Missiology: Urban Mission Part 6 – Cities as a Part of God’s Mission

Over the next few days I will be posting some thoughts on an issue facing the future of the church, namely the explosion of urban populations. I will start by taking a look at some of the issues brought up by the urban explosion, and I will conclude by reflecting upon how the Gospel addresses these issues.

Today we will look look at the Scriptures and try to pull out some insights as to how we should respond to the issue at hand.


IV-New Mission Insights: Cities as a Part of God’s Mission

            A foundational text for God’s mission to the city is Jeremiah 29. In this text we see “God’s enduring love expressed in initiatives to shape a people as a community for worship and mission.”[1] However, this text is based upon God’s covenantal promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3; the promise of land, progeny, and blessing to the nations. Wright argues that this text is the pivotal text for the whole Bible.[2] We can see why this is so, if in fact God’s ultimate purpose is to bless humanity, then the story of how God will bless the nations is the central focus of his word.[3] In Jeremiah 29 God tells the Israelites to inhabit the land, bear sons and daughters, and to seek the welfare of the city. It is clear that this passage parallels Genesis 12:1-3. Thus even when in exile, God’s people were to remain on God’s mission; they were to be God’s agents for the blessing of this city.[4]

Looking at this passage we are informed of God’s mission in the midst of the city. Our mission as Christians is founded upon Genesis 12:1-3. As God’s people we are to bring God’s blessings to wherever we dwell, even if it is an “enemy city.” What will this blessing look like in the midst of urban contexts? It means helping people flourish in the midst of their cities. Human flourishing will be based upon a holistic understanding of humanity’s needs. Humans are both physical and spiritual, they are also relational. Thus human flourishing will be physical and spiritual as well as well as relational. The church’s mission must be a holistic blessing. This means that the church must address humanity’s spiritual, physical, relational, and emotional needs. By doing this, the church will bring God’s Shalom, God’s sanctification that embraces all dimensions of life.[5]

How will the church address the holistic need of city dwellers? Earlier we had noted that two major issues the church will face in an urban setting is poverty and cultural heterogeneity. Thus these are the two issues that the church must confront if it is going to bless urban residents.

[1] Branson and Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities, 34.

[2] Christopher Wright, The Mission of God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 194.

[3] Wright, The Mission of God, 194.

[4] Wright, The Mission of God, 99-100.

[5] Mark Gornik, To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 101.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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