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Cape Town 2010 Advance Paper

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What Is God’s Global Urban Mission?

Author: Tim Keller
Date: 18.05.2010
Category: Cities

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Originally Posted in English

Editors’ Note: This is an advance paper for Cape Town 2010, written as an early draft of 
the content to be discussed at the evening plenary session on “Megacities,” and the afternoon multiplex session on “Embracing God’s Global Urban Mission.” Responses to this paper will be fed back to the author and other planners of
 these sessions to help shape the final presentations at the Congress.

What is a city?

Today, a city is defined almost exclusively in terms of population size. Larger population centers are called “cities,” smaller ones “towns,” and the smallest are “villages.” We must not impose our current usage on the biblical term, however. The main Hebrew word for city, ‘iyr, means any human settlement surrounded by some fortification or wall. Most ancient cities numbered only about 1,000–3,000 in population. “City” in the Bible meant not so much population size as density. Psalm 122:3 refers to this density: “Jerusalem, built as a city should be, closely compact."1. The word translated “compact” meant to be closely intertwined and joined. In a fortified city, the people lived close to one another in tightly compacted houses and streets. In fact, most ancient cities were estimated to be five to ten acres, with 240 residents per acre. By comparison, contemporary Manhattan in New York City houses only 105 residents per acre. 2.

In ancient times, then, a city was what would today be called a “mixed use” walkable human settlement. Because of the population’s density, there were places to live and work, to buy and sell, to pursue and enjoy art, to worship and to seek justice—all within an easy walk. In ancient times, rural areas and villages could not provide all these elements, and in our modern time, the “suburb” deliberately avoids this settlement pattern. Suburbs are definitively dedicated to single-use zones—so places to live, work, play, and learn are separated from one another and are reachable only by car, usually through pedestrian-hostile zones. 

What makes a city a city is proximity. It brings people—and therefore residences, workplaces, and cultural institutions—together. It creates street life and marketplaces, bringing about more person-to-person interactions and exchanges in a day than are possible anywhere else. This is what the Biblical writers meant when they talked about a “city.” 

Urban Mission in the Bible


Earlier in the Old Testament, the redemptive importance of the city lay in Jerusalem itself being a model urban society—“the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:2)—demonstrating to the world what human life under his lordship could be. Many have spoken of the “centripetal” flow of mission during this era. God called the nations to believe in him by drawing them in to see his glory embodied in Israel, the holy nation he had created, whose corporate life showed the world the character of God (Deut 4:5-8). However, the book of Jonah stunningly foreshadows a major change, the “centrifugal” New Testament mission of sending believers out into the world. Jonah is the only Old Testament prophet sent to a pagan city to call it to repentance. God’s final statement is striking: the Lord calls Jonah to love the great pagan city of Nineveh because of the vast number of its spiritually blind inhabitants (Jonah 4:10–11).

Keywords: urban mission, city, proximity, Bible, Jerusalem, Babylon, countercultural, hostility, attraction, resident aliens, tension, need, strategic, openness, culture, poverty, diversity, globalism, networks, movement, contextual, holistic, complexity

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down KayHB (2)
United States

You have a good thought when you say those in cities might be open to new thoughts.  I think you are correct because perhaps those in large population areas are exposed (bombarded?) with messages constantly.  They, and I’m including myself, would definitely be open to a message that offers the peace and tranquility Christianity offers.  The urban mission definitely has the chance to provide an oasis and a different way of thinking.  Also, there are so many types of people in an urban area.  Exchanging thoughts on any topic, particularly faith, becomes an excited conversation.  An evening spent like that is an education in itself.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Buechsel (0)

Reflections on God’s Global Urban Mission

Tim Keller in an advance paper prepared for Cape Town 2010 addresses the question  “What is God’s Global Urban Mission?” In this paper he moves from defining biblically what a city is, then addresses the urban mission movement that can be seen in the Bible and finally addresses what urban mission is today. In what follows I will summarize the key points of each section.

