donating used clothes to the Salvation Army or taking a youth group to serve at the soup kitchen once a year (which in my experience is much more for the youth group kids than it is for the needs of the city). I doubt moving into the city and establishing a ministry there is an option for most conservative Protestants these days.

I really believe churches, missions groups, denominations, and individual pastors and businessmen and educators need to think more seriously about the missions challenge presented by the city. After all, what was Paul’s missionary strategy but establish churches in influential cities? Granted there are a lot of differences between then and now, but there are some key similarities too.

What about you? Have you thought about how you will apply your trade, time, knowledge and energy? Do you want to go where you are most needed, or are you just looking to carve out a decent life somewhere in suburbia and give your tithe to a theologically accurate church?

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