First it was Carl Trueman and now Andrew Wilson is following my lead about the not-quite-so-important-importance-of-cities. Andrew lists 13 reasons put forward for the strategic importance of planting churches in major cities and then proceeds debunk almost all of them. Here they are and places where I’ve said the same thing (albeit not quite as sharply or wittily!)
- The people live there.
- They are under-represented by Christianity. (I wrote here “…maintains that cities are underserved by the church and I’m not sure there’s evidence to back that claim up in the UK. While they may not be ‘served’ enough they are unquestionably better served than towns, suburbs and villages in the UK where in many places the church has all but disappeared. Take my suburb for example 20,000 people and 200-250 believers.”)
- Culture flows downstream, from cities to surrounding areas. Andrew challenges the notions of all areas in a city beng equal when it comes to creating culture. In this post, Creating Culture, I question the priority of that as a biblical goal.
- Cities are vitally important in the biblical story. Not as important as you might think and the record is a bit mixed, as I wrote here, “God does seem to spend a lot of his time judging cities such as Babel (Gen 11:8), Jerusalem (Is 1:21 e.g.).”
- Paul targeted strategic cities in his mission. Here I quote Morna Hooker who says, “Look at a map, and you will see the immense distances travelled by Paul – and though he walked along the roads built by the Romans, which made travel much easier that it had once been, he could not travel from Philippi to Corinth, in a day. He would have found it necessary to stop in smaller towns and villages along the way – and I cannot imagine Paul staying the night anywhere without sharing the good news with everyone he met.”
- Jesus focused on the city of Jerusalem. I put this question (not very articulately I must add) to Tim Keller when he spoke to Newfrontiers leaders about cities, I asked, ‘how does what you say fit given the fact that Jesus ignored the city except to go and die in one?’ Slightly more politely I wrote, “Jesus’ mission and strategy virtually ignored cities for the whole of his three years of public ministry.”
- Influencers live there. Well, they also live in other places too.
- If you want to influence a nation, you need to be in a city. Well, that’s not the only way to go…”to culturally win a region you first needed to win the city. Militarily of course the opposite is also true. Capture the countryside and the cities will starve. Biblically, cities are important but then so are places like Nazareth.”
- Cities make it easier to build big churches, and building big churches is important. OK, I haven’t said anything about this but I did lampoon it a bit here.
- Jeremiah called upon Judah not to live in the suburbs but move into the city. Nope, didn’t spot this one either.
- Cities are the most multicultural parts of the UK. Or this one.
- The greatest deprivation exists there. Or indeed this one.
- Cities are cool, and you know it. Yeah, that’s true. I used to live in Shrewsbury and I’m about to live in Stockholm. When it comes to cool the city wins by a country (should that be city!) mile.
The irony in all this is that when I attacked all this harping on about cities I was living in a suburb of a medium sized town. Now I’m about to move to a city and a capital one at that. I will probably use all those points at some point or other because when it comes to church planting, leaders are often sales people because we want to persuade people to come to our city and impressing them with the importance of the city is a tried and tested way of doing that.
I’m going to be in Stockholm because that’s where God has called me, but I hope that through the generosity of this church, churches will be planted in the towns and villages all over Sweden and Scandinavia.