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Ed Stetzer: 3 Challenges in Urban Ministry

urban ministry

Urban ministry engages depravity, longevity and community.

“Urban ministry” is a bit in vogue right now among Christians. This is good. I want Christians to engage the city, not just the young and urban professionals, but the inner city, the poor and all ethnicities.

The United States is growing in ethnic diversity. There are likely more people groups here than at any time in our history (this site lists scores within our borders). Each of these need someone to proclaim the good news of the gospel to them. Most of these ethnic groups tend to be in cities, making cities a great opportunity for the spread of the gospel.

Today’s post examines some realities of ministry in an urban context.

While cities are an excellent place for gospel advancement, urban ministry is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges can be better explained by three words: depravity, longevity, and community.

Depravity is everywhere, not just cities.

Quite a few Christians view cities as depraved. Undoubtedly, depravity seems more evident in a city because there are many people in close proximity. The reality, however, is that sin and brokenness are everywhere. In the midst of the overwhelming evidence of depravity is the opportunity for the gospel to shine forth. When sin abounds, the gospel can abound even more.

Cities are fundamental to God’s design and intent for the world, because while he begins his story in the Garden of Eden it ends in a city (Revelation 22). In light of this, Christians need to move away from their fear of the city and stop seeing cities as inherently wicked.

Instead, they need to see cities as good and full of opportunity. God is at work in the midst of depravity and brokenness. Some of the most vibrant Christian communities are found in cities. The gospel is going forth. Lives are being changed.

Christians who love mission should view our world’s cities as great places for gospel advance. People are moving into cities (albeit at a slowing rate in the US), which means churches should be moving into cities as well.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and he has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the Editor-in-Chief of Outreach Magazine, and regularly writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves at his local church, Highpoint Church, as a teaching pastor. Dr. Stetzer is currently living in England and teaching at Oxford University.