Why are we planting a church in a city?

If you just read the last couple of posts it would seem that I’d be against the idea of church planting in a city or that a church in a city will have little or no influence. Don’t be too hasty in your conclusions now.

First of all, I do think cities matter and I do think they’re strategic and they can influence culture at all sorts of level. I’ve previously written here that,

“It’s hard to argue with the strategic importance of cities so I’m not really going to try. Cities are the economic powerhouses, the places where arts, commerce, law etc are all at their most innovative and generally they’re the hub that connect the regional spokes. They also have the greatest concentration of people. You can’t ignore the cities.”

For all those reasons the church should be fully engaged in city mission. Cities often have the greatest concentrations of wealth and deprivation, power and powerlessness, homogeneous elites and multi-cultural under classes. The church should be and is there.

As a family we’ve been called, for the first time, to embrace a city- and a capital city at that. Stockholm will be, for both my wife and I, the first city we’ll have ever lived in for any prolonged period. Stockholm is the biggest and most influential city, not just in Sweden but in Scandinavia, all the things that are true about cities are mostly true about Stockholm.

I’m not sure I need to bless those reasons with a deeper more ‘biblical’ one, I think if we’re honest the Bible offers a mixed account of cities. There is the good city (Zion) and the evil city (Babylon, Rome, New York take your pick). Cities are centre stage (Jerusalem) and are often ignored (Bethlehem & Nazareth). Does it matter, really, that the biblical story starts in a garden and finishes in a city? I’ve never yet heard a decent answer to the question, ‘so what?’

If God chooses foolish irrelevant people to shame powerful wise people (1 Cor 1:27) and chooses Bethlehem over Jerusalem then it’s not exactly out of character for God to start revivals in places other than cities (Hebrides, Wales for example) or for God to build monumental movements in cities that bless the nations.

Now, every now and then there may be a need for a pendulum swing towards cities or back to rural areas each situation calling for men and women of faith and courage. But it’s arguably a tougher call to respond to the anonymity and isolation of remote village ministry than it is to move into the densely packed cities.

Whatever influence we and the church we’ll be involved in has, will only come, as it always has done, from the power of changed lives – from people who seek first the kingdom of God and love that God heart, mind, soul and strength.

2 thoughts on “Why are we planting a church in a city?”

  1. Mark Heath says:

    Enjoying this series of reflections on cities and will be praying for you as you plant in Stockholm.

    On the “garden to city” idea, isn’t the city of Revelation a garden city anyway? Maybe we should all move to Letchworth.

    1. Phil Whittall says:

      Thanks Mark and moving to Letchworth made me laugh out loud!

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