Think of two words for me. Two words most of us probably hear on a regular basis, but perhaps don’t always use in the same sentence..
First one is “city”, what are some words that come to mind? Perhaps they’re along the lines of- traffic, dirty, drugs, music, immigration, money, art, pollution, crowds, refugees, diversity, gangs, prostitution, shopping, and so on…
Second word is “God,” what are some things that pop into your head now? Perhaps they’re along the lines of- holy, pure, good, creator, Jesus, bible, church, provider, glory, spirit, worship, trinity, and so on…
The words don’t really have much in common, right? I think we could even say they could be classified as polar opposites. Makes sense why I was so confused when I heard we were getting a week teaching on “God in the city”.
Well you see, this week of teaching has now come to past; and my views, my opinions, and even my heart has experienced transformation in regard to urban ministry.
Our speaker was Brad Stanley. Brad came in and supplied us with an incredible amount of knowledge on global urbanization along with spiritual wisdom on “how to find God in the city”. In use that we may understand global urbanization and its impact on the mission movement, he weaved in mind-blowing statistics, biblical foundation, and his own passion and calling to bring God’s kingdom to the world’s urban areas.
There’s tons of statistics and logistics on global urbanization, and quite frankly I only had a small idea of how fast our world is being updated and unified.
Brad informed us that “in 150 years the world has gone from 17% of all people living in major cities, to a predicted 70% of all people living in not only major cities; but mega cities (from 1900 to 2050),” I sat there in awe, and thought to myself “THIS IS CRAZY…. real, and happening as we speak.”
The teaching continued, and the Holy Spirit began to revel more to me as I began to get God’s heart for urbanization. Taking part in the idea that my God isn’t only the creator of the enormous sky and the pretty birds in it, but also in charge of this coming together of people worldwide (in the building of mega cities and advancement in modern day technology).
“Urbanization is the fastest human movement in History”
I start wondering why the church hasn’t already completely taken a dive into urban ministry. Like jeez, soon enough the whole world will live in a city! Why aren’t we as Christians already there!?
As Brad went on to educate us, he brought in some of the misconceptions which cause the church to avoid/flee/leave the city. Points, and common ones at that, which counterfeit an accurate Urban theology (who God is in relation to the city).
Oh yeah, I remember now… these are misconceptions I also hold. This is why Christians, this is why I myself, am not currently living in the heart of major cities for the purpose of bringing God to the nations, and the nations to God.
There is one particular misconception I want to share today, as I believe its takes tremendous influence on our habit of separating God from the urban culture. A view which causes us to separate the words “God” and “city”. This itself has been a milestone in my personal theology, and in the past formed a gap between me and my passion for the urban world.
Here it is: If the city is God’s idea, why is there so much sin and violence caused by urbanization?
Brad first off emphasized the definition of a city with us. Put quite simply it is, “a group of people living, relating, and and creating together, in a close geographical proximity.” Doesn’t sound to shabby, right? And is it a coincidence that this alone provides 100% potential to serve God’s original intent for all mankind: “to live in abundance, unity, and relationship with Him.”
How does the definition of a city, and Gods glorious plan have so much in common, yet, there is so much trash found in the city. It doesn’t quite lineup that a pure and perfect God would dwell, further more create, a place so polluted and “full of sin.”
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The thief, the enemy, satan; he is on a mission. It says right there; to steal, to kill to destroy. His target? anything that threatens him and his hope to stop God from going what He has intended from the beginning; live in complete and abundant relationship with His people.
The enemy’s activity is reactionary, performing in action to counter act all God intends for good, right? I know, for me, I experience over and over the enemy attacking gifts God have given me which hold great value. Such as, my identity, my family relationships, my dreams and talents. Why? Because they are a threat to one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. What does this mean for the city? It means that,
“where there is darkness, there is great redemptive purpose.”
I think it means that our God is at work in the city, and continues to be. It means that God is fulfilling promises He’s made to the generations before us. It means that the construction and expansion of cities worldwide is all part of God’s great plan for redemption.
Personally, I’ve now began to open my eyes, along with my heart to this all. To seeing the possibility, over and above the problems (the sin, the trash, the violence, the dirty air). That I could still identify the problems a city holds, but no longer allow them to have power over my calling. To stand strong in what I believe, and take back what’s mine from the enemy; my love for the city. To no longer fear the darkness, but be the light. I don’t want my knowledge of global urbanization to be a road block to my faith. Instead, a highway of hope, to seeing my ministry dreams come true.
As Brad put it,”global urbanization is just speeding up the process.”
GOD IS BRINGING THE NATIONS TO US
He has come that we may have life, and have it to the fullest. The enemy has for too long claimed the city, and masked it with the brokenness that is found there. But where there is brokenness, there is a deliverer. When people are lost, there is even further opportunity for rescue- for redemption.
Is that there exactly the value satan is so threatened by?
Where there is sin- there is forgiveness, where there is people- there is God. Where there is a crap ton of people ‘living, relating, and and creating together, in a close geographical proximity’- there is potential for
UNITY, COMMUNITY, RELATIONSHIP
and the love of Jesus.
The gospel, which through cities, can spread quicker than ever.
The gospel, which through technology, can spread more effective than ever.
NOW, that’s where urbanization and religion collide.
All I have to do, all you have to do is find the potential, see the potential, commit to the potential, and claim that the enemy no longer has right to steal, kill, and destroy our cities. Because as we begin to find God in our cities, as we begin using these two words in the same sentence, we will see His kingdom come and His will be done.
For this is God’s City.