If we meet the needs of the city, we will meet the needs of the world.
We are facing a rapid urbanization of our country and the world. I think that ministries like GoodCities are great partners and encouragement to our churches. To that end, let me share an essay from Glenn Barth that was included in The Mission of God Study Bible.
Glenn leads the ministry GoodCities. It provides leadership training and collaborative environments for local leaders to better understand the needs of their cities. The work of the organization is to maximize the work of the church and reach of the gospel in major cities. Glenn Barth is the president of GoodCities. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University in “Transformational Leadership for the Global City.” When Ed Stetzer and I considered who might be the best person to address this issue as related to Jeremiah 29, Glenn was the natural choice. I hope you will be encouraged by his words. After you’ve take a few moments to read the essay, also take a look at Ed’s accompanying video as well (under the video tab).
by Glenn Barth
Jeremiah sent a letter to the recently exiled Jews living in Babylon offering unwelcome advice. Settle down and live normal lives. Babylon will be home for the next seventy years.
Deported to a foreign city, the Jews were face-to-face with Babylon’s people and its unfamiliar culture. Hoping for a speedy return to Jerusalem, Jeremiah’s message was that they should unpack their boxes. They needed to change their perspective and behave like this was their home. The prophet’s instructions in Jeremiah 29:5-7 outline some steps to doing this, including, “Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.”
It is hard for newcomers to call their new city “home.” In many cities, people with family and kinship ties settle together in ethnic neighborhoods. For example, over 90,000 Hmong live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. The Hmong were U.S. allies in Laos during the Vietnam War and fled under communist persecution shortly thereafter. These refugees from a semi-tropical rural Cambodian hill country now live in a northern, urban, English speaking context. It is as though Jeremiah’s advice to the Hebrews reached the Hmong as they have built homes, sold produce at farmer’s markets, and formed extended families.
Over 90 percent of the world’s nations are experiencing rapid urbanization. Cities are today’s missional focal point. What should our response be?
First, make the city where you live “home.” It may be a new place, where you may not plan to stay long, but perhaps God has other plans. When you treat the place you live like your home, you will begin to be treated like you belong there too. People will see that you care about the well-being of the city and its people. This approach will engage you in an incarnational witness in word and deed.
Second, seek the peace and prosperity of your city. Cities are centers of prosperity. We can act on those things that will make our city or community a better place to live. Prayerfully consider how your gifts and strengths can be used for the good of your city. Seek out leaders and ask them what they are trying to accomplish and how you can help. Places to start might include a local school, fire department, city hall, a nonprofit service organization, or hospital.
Third, pray for the peace of the city where you live. Pray regularly and systematically for the elected leaders, for leaders of the schools, businesses, churches, nonprofits, and for service organizations, and media members. Pray for people in your neighborhood or apartment building. Pray for the poor and oppressed. If it did not seem like home before, through prayer, God will give you a heart for your city and its people.
Fourth, keep in mind that in every city, there are newcomers. Part of our role is to welcome these newcomers into our city in the spirit of the second part of great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.”