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During Tim Keller’s second session with Newfrontiers he spoke on the importance of cities.
Cities are strategic and have lots of people yet they are poorly served by the Church. Disporportionately important and disproportionately underepresented in terms of ministry. This is not to say that every Christian should move to the city, but that movements like Newfrontiers as a people should begin to focus on the cities more.
Biblically cities are a place of refuge. They are places of Cultrual formation and communication. Cities in the Bible were smaller 1-3000 people but densely populated and behind a wall. The fortification brought protection. In cities you had law, elders in the gate, cases were solved. Decisions made. Not just blood feuds. Away from the city it was all about farming. In cities there was specialisation and hence economy.. Civilisation literally means citification. Densely populaterd and diverse even in old times.
Cities were and are places for the weak. If you are single and in your 30s or 40s and unmarried you are a freak outside of the country, but in the city you are normal. Foreigners outside of the city feel like an alien, but in the city you are not alone. In the city there is always lots of you whoever you are. Where immigrants go to assimilate. If you are homosexual out of the cities until recently you would get beaten up, but in city you are safe. Cities are harder to live in if you are white male married with a family. For everyone else cities are easier. Eg very wealthy people are minorities in smaller community they get set upon. So they congregate to cities. Cities are merciful.
Cities are places where culture is formed. God told Adam and Eve to build a culture = dominion. They failed. Heaven is a city. Coming out of heaven it wasnt a suburb or a garden In the middle of the city is the tree of life. They were meant to turn the garden into a garden city. Garden of Eden the word used was more of an urban park.
Cities are culture forming wombs. You are thrown togetehr with people who are like you, but also with people who are not like you. This leads to massive creativity. This creative tension always births new culture. Dont abandon the place where the culture is formed and then complain about how the world is going!
Paul gets a vision – Tim joke that he was obviously not a presbtyerian or he would have said “I must have eaten something” Tim continued in light-hearted mode to claim that Paul must have been a member of Newfrontiers (!) Paul always went ot the cities to preach. So urbancentric in his mission. Ignored the countryside or rather left it for the churches he planted to reach out to Paul only planted churches in cities.1. Personal cruciality in cities. People are constantly going through changes, not as conservative open to new ideas. People are set in their ways outside cities.
2. Cultural crucial. schools are there. Journals are there.
3.Global cruciality – win not just individual people, but win the world. Can go to morroco for ten years and do mission or go to London and reach the world. Because Christians concentrated on cities, a high percentage of cities were Christian by AD 300. Countryside remained laregely pagan and in fact htats what the word pagan means. If the cities are pagan and countryside is pagan then culture is going pagan. As the cities go so goes the culture.
Five convluding reflections
1. If you want to reach the world you try to reach cities. World is in the cities people are more open to the gospel than they would ever be in their own countries.
2. If you want to reach overseas as well as your region, reach the cities. “New Jeresey is way father from New york than Manilla” Start from the inside and work out.
3. You need to reach the city in order to reach the culture. Chruches in cities are the only hope that the things coming out will change.
4. HAve to reach the whole city to reach the world. Cant neglect the urban poor. We will have no credibility for the wider culture if we are not involved with this. The immigrants must be reached as you can prove Ephesians 2 is true – that the gospel enables people to get along who outside of Christ would never get along. Need multi-ethnic churches. Got to reach the elites.
If you really want to drive the gospel deep into your heart, you have to go to cities. Don’t want anybody to think that ministry in cities is more important than elsewhere, its just that God is caling people everywhere. There are people who have come to faith in christ in cities that have changed so much that didnt believe if hadnt seen it. Gospel can change people. Complexity of cities drives you to your knees. Too many problems. Hard to grow preachers kids up to respect christianty. Can be embarrassed by church. Not so much if it is leading to salvation. Tim explained that for years he had a Q and A time after every service. He encouraged us to make a major fuss over baptism.