Three Reasons To Reach Cities With The Gospel

Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, often speaks about God’s mission for the great cities of the world. Below, I’m including a 16 minute video of Keller’s plenary session at Lausanne Cape Town 2010 Congress in which he shares God’s global urban mission. 

Here are a few thoughts from Keller’s talk about why we must reach the great cities of the world with the gospel and a few of my own reasons for sharing the Gospel in New York City specifically.

Reason #1: Cultural

According to a Foreign Policy article:

The 21st century will not be dominated by America, China, Brazil or India but by the city.

In an age that is increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. Time, technology, and population growth have massively accelerated the advent of this new urban era.

Already, more than half the world lives in cities and that percentage is growing rapidly.

Just one hundred cities account for 30% of the world’s economy and almost all of its innovation.

New York City is arguably the cultural capital of the world. It has often been said that as goes New York City, so goes the rest of the country in the next five years (or some variation of that sentence). The art, the laws, the music, the fashion, and etc. of NYC will soon become the standard for other cities, states, and, on a global level, other countries around the world.

With all of that in mind, it is vital that we marshall our individual, church, denominational, and/or network resources to catalyze a gospel-centered movement in the city of New York…yesterday!

Reason #2: Missiological

  1. Young people want to live in cities;
  2. Most unreached peoples are more reachable in cities (they break ties, are in a more pluralistic environment, etc.);
  3. The people who have the biggest impact on culture are in the cities;
  4. The poor are moving to cities (1/3 of people moving to cities are moving to live in shanty towns)

The above list are exactly the kinds of people that live in NYC. From rich to poor to everyone in between, young and old, influential, and people from all sorts of religious backgrounds, film makers, artists, musicians, business men and women, bankers, lawyers, and people from nearly every nation in the world live in NYC.

In Queens, the borough where I am planting churches, there are at least 64 unreached people groups. There are 800 languages spoken in the Metro New York area. The unreached, the young and influential, and the poor are my next door neighbors.

Reason #3: Visceral

To make the visceral case for reaching cities, Keller points to the story in Jonah 4 where Jonah is more emotionally attached to a vine that was providing him shade than he was concerned about other people. God, on the other hand, loves people more than plants because people are made in the image of God.

Keller concludes,

In cities, you have more ‘Image of God’ per square inch than anywhere else in the world.”

Indeed, 8 million people move into the cities of the world every 2 months!

In NYC, there are 20 million people in the Metro area. My own small corner of Queens has nearly 85,000 within 3.5 square miles. That’s ridiculous amounts of “Image of God” in such a small area. With evangelical Christians numbering around 2% it’s obvious that the vast majority of NYC ears need to hear the message of the gospel!

Thoughts? How important are the cities (and specifically the great cities) of the world in reaching every tribe, language, and nation with the gospel?

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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