Biblical Definition of a City

In this first section, Keller defines what a city is by stating: “What makes a city is proximity. It brings people and therefore residences, workplaces, and cultural institutions together. It creates street life and marketplaces, bringing about more person-to-person interactions and exchanges in a day than are possible anywhere else.” He derives this biblical definition from the Hebrew word iyr.

Urban Mission in the Bible

In this section Keller discusses the centrality of Jerusalem from which there is a movement outward. Further he highlights the sending of Jonah out into the world to call a pagan city to repentance. Another stage of this outward movement is reached when Israel is in the Babylonian exile. The question is raised – What is the relationship of believers to such a pagan place? Keller finds this question answered in Jeremiah 29, which “holds out a remarkable outline for a believer’s stance toward the city.” Keller outlines in more detail what this stance towards the city looks like.

Keller then raises the question: “Is there any reason to believe that the model for Israel in Babylon should serve as the model for the church?” Keller answers emphatically –YES! He argues, “In exile, Israel no longer existed in the form of a nation-state …. Instead it existed as an international community and counterculture within other nations. This is also now the form of the church, as Peter and James acknowledge when addressing believers as “the dispersion” (James 1:1) and “exiles” (1 Peter 1:1). [….] Peter calls Christians to live in the midst of pagan society in such a way that others see their “good deeds and glorify God” but warns them to expect persecution, nonetheless (1 Peter 2:11-12). [….] Like the Jewish exiles, Christians exiles are to engage in their cities, serving the common good rather than conquering or ignoring them.” Thus the model of Israel in Babylon should serve as the model for the church.

Urban Mission Today

Keller moves in his paper into a reflection on why the cities are so important to the Christian mission. He argues that the context of the city makes it so important for mission. H states: “World cities (10 million plus) are becoming more and more economically and culturally powerful. Cities are the seats of multinational corporations and international economic, social, and technological networks. The technology/communication revolution means that the culture and values of global cities are now being transmitted around the globe to every tongue, tribe, people and nation.” Another reason for the cities significance for Christian mission has to do with the context of cities. Keller writes, “The millions of newcomers in burgeoning cities have characteristics that make them far more open to the Christian faith than they were before arriving. First, they are more open to new ideas, and to change in general, after being uprooted from traditional settings. Second, they greatly need help and support to face the moral, economic, emotional, and spiritual pressures of city life.” Thus cities provide a frugal place for mission efforts.

Keller highlights four characteristics of a church that is contextual and indigenous to a city:

1.)  People in urban ministry are aware of the sharp cultural differences between different racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes.

2.)  People in urban ministry help people in understanding how they can maintain their Christian practice outside the walls of the church while still participating in the world of the arts and theatre, business and finances, scholarship and learning, and government and public policy.

3.)  People in urban ministry need to be able to embrace the city which is full with ironic, edgy, diversity-loving people who have a much higher tolerance for ambiguity and disorder then people from rural settings.

4.)  People in urban ministry need to know how to exegete their neighborhoods and look for ways to strengthen the health of their neighborhoods.

Finally Keller describes what God’s global urban mission could look like. Keller believes, that “to change a city with the gospel takes a self-sustaining, naturally growing movement of ministries and networks around a core of new church multiplication.” This is what I believe Redeemer in New York does. He raises the question – What does that look like? His answer to this question is worth reading in its entirety – however here are some highlights. Christians live in the city with a posture of service. They integrate their faith and work. “People use their power, wealth, and influence for the good of others on the margins of society, to advance ministry and to plant new churches.” For Keller, “new churches form the heart of these gospel ecosystems. They provide spiritual oxygen to the communities and networks of Christians who do the heavy lifting over decades, to renew and redeem cities. They are the primary venue for discipleship and the multiplication of believers, as well as the financial engine for all the ministry initiatives.” Keller identifies the gospel movement tipping point as “a church planting project becomes a movement when the ecosystem elements are all in place and most of the churches have the vitality, leaders and mindset to plant another church within five to six years of their own beginnings. Further, there is a city tipping point “that is the moment when the number of gospel-shaped Christians in a city becomes so large that Christians influence on the civic and social life of the city and on the very culture is recognizable and acknowledged.” All these tipping points are reached by God grace.


