Why is it important to establish the biblical basis for urban mission and ministry?
What is in the heart of God for today’s cities of the world? How should we – as sons, stewards and servants of God in urban environments – view the cities and their inhabitants from the perspective of the Creator God Almighty? What does the Scripture say about urban mission and ministry? Why is it important, then, to establish the biblical basis for urban mission and ministry?
The Lord of all creation made the first dwelling place of beauty and wonder for the earth’s first inhabitants – the exquisite Garden of Eden.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve exceedingly enjoyed God and related with Him and with each other perfectly and without sin. Mandated to be fruitful, they would bear holy sons and daughters and would have multiplied people in the likeness of God in person and in character. Their pure, innocent and unpolluted sons and daughters would fill the earth, work it, take care of it and grow it into a grand and holy dwelling that God has meant it to be. Without the Fall of Adam, these image bearers would have excellently worked the Garden well and taken great care of it in ways that would foster unprecedented growth, promote unimaginable greatness to all of mankind and to all of God’s creation and advance the magnificent glory and honor and ceaseless praise to the Majesty of God. As sinless people in God’s likeness, their God-image bearer qualities and capacities would produce awesome arts and inventions, create aesthetic concepts and creative crafts and construct things of usefulness and beauty. They would develop and turn the beautiful Garden of Eden into an awesome city – a city of God. They would multiply their creative genius and build one beautiful city after another – filling the earth with temple cities whose inhabitants reflect the glory and majesty and wisdom of their Creator.
Craftsmanship, technology, arts and all potentials of human genius without the devastating effects of sin would be awesome creations of the image bearers of God – interacting, complementing, and producing everything good in the city. Cities become centers of human complementation [sic] of human creativity and productivity with the resources brought by the earth. These cities would have been cultural centers and temple cities as they all reflect the glory of God. All the production and human welfare are to the glory of God (Greenway, Audio-Lecture 2: A Biblical Basis for Urban Mission and Ministry).
But this has not been so. Sin damaged everyone and everything (Romans 3:23 and 6:23). All of man’s cultural and creative outputs and all of his artistic expressions and human genius have all been corrupted and tainted. Nothing and not one is pure and righteous. This is why God became man and dwelt among us. Mankind and all of his human expressions and creations and all of God’s creation need to be redeemed. The Almighty God, in Christ, had to buy everyone and everything back. The cities where we live and move and have our beings are now temporal. They will soon be burned in judgment.
Yet, in Christ, there’s a city that is to come. But while we are here on this fallen earth, we hold on to this sure hope. We live and work in this decaying world as those commanded to love the Triune God with all our all and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We serve and interact and involve with everyone and everything in the rural and urban settings we are in as those commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:16) and to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The cities of today and all of their inhabitants need the Gospel of Christ. Only those who believe in Christ can enter and live in the holy city that is to come. The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven is the holy city of God where all of the redeemed ones dwell. In this holy city where God will dwell with His people, there will be no sin and death and pain. Only beauty and purity and honor and glory abound there and the redeemed ones will live with the Triune God forever.
Why is it important, then, to hold this biblical perspective in mind as we engage in urban mission and ministry? Without this biblical basis, the energy and the power behind all our efforts to reach people of all kinds will be limited and inadequate. The end results we want to see in our outreach to the cities’ inhabitants would only be temporal and without eternal significance. With a solid biblical foundation in urban mission and ministry rooted in our hearts, we become more realistic in dealing with the human problems that people face. It is because we have the bigger picture that God wants us to hold firmly and clearly in our thoughts, we can and we have the spiritual resources to help solve the human problem of sin and its ill-effects in human beings, environments, infrastructures and systems. The Gospel of Christ proclaimed in words and deeds will have great power in its effects. With our dual citizenship – of earthly and heavenly countries – clear in our hearts and our allegiance to the King of kings of all heaven and earth secure, we can victoriously engage in the spiritual battle that rages in the cities and in all of the earth’s inhabitants. Indeed, a clear Scriptural basis for what God wants us to be and for what the Lord desires for us to do in all of the nations is not only important. It is extremely essential to our existence and to our engagement – to survive and to thrive – like the oxygen that we breathe each moment to be alive. It is with a clear understanding of what God has in mind and in heart for the people of the world can we truly be fruitful and effective in laboring hard in this vast harvest field. In the authority of Christ and His Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will preach the Gospel by our lives and by our lips for the nations to come in repentance for the forgiveness of sins unto the glory and praise to our Father who is in heaven.