Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Garden & City

The tribe I have been part of for 30years or so, the EMCC [Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada] has much of its roots in rural communities. And yet, in the late 1800's and early 1900's they sent out City Mission Workers [women pastors long before we even began to discuss the possibility of ordaining woman pastors] to plant churches in the city.

I think that both within the EMCC and in a lot of other groups we struggle with this.

We haven't quite figured out how to see the city through God's eyes. Even though we may be in the city, our ministry mindset is still being shaped by rural worldviews. Not that that is all bad. There are aspects of rural community that are valuable for understanding who we are as the people of God. However, if we are going to be effective in ministry in and to the city, we have to think like the city. Use whatever terminology you want - postmodern, emerging, missional [I am well aware of the differences in these terms] - but key is understanding that as we speak hope into the city we to be as cross-cultural as going to the heart of Africa.

There are 2 images that define the beginning and ending of the biblical story: the garden (Eden) and the city (the new Jerusalem) - images of God's intention for his creation.

In the OT, Isaiah 58 speaks of the place of doing justice in the city as a replacement for "spiritual" rituals and the significance of building a reputation as restorers and rebuilders. Jeremiah 29:1-14 speaks of investing and engaging with the city - as the city goes, so go the people of God in the city: "seek the shalom (peace and prosperity) of the city". We need to see the city through God's eyes - as a place crying out for restoration and healing.

Check out Tim Keller for a great introduction to ministry in the city.

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