First, I really appreciated how Tim Keller shows us that the model for Israel in Babylon should also serve as the model for the church. I have never seen anyone make the connection so clear. The paper was worth reading for just this one point.

Second, I wonder if all cities that have over 10 million people are equally significant in terms of culture shaping. I know that this is not the focus of the paper, but I wonder what makes some large cities big players and other large cities insignificant? Are there smaller cities that have a similar impact as big cities? These questions seem worth reflecting on.



Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Miguel (0)

Reaching the cities are crucial, but one must also go where directed by the Spirit of the Lord.  In our context, in the Cloud Forest region of Ecuador, it is the sub-urban which impacts the urban more than the other way around.  People pass through this region an stop often for rest and tourism.  The Gospel bleeds back into the cities via our remote region.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down R_York_Moore (0)  
United States

Thanks so much Tim!  I particularly loved this statement, "The ecosystem also fosters networks and systems of evangelism that reach specific populations. In addition to campus ministries, which are especially important as a new leader development engine, other very effective, specialized evangelistic agencies are usually necessary to reach the elites, reach the poor, and reach Muslim, Hindu, and other particular cultural/religious groupings."

Seeing the city and larger culture as an ecosystem(s) is right on and helps us to see the great need for contextualized ministry from diverse expressions of the body of Christ. 

R. York Moore, National Evangelist, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Rachael_Hosier (0)
United Kingdom

Thank you for your insights into a biblical model of urban mission.

I live in a town outside London from where many people commute to work. Our church has many members who work in ’the city’. These people are, in the main, professionals and are often in senior positions. There are particular issues faced by those who spend so much of their work and social time in a completely different location and culture from where they live. They can feel disconnected from the ministry of our church as they struggle to have time to serve in the church and yet are not being equipped for mission in the city. I wonder how such Christians could fit into the kind of urban mission you describe?

Reply Flag 1 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Chris_C_Sing (3)  

Thanks Tim, - great material for thought.

The biblical movement is Garden to City - whilst the City is often portrayed, rightly, as evil, there is a fundamental movement to the city of God and to the cities of men.

Fascinating insight on city size vs density.  Nineveh might only have been 250m radius!  So 3 days walk wasn’t to cross the city - but maybe to walk all its streets.  But density is really important to the spread of ideas and contagions.

I note you refer to Jonah but don’t include an analysis of Jonah’s methods. Again, I suspect Jonah would be the ’how-not-to’ prophet. He could easily have gone directly to the king - (presumably the ’opinion-leader’ in modern marketing analysis). Instead I imagine he was doing an Archimedean spiral around the outskirts of the city. Doesn’t appear that he engaged in holistic ministry, he wasn’t ’seeking the good of the city’ either!  How did it work so spectacularly? More testament to God’s workings than an endorsement of Jonah’s method I suspect.

I’m reading a lot about ’tipping points’ and ’critical mass’ at the moment but a lot of this popular writing doesn’t attempt to tie back to coherent analogies. I think a quick example would help a lot of readers. (- if you can find one).

Regarding Tipping Points mentioned - I’m not clear on the differences - what is the difference between the gospel movement TP and the city TP?

I look forward to hearing/reading the final paper.


Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Lee_MJ (1)
United Arab Emirates

I was intrigued by the centripetal/centrifugal analogy in the ministry of God’s people. The city on a hill perspective attracts minorities into our believing majority whereas in diaspora ministry God sends out His people as minorities among unbelieving majorities.
I appreciated your insight regarding the lack of awareness, even blindness, of those coming out from a more homogeneous context (p.4). Without exposure to other kinds of thinking and living, we can only be blind to the benefits of others’ peculiar twists in perspective and practice. As believers, we have been commissioned to persuade people regarding the Truth, but evangelical pride that we have The Answer can easily mix in our own non-essential cultural distinctives with the biblical truths that God does want us to proclaim and teach. We do have The Answer, we just need to be careful how many non-essential and unnecessarily offensive practices get mixed into our expectations for the proper Christian life.
The church has done well to increase our awareness of cultural biases in obviously cross-cultural situations. Your paper highlights that the rural/suburban to urban leap is also wrought with cultural pride and the potential for stiff-necked stubbornness on certain non-essentials. You skillfully highlighted foundational differences between the rural/suburban and the urban mindsets. The middle-class suburban church truly is more comfortable with maintaining privacy, safety, homogeneity, control, etc. It can be painfully cross-cultural to welcome chaotic diversity into our church community.
Your conclusion is powerfully inspiring to ‘be’ the church in the city. Our ‘experience of grace inevitably leads to a life poured out in deeds of service to the needy’. (p.5 ¶2)

Reply Flag 1 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down David_Benson (2)  

Fantastic contribution to Lausanne Tim--thankyou.  Your ministry and teaching through Redeemer has mentored so many.  In my context--Brisbane, Australia--it would be awesome to see a city-wide tipping point reached.  We have a couple of city wide-initiatives, and some ecumenical prayer among leaders, but it’s hard to sustain with so many churches busy with their particular programs.  

So, a few thoughts:

a) I like the approach you suggest from Jeremiah, of a counterculture within the city.  Interestingly, Niebuhr’s models of Christ and culture do allow for such an approach, but it’s in his worst expounded chapter, being Christ and culture in paradox.  A far better unpacking of this paradox that I’ve found very helpful is John G. Stakchouse’s Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World.  There are a lot of tie ins with what you’re saying, of seeking the transformation of a city, while realizing we’re not called to take it over and there will always be tension ... so let’s work toward the shalom of the city and garden faithfully in a mixed field.

b) You suggest we work towards an "ecosystem ... marked by agencies and initiatives produced by Christians to serve the peace of the city, and especially the poor."  I love the idea, but presently in my church we have two major barriers despite preaching into a missional vision of engaging culture ...

#1: The bigger our church gets, the more elaborate are our programs, and the busier are our parishioners.  We crunched 36 pages of data recently for every volunteer connected with our church, and found that on average they were spending 6 hours within church programs either being fed or discipling other believers to every 1 hour reaching out.  Facing the facts, we were ashamed of our poor kingdom stewardship ... if we could start with 300+ volunteer hours per week to work with, I’m sure we wouldn’t invest it like this.  We’re facing the challenge of how to downsize our program to intentionally free up and propel our people into city-wide mission.  Imagine if for every hour inside church culture, we spent one hour working for the shalom of our city?  What an impact this would have!  We almost need a planned diaspora to evacuate the Christian bubble.

#2: We are running short on expertise to set up well run holistic programs that actually do make a difference beyond token expressions of care. If I’m getting on a plane, I’d always prefer a non-Christian trained pilot over an inexperienced but well-intentioned Christian.  A lot of damage can be done by poorly grounded compassion efforts on a city-wide level.  Now, we want to work towards a couple of ecumenical projects that are well thought out, and really make a difference.  But for our church right now, we’re trying to build meaningful links with the community.  Do the programs bringing shalom have to be Christian initiatives?  Following Luke 10, we’re trying to find the person (or organizations) of peace, and form genuine partnerships.  As our people are given a solid vision of who we are and what our mission is + how to share the gospel, we’re finding that volunteers can be salt and light very effectively within already established organizations led by professionals.

Granted, some partnerships are "unequally yoked" and may hamstring the gospel.  But in general, especially for volunteers, the natural links made with drug rehab centres, tutoring for refugee students, and centres for those differently-abled, have been really fruitful.

