I recently worked through Why Cities Matter: To God, Culture, and the Church, written by Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard. Truth be told, I expected the book to champion the typical “big city equals big church equals effectiveness” type of thinking that’s heralded by some church growth thinkers. I’m assumed it would, once again, place cities at the forefront of all church planting and ministry efforts.
To my surprise, it didn’t rub me negatively! As many of you well know, I’m a huge advocate for a renewal of focus upon rural church ministry and rural church planting. I think many of the models and systems that are suggested for cities are often not as effective in rural communities or small churches. That’s why we find many pastors saying things like, “I tried so and so’s model and it just didn’t work here.”
The authors are clearly passionate about biblical revelation and being culturally aware. If I had to simplify the books main ideas, as I understood them, they would be as follows:
- Cities are tremendously important for the sake of the gospel.
- Cities will only continue to grow and develop.
- Because of this, we’d be foolish to overlook the different issues related to reach and ministering in cities.
- Cities have certain general characteristics that, if we’re discerning, we can wisely integrate into our ministry approach and missional focus.
- The Bible is not anti-city and the desire for some to pull completely back from being involved in cities is not rooted in Scripture.
- Cities demand that we contextualize the gospel and really interact with the problems and opportunities of city-life.
- Cities can be transformed by the gospel, so don’t give up.
- Churches can be more effective in ministering to and in the city.
As you can tell, these are some very helpful concepts to think through. As I read through the book, I kept asking myself, “How does this apply to me, living in a rural community?” Thankfully, I think it has much application. In fact, I think a similar book could be written that focus’ more on my context, with a great deal of foundation laid by these authors. So who is gonna write that book?
This is a great book. All missional minded people should read it. It’s comprehensive, readable, and full of engaging ideas. You won’t want to ignore it. I plan on spending more time thinking through it’s issues and, perhaps, writing on some of the issues in the future.
I would recommend it!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.