Part 4: City Vision
Cities are places where both the best and the worst of the human race is intensified. In the biblical world, a city is not so much about population as it is a place where people live close together. Cities were walled and provided safety and justice—today immigrants still flock to cities as the best place to find a home and make a living. Cities are places of diversity, productivity, and creativity. In the Bible, there is a tension in how cities are viewed because they can heighten what is good or evil. The first city is built by Cain, and it becomes a place of artistic and technological innovation. The dark side of cities is shown in Babel and Sodom, but the positive side is shown in the heavenly city which is the ultimate hope of the patriarchs. In Israel, God commanded the construction of cities of refuge and he also put his name in Jerusalem, which was to be a holy city that was an example to all nations. The prophets depict eschatological glory as being located in the city of God, but they also condemn the wicked apocalyptic city of Babylon. When Jerusalem became filled with sin and idolatry it was destroyed and the population taken into exile, where they were told to pray and work for the good of the city in which they were living.
Today, Christians are not living in one city, but are scattered throughout the world. We need to be the city of God while working for the good of the cities we live in. The Book of Acts shows how the gospel penetrated cities that were the intellectual, political, economic, and religious engines of the ancient world. The rural areas were reached from the overflow of the cities. We have a mandate to work and be fruitful in our cultures, for the glory of God. Urbanization in our world is exploding, and globalization and technology are making cities more interconnected and influential than ever. Christians need to learn how to reach the city—because of the nature of the city, if we reach the city, we can reach the suburbs and the world. Cities are disproportionately home to the younger generation, the cultural elites, immigrants from closed countries, and the poor. All of these key groups can be reached if Christians target the city.
In cities, productivity and innovation increases exponentially due to agglomeration (i.e. people in tight proximity working together and learning from each other). In cities we are pushed to excel by people who are like us and by people who are different from us. Christians need to develop positive attitudes towards the city, rather than looking at it as an enemy. Christians need to work to be a counterculture in the city, but a positive one rather than negative or reactionary. Urban churches that are fruitful have seven key traits. The first two are that they have respect for urban sensitivity and they are sensitive to cultural differences. The rest of the traits are that they are committed to social justice and their neighbourhood, they integrate faith and work, they engage in complex evangelism, they preach to attract and challenge city people, and they are committed to being artistic and creative.