Thanks so much for your thoughts ... here’s praying we see even some of what God’s doing in New York make its way to our shores :)

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down MisionGloCal1Scott (12)   

Muchas gracias por esta prsentación

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down dianamarcela (0)  
@ MisionGloCal1Scott:

Por fín alguien en español, yo lo entiendo para leer pero no para escribir.  Este es un documento muy desafiante, yo sólo agregaría dos puntos más a tener en cuenta.

1. Si bien las personas de las ciudades son más abiertas a los cambios no siempre lo son al Evangelio, por cuanto las grandes ciudades tienen una gran oferta en términos de diversión, fiestas, licores, sexo, etc, que a veces entra en contradicción directa con el evangelio y que hace que no siempre sea tan fácil la aceptación del mismo.  De igual forma la iglesia tiene que competir con toda esta oferta que tienen las ciudades en cuanto a diversión, por lo que muchas iglesias se ven desafiadas a innovar en estrategias evangelísticas como el teatro, los conciertos, entre otras para convocar a la gente y poder competir con espacios seculares de distracción y entretenimiento como cines, teatros, discotecas, centros comerciales, teatros, Parques, conciertos, etc.

En segundolugar, las ciudades constituyen un gran desafío a la iglesia  por las múltipes situaciones de inequidad social que se presentan en ellas, sobre todo en las ciudades latinoamericanas, como concentración de la riqueza, injusticia social, pobreza en sectores periféficos, entre otros, lo que representan un desafío a la misión integral de la iglesia en las ciudades.

Muchas gracias por todos los aportes, este es un tema muy desafiante. 

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Lex_L (6)  
South Africa

A tremendous call to courage and engagement in our cities.

’Because the Christian faith captured the eventually captured the society.’

While not ignoring the reality of successes in smaller towns, Keller reminds us to turn back towards our major city centres, to serve and witness there and plant hundreds of new churches.

If you’re disappointed by the cultural non-involvement of suburban Christian culture then this paper will inspire you to reconsider ’evangelism’ in the light of becoming active in the multi-faceted culture of city life.

I’m looking forward to hearing Keller at the Congress.

For an example of a local church seeking to engage with the city of Cape Town in ways outlined in this paper check out Jubilee Community Church

Lex Loizides

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Kiss_Endre_Samson (0)  

This is a great vision for global cities (and any cities, really).

I think the most challenging thing in all of this is to convince believers to stay in the city, and to convince church leaders to see the importance of starting new churches in cities.

I think the urban culture (at least in my context) is more ready to accept such churches and movement than we realize.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down David_Allen_Bledsoe (3)  

I look forward to hearing this paper delivered in person. It is definitely a worth-while address to an ever-growing reality for the global church.

While the paper deals with the strategicness and need for urban mission, maybe a couple of paragraphs of the challenge and complexity of the task and context would be helpful. As far as my denominational tradition, for example, we have avoided or ignored the cities because of its complexity of ministry and because we were once a rural people that are now suburbian. Thus, we have to tool missionaries to hang in there and interpret the cities as they are totally unfamiliar with them and their realities.

Your vision for church (planting) multiplication and for the right ecosytem, well, it is insightful and written in a creative fashion. If I may say, it is classic and visionary Keller.  I hope the rest will find it as edifying as I do and something to rally around for thousands of more Gospel-centered and contextually fitted churches in urban contexts. 

