God and the City
Two hundred years ago in 1800 nearly 95% of the population of America lived in rural areas. Today this has drastically changed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau over 75% of Americans live in cities. This same reality is also true of the world as a whole. The world is becoming, or already is, urban!
The urbanization of America and the world has had a profound effect upon us - even though we are often unaware of it. Many of the tensions filling the Churches of Christ today are, in my opinion, not biblical in nature but related to conflicts between urbanism and ruralism.
But urban environments provide unique opportunities to serve God as well. The city, for example, has changed the way missions are done. We used to think one had to go to Africa, China or South America to be a missionary. But since we rarely sent any missionaries, God brought the people to us. Los Angles is now the second largest Mexican city in the world; New York is also one of the largest. God has brought the nations to us. Ministry in the city can change the world.
The Apostle Paul was an urban missionary. When we read the NT, do images of cow pastures come to our minds? If so then we have seriously misread the NT, especially Acts. Paul labored in some of the largest urban enviroments in the world of his day: Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, and Rome. These were urban megacities. Paul even taught in a city university for two years in Ephesus (Acts 9.9). For more on the city in early Christian life see either Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul or Bruce W. Winter's Seek the Welfare of the City.
The Lord Jesus himself was familiar with cities. Though Jesus did talk about sheep and goats, he also used urban imagery. Jesus grew up in Nazareth a mere three miles from the sprawling urban center Sepphoris. It was a city on a hill that could not be hid! Jesus, more than likely, worked in this city while growing up. The Lord's use of images from the city, especially the theater, are grounded in this setting (see Richard Batey, Jesus and the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus).
The city is daunting for sure. And some want to withdraw and abandon the city, especially the inner city. But we have never had the opportunity to impact more people with the Good News of the Gospel than in, and through, the city. God is the God of the city, too.