by —by Roy Moran, Spiritual Literacy Catalyst roymoran.com
In 2008, for the first time in history, the population living in urban areas reached 50 percent, and the level of urbanization is expected to rise from 50 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2050. China, the world’s most populous nation, is 40 percent urban, and it is expected to reach more than 70 percent urban by 2050. By contrast, the world’s second most populous nation, India, has just over 300 million urban residents, or 29 percent of its population. By 2050, India is expected to have 55 percent of the population, about 900 million, in cities.
It is clear that in this century the urban landscape must be a priority for planting the gospel. By 2000 Christianity had a significant presence in 22 of the 26 largest cities of the world (“Rise of Christianity,” Stark p.10). In over 120 areas of the world we’ve seen rapid replication of disciple making disciples. These disciples form into churches that establish and promote God’s hope through the crucified and risen Messiah. The bad news is that most if not all of these exciting innovations are primarily happening among rural people.
To be true to our King’s commission, the city must be an aggressive target. Even the Apostle Paul’s example points us to urban centers as the hub for geographical regions, providing a base of operations to reach out into the surrounding regions.
The Ephesus Initiative seeks to focus the attention of dedicated believers to creating disciple-making movements among every unreached people. Increasingly the unreached and the unengaged people groups are being found in our cities as you will see in this prayer guide.
Cities contain half of the world’s people, and they are growing by 165,000 per day according to the U.N. Urban ministries provide unique challenges that will require risking taking and supernatural intervention.
Life changes from the moment a person leaves a rural area and steps into the urban situation. That individual just left a culture dominated by family relationships and entered into a society dominated by work and the multi-cultural environment. Mega cities are usually culturally complex which can keep the new city dweller from moving quickly and deeply into new relational networks. For the first time in the life of this new urban dweller, he may meet people of different nationalities and different ways of life, which he may not understand and be able to relate. The hard work in the city may bring economic freedom at the expense of working a major portion of the day. The new urban dweller exchanges time for money, and this new dynamic can change him. For those coming from a situation of economic distress, the exchange is welcomed; yet people seldom consider the cost of the exchange, which can be loneliness, confusion, and entrance into a dissolute life. What a challenge to the city dweller!
The move to the city isolates new arrivals by the mere fact that people are distanced from their family networks. Communication can be difficult, although mobile technology eases the problem. Short weekly conversations are a poor substitute for the daily interactions they left behind.
Because they usually come from a mono-cultural environment and now are living in a multi-cultural one, life becomes more stressful. In the country, people have an opportunity to engage with longtime friends and relatives. Urban relationships can be more functional than personal. Quickly an impersonalization sets in that increases isolation and diminishes the gospel’s ability to move along relational lines. The gospel moves fastest along existing relational networks that are strong and filled with trust. By contrast, relational networks in the cities tend to be weak and filled with suspicion. This is another major hurdle for church planting movements.
Despite the obstacles, the commands of Jesus to disciple every tongue, tribe, and nation drive us to find ways to make sure that people who live in the city are not left out. There are some who have overcome these obstacles, and others can follow their example.
Shirley Pounds, the director of a Christian outreach to the impoverished in San Francisco, tells the story of Pedro (video here: http://youtu.be/cNEzEKESHKo) who found freedom in Christ from alcohol and drug addiction. Through a series of group Bible studies, Pedro became a believer; he soon came to the conviction that God had called him to be a disciple maker. Pedro set his sights on an apartment complex three blocks from the rescue mission where he had been discipled to faith in Christ. He met Angela while building relationships through bringing food to needy families. She was intrigued by his motivation, so he offered to teach her how to read the Bible for herself and discover who God is. At the first meeting Angela used some of the food Pedro brought to fix dinner for the friends she invited. Pedro, Angela, and others began to meet every Wednesday night to read the Bible together. Soon this group replicated as they started reading the Bible at their own homes with other friends. What started in Angela’s apartment has expanded to 50 different home groups!
Angela is an immigrant from Nicaragua, and she has regular contact with her family at home. Through the use of a mobile phone she trained her family how to read the Bible for themselves and discover God. In addition to the 50 home groups in San Francisco, there are now 160 groups in Nicaragua! These groups represent over 2,000 men and women who came to trust Jesus as their King and redeemer despite all the barriers of modern life.
The gospel moved from the heart of San Francisco to the streets of Nicaragua. Despite all the obstacles the city provides, the gospel can and will penetrate even the darkest places. It takes more Pedros and Angelas, ordinary people, following the commands of Jesus.
The city offers a gauntlet that Jesus’ disciples must run because we bear the only hope that humanity has: living as part of the family of God, under the leadership of Jesus. Our methods may have to change and our dependence on God will have to ratchet up, but the command to disciple the whole world, cities included, is our mission.
by Keith Carey, editor, GPD
Dear Praying Friends,
This month we are praying for unreached people groups who live in world-class cities. It took a long time to agree on which groups and cities to write about. In fact, there are so many large urban areas with unreached people groups that we could easily spend at least another month praying about this topic! So we had to limit this issue to “world-class” mega cities that play an important role in the world’s global economy.
Cities provide an excellent environment for unreached people groups to find the Risen Savior. There is the element of anonymity that allows those who are truly seeking the Lord to have the chance to do so without outside interference. When people arrive in a place where nothing is familiar, they are often ready for new answers. This situation creates a setting where individuals are often more open to the gospel. But there is a downside to this issue as well as you will see in the following article, “The Gospel and the City.” The article points out that the social isolation people experience in the cities can potentially keep the gospel from spreading. We must pray for more workers in urban areas who will reach out to people groups in the cities!
In the name of the Risen Christ,