Reply Flag 1 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Swells_in_the_Middle (15)  

I recently spent an afternoon discussing this paper with a group of mainland Chinese pastors Bible school teachers.  I summarised their comments as an "Experience" on the Lausanne site here

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down gms2010 (0)
@ Swells_in_the_Middle:

Thank you for uploading this valuable document from leaders in your country. Their points are very valid and worthwhile.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Denise_Austin (0)  

Thank you so much Tim for your insights on urban ministry.  Whilst cities can be defined by proximity, you also make the excellent point that cities are not singular entities but a multiplicity of varying cultural, ethnic, linguistic, religious and socio-economic groups.  To add to this diversity even more, we need to take into account contemporary, trans-urban realities, where people communicate, commute, congregate and cohabitate in multiple city centres.  “Home” and “work” can be in several cities at once.  For example, my own church, Hillsong, has campuses in Sydney, Brisbane, London, Paris, Cape Town and New York.  They link for services via satellite communication, hold to a global vision and share resources.  I wonder how this new reality of globalisation affects centripetal and centrifugal movement?

On a recent trip to Israel, I was struck by the fact that, during ancient days, each time a person ventured outside the city walls they were literally taking their life into their hands.  Being outside the city meant constant exposure to bandits, enemies, wild animals, elements, accidents, dehydration, etc.  Today, constant movement between urban centres has become a way of life.  The walls of defence and isolation have begun to crumble.  Could this mean that there is the potential to see a mass movement of cities “turned upside-down” (Acts 17)?  Perhaps if we tip the balance more on the side of expectation than of patience, we will see such transformations.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Glenn_Barth (0)
United States

In this paper, Dr. Keller has expressed a well-defined urban missional viewpoint that has the potential to reach and transform people and institutions in cities and, in-turn, the culture of which they are a part. In some cases, cities with diverse multinational populations and significant media access, will export these changes cross-culturally around the world. The last two pages represent a hopeful and positive outlook that we are already beginning to see happen in which a “gospel movement tipping point” and a “city tipping point” are reached.

This having been said, there are several issues worthy of further consideration in this presentation. First, it is a leap to define a city the way the ancients may have as “...a ‘mixed use’ walkable human settlement.” In biblical times, cities had to be walkable because one’s feet were the main form of transportation. To use this as a point of contrast for today’s urban and suburban areas fails to recognize the systemic and complex interdependency of metropolitan areas. It underestimates the healthy and diverse interactions that take place in the suburbs as well as in the urban areas. Much has changed since biblical times in transportation, communications, government, economics, and housing. A city is a geographic center of population characterized by residence, commerce, politics, and culture. Today’s understanding of city includes urban and suburban.

Second, I agree that Paul was strategic in his approach to mission. Paul’s calling described in Acts 9 was to take the gospel “ the Gentiles and their kings.” Paul takes the gospel to the cities because that is where the kings of the Gentiles live and exercise authority. He often gets to their courts in surprisingly unexpected ways. 

Paul understood his arrests, the riots, the stonings, imprisonments, and the beatings to be a part of his call. Far from networking his way into a place of cultural influence, it was through suffering and weakness that Paul found he was ushered into the presence of kings and magistrates. These circumstances may not have been the way Paul initially envisioned his taking the gospel to the kings of the Gentiles, but he came to accept and rejoice in suffering hardship as central to God’s plan and a way in which his life became more Christlike. 

Third, while church planting is vitally important, there needs to be greater recognition that the kind of mentoring and leadership in all vocational realms are activities that take place beyond the walls or control of any single congregation. This is touched on in  point 3 under the idea that “It takes a movement to reach a city.” The distinctions in this case between local congregational discipleship and the more organic features of a movement could be more carefully defined.

Throughout, the presentation could use stories and illustrations. I’m sure that these are in the works as Dr. Keller prepares for this important presentation.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Douglas_Lamp (0)
United States

Responding to Tim Keller’s Advance paper for CapeTown2010.

I am always on the lookout for ethnic peoples in urban areas, as it can often lead to a conversation about Christ. On a recent vacation to New York City I was not disappointed. Twice I ran into young men from the Ukraine who rent bicycles in Central Park. The security guard on Times Square was from Mongolia, the hotel clerk from India and several young men selling fabric on the street were from Jamaica. Presently I am living near Milwaukee, WI, but have lived for years in São Paulo, Brazil. In each of these cities, the same kind of ethnic variety can be found. It is evident that the residents of many nations are coming to the cities to work and to live, and not just in the United States.  The effect of globalization on ethnic groups and different economic classes is of critical importance for issues of urban mission. The presence of  “people groups” and the wide range of economic classes in the mega-cities represent some of the greatest challenges for world evangelization in the mega-cities.  

