I love the city. I grew up in the city and find it to be a stimulating, amazing, inspiring place. I don’t just mean the Miracle Mile or Times Square, but also the inner city. I love it all.
It seems that I am not alone. There is a shift going on in portions of the church today toward the city. It exhibits itself in church planting, in missional communities, in conferences, summits, books, and blogs. There is an emphasis on reaching the city for the gospel, and I think this is wonderful.
Reaching the city is effective and pragmatic. It is a highly concentrated place where people from every tribe and tongue can be connected with just by crossing the street or riding a bus. It is cross-cultural without crossing borders. It is highly social, highly connected, and highly populated all of which makes ministering in the city sensible and strategic.
There are also great, obvious needs in the city. There is homelessness, poverty, injustice, and illiteracy (even in the schools). There is crime and brokenness. The allocation of resources, whether it be financial or theological, is heavily in favor of the suburbs. So ministering in the city is essential.
It is easy for someone like me to catch a vision for urban ministry, whether it is to hipsters or the hood. But I live in the suburbs. I am surrounded by homogenous affluence, strong schools, and relative ease. And it makes living there easy, safe, and stable. There are challenges that my context completely alleviates, and this seems like a really good thing. And it raises some significant questions and seems to create a certain tension.
It seems to me that there is a sense among some (I know I feel it and think it) that ministering in the city is “better” than ministering in the suburbs. But at the same time it cannot be said that the suburbs need Jesus less than the city or that someone seeking to honor God in the suburbs falls short of the honor brought to God by someone in the city. At the same time, though, it can be said that those ministering in cities are meeting the greater need as it pertains to all the issues mentioned previously.
So I see a number of questions and covet your feedback.
How is the suburban church (or individual), with whom lie the majority of the resources, to support and interact with the urban church (or individual, or ministry)?
Is there a sense in which it is better, or more honoring to God, to serve in a place where people have the greater sociological and physical needs?
Can the suburban church or Christian truly be honoring to God while functionally ignoring the needs of the city?
And where the heck do small towns and rural ministries fit into this mess?
Please post answers to any or all of these questions. I don’t have answers. This isn’t a quiz. I am simply trying to understand these questions and challenges.