Looking To A City: Current Themes In Urban Missions -- By: Jeff K. Walters

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 015:2 (Summer 2011)
Article: Looking To A City: Current Themes In Urban Missions
Author: Jeff K. Walters

Looking To A City: Current Themes In Urban Missions

Jeff K. Walters

Jeff K. Walters is a Ph.D. candidate in Christian Missions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as the Associate Director for both the Professional Doctoral Studies office as well as the Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry Training.

In addition, Walters has served as a church planting strategist with the International Mission Board in Western Europe.

Sometime in 2008, our world quietly crossed a historic milestone—it became urban. A 2009 report by the United Nations confirmed that, for the first time in history, more people now live in cities than in rural areas.1 The report predicts that the global urban population will double to 6.4 billion by 2050. Africa and Asia have the fastest growing urban populations; both are expected to triple over the next forty years.2 Today, over 400 cities have a population exceeding 1 million persons. Twenty-one cities worldwide have a population of over ten million.3 The majority of those cities are found in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Even though Christianity has often been an urban movement,4 rapid urbanization has presented special challenges for modern evangelicals. A prevalent anti-urban mentality, the predominance of rural churches, and modern social issues such as poverty, globalization, and homelessness have slowed the evangelical response to the growth of cities.5 Missionaries and urban pastors have increasingly asked how to touch urban centers with the gospel.

The Rising Tide Of Urban Missions

As missiologists and urban ministry practitioners consider how best to engage cities, a handful of trends and conversations seem to rise again and again. The most foundational trend in urban missions is the fact of rapid global urbanization itself, along with the growing tide of interest in reaching cities with the gospel. Rising from such growth are concomitant discussions related to urban church planting and the nature of global migrations. While missionaries could create a long list of trends in urban missiology this article will focus on these two issues and their related effects and conversations.

Interest in urban missions is really nothing new. Many have noted Paul’s focus on cities,

whether the strategy was intentional or not.6 The early g...

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