City Life. City Noise. City Traffic. City Slickers. Urban Decay. With all the negative connotations of the word ‘city’, still God has chosen that we would all live together in a City forever. Makes you wonder. Maybe God should have given us something better than city life forever to reward us eternally.
Within my lifetime, I am likely to see a world in which 70% live in cities. Rather than ask, why this many people would want to live in cities, what if we were to ask ” What is God’s agenda in moving so many people to the cities? What is God doing in piling people into a relatively small percentage of the available real estate?” We must keep in mind that, as Paul told the men of Athens, “it was He who predetermined the exact times and places where we should live” (Acts 17). And then Paul gives the reason for God putting people where they are, “so that they might reach out and grasp for God and perhaps find Him.” So, God’s agenda in migrating the world to the cities might be that they find Him there.
Why are cities so strategic in God’s agenda that He would relocate millions there now?
1. Cities are dark enough that if somebody turns on the light, it gets noticed. If you know Jesus and live in a city, it’s hard to hide him or hold him in. Lukewarm middle of the road socially acceptable Christianity doesn’t work in cities. Cities tend to be darker, so if you are the light, it’s going to be tough to hide that weird glow about you.
2. Cities are virus-friendly. Ideas spread here quickly, for good or for bad. City folks seem willing to try anything, talk about anything, believe just about anything if it works. The Gospel is no exception if lived and shared in a way that allows people to interact with it rather than only be indicted by it. Seriously, if you believe trees are gods and we are all one happy being-force, would it be that difficult to believe that a man said he was God, died, and came back to life?
3. Cities are becoming interested in practiced, practical faith. An East Village school principal asks a church plant to move into her school because she noticed another church bringing life to its ‘hood. Victims of sex-trafficking connect with a church who paid for a way out of that slavery. Volunteer-starved social services asked me to provide helpers to senior citizens with no strings attached. Faith without works is dead, but faith that works gets quickly noticed in cities.
4. Church planting in cities has its own set of rules, or lack of rules, so there’s no one way to do it or approach it, and the people of the city value unique approaches and unusual ways to form new faith communities.
Cities are ready for the church to stay there, move there, and thrive. Remember that in John’s vision of the Heavenly City, he saw “no temple there”, because everyone there was serving God. We dream of a day when cities don’t just ‘see a church building here and there’, but rub shoulders everyday with people who are serving God by serving the city. And only people who have ridden a rush-hour subway understand the reference to ‘rubbing shoulders’. Every time I have to rub shoulders with somebody, it hints of heaven and God’s love for cities.