In reading Keller’s paper I have the sense that he may be writing from a perspective that  sees “most evangelical churches are middle-class in their corporate culture”, and again, presumably from his personal experience where “urban churches look for ways to strengthen the health of their neighborhoods” and how “evangelism leads to radical sharing of wealth and helping the needy”.  I would agree that these latter two descriptive are biblical but like the first item, they might not be normative. Here I am thinking of urban churches in Brazil. The challenge is how to go from an accurate biblical exegesis of “cities”, “urban mission” and “New Testament churches” to an application to the rough and tumble, often brutal and economically challenging realities, especially of modern, non-western cities?  

I would like to hear more story-telling of what Keller is attempting to describe, especially when talking about “tipping points” of cities and church planting. Furthermore, the future of ethnic churches in the cities is being seriously questioned as a strategy by some missiologists.  I also would like to hear more of what Keller has to say about “people group thinking”and the poor in urban mission. Urban missions in the 21st century must continually come face to face with the reality of urban poverty and the lack of real options and choices for urban dwellers. I hope that we can hear more stories of how “contextual urban churches” are facing these real challenges for the cause of world evangelization.

Douglas Lamp  (

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Melluna (2)    

As an urban planner, your discussion on the theology of the cities provides me with a more wholistic perspective. I will be moderating the multiplex session on embracing the global mission in the afternoon and I want to connect with you directly for some update and arrangemnets on our session. Can you reply to me with your email address. Thanks. Emmanuel M. Luna

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Andrew_Southerton (0)

Thanks for the helpful article. I do have a question.

I am not sure that it is right to say that Paul’s missionary strategy was to go to the city because that would be more strategic. It seems from Acts and the Pauline Epistles that Paul’s strategy was ’first to the Jew and then to the gentile.’ In this case, Paul was going from synagogue to synagogue as can be seen in the book of Acts. Particularly Acts 14:1 and 17:2 reveal that going the synagogue was their custom, or usual way of doing evangelism.

It could be seen Acts 17:1 that Paul did not stop in Amphipolis and Apollonia and simply continued on to Thessalonica because it had a synagogue. Given you needed a certain number of Jews to form a synagogue, it just happens that this is most likely to occur in a large town or city. Another example of Paul’s ’first to the Jew’ strategy can be seen in Act 16:13 where he goes to the river where the Jews would meet and pray when there was no synagogue.

Now I am not advocating this as our strategy, simply saying that it is too simplistic to read a city priority out of Paul’s strategy. I think the question about Jesus’ mission was spot on although I am anxious to draw and strong precedence for the unique, once-off nature of Jesus mission.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Warrick_Farah (0)  
United States

What would this look like in a city that is 99% Muslim?  Keller mentions that even with pre-existing churches this would take place “over decades.”  What if there are no churches to begin with and believers only exist in handfuls?  I appeciate the emphasis he places on church planting as the spiritual oxygen to make this vision happen.  We do need have the long-view in mind.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Sam_Hershey (1)  
United States
@ Warrick_Farah:

Warrick, excellent question, I’d suggest in the spirit that Tim has presented that is through regular believers living and discipling among the lost and not sequested in church-only events. See the attached paper, by Bill Mowry for how the early church grew rapidly though of small number at first. The article was too large to post here, please download (doc name is Early Church at:

Downloadable Attachments

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Sam_Hershey (1)  
United States

I was just sent this website article by an expert on cities ...
Why the 21st century will be dominated by the city -
I wanted to pass this along to you, think you will find it all the more interesting in light of the mission we have before us.

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