Recently I was watching a news broadcast on TV reporting on civil unrest in the U.S. The split-
screen images depicted mob violence and riots in over 30 cities. These images placed a great
burden on me – I was compelled to pray. I thought about how much God loves cities, even the
most wicked (e.g. Sodom, Gomorrah, Nineveh, Babylon), and desires mercy over judgment.
The devil is also interested in cities and has targeted them from the beginning of time for
depravity, corruption and every form of evil. It is a spiritual reality that “evil rulers and authorities
of the unseen world, mighty powers in this dark world, and evil spirits in the heavenly places”
have strongholds in major urban centers of the world. It is the responsibility of the Church to
wage war against these entities and enforce the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Cities will figure largely in evangelism and church planting in the coming days. Consider these
facts: three hundred years ago, less than 5% of the world’s population lived in urban areas.
Presently, over 55% of the global population live in cities, and this number figures to increase to
65% by the year 2050. People are moving to cities at an astounding rate (5 million monthly), yet,
the rate of new church plants is lagging behind. People are moving to cities faster than
churches. We need to target cities for new church plants if we are to be God’s missionary
Reaching the great, global metropolis’ will take a different ministry model. Tim Keller, Founding
Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City (1989), shares some distinctive
characteristics of urban churches, (different from suburban or rural churches) in his book Center
Church – Doing Balanced Gospel Centered Ministry in Your City.
Urban churches have:
Cultural sensitivity. City churches bring people together from various cultures and expect the
challenges that come along with the aggregate of differences.
Help people integrate their faith with vocation. To the typical urbanite, work is a bigger part of
their lives than their contemporaries living outside the metroplex. Learning to live and share their
faith in the marketplace is of great importance.
More comfortable with change and disorder. There is a faster pace of life and a certain chaos
that comes with city life that people learn to manage. City churches develop an “urban sensibility”
that comes with managing chaos.
Involved with social justice issues and mercy ministries. City churches should be famous for
their concern for social injustice and champions of the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised
of society who are found in greater numbers in the city.
Intensely and intentionally evangelical. Because of the aggregate of cultures in large cities,
urban churches understand the importance and complexity of different approaches to
evangelism. One size fits all does not work in the city.
Make a place for the arts and artists. Cities are cultural centers reflected in the arts. Cities
shape the culture of the nation. City churches accommodate and incorporate diverse artistic
creativity and expression in worship.
City churches are generally less inclined to compete with other churches for people and
resources. They typically cooperate with churches of divergent backgrounds for the purpose of
evangelization, church planting and impact.
The migration into cities has impacted the world missions movement. These mega-population
centers have become the best opportunities for reaching the younger generation, (most who
prefer urban life), cultural elites, unreached people groups and the poor. One of the most
effective ways to reach the world is to reach your city. There is a desperate need for faith-filled,
Spirit-empowered laborers to be sent to cities. Urban ministry will require extraordinary courage
and sacrifice, but the rewards for obedience are unfathomable. Please consider your part in
reaching the major urban centers of the world for Jesus. Let it begin with prayer.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile
from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their
produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your
sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and
multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,
and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare [shalom] you will have welfare [shalom].’”
“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the
works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.” Psalms 107:23, 24