Biblical Models for Urban Mission

How should Christians approach the city? Is there a single Biblical model for Christian ministry in urban areas? Actually there are several. Each of the Bible stories below provides us with a model, agenda, mandate and principle to follow. These are illustrated by 21st century examples taken from cities across Europe.

The Jeremiah mandate

The great urban mission commission (Jeremiah 29:7) is “Seek the peace and prosperity (shalom) of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Urban Christians depend on this just as much as the great commission in Matthew 28:19. They work through relationships and invest in prayer. How many prayer groups meet in your city to pray for it?

In Antwerp’s old inner city, the fruit of loving and patient witness was seen by a Dutch couple who worked for many years with Turkish young people. The ‘Bible-house’ became a place of community and a spiritual home for a number of Muslim families originating from southern Turkey. One day three of these young men who had got into trouble asked the Dutch evangelist, rather than the local imam, to visit them in prison.

The Pauline principle

“To the weak I became weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I may save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) We need to be culturally sensitive like the apostle Paul was in Mediterranean cities. In Philippi he reached different classes through a Bible study group (Acts 16). In Athens he reached intellectuals through sculpture tours (Acts 17). In Corinth he reached labourers through his job as tent-maker (Acts 18). In Ephesus he reached Jews through dialogue (Acts 19).

In Berlin, after the Iron Curtain came down in 1989, a new synergy took place with Christian ministries from the two sides of the wall. Ministry to the elderly on the east side and addiction ministry on the west came together. Berlin City Mission – one of the largest City Missions in Europe – cares for a metropolis of 3.5 million people (many of whom are from Eastern Europe, Turkey and Asia) where their twenty churches act as mission stations. The Mission also owns three hotels in the city, reaches out to German professionals, and has programmes with Turkish and Arabic peoples bearing witness to the love of Christ with people of other faiths.

The Nehemiah model

Nehemiah responded to the news of Jerusalem’s terrible condition with tears, prayer, fasting, humility and seeking the Lord. The story is about the importance of vision, resources, research and action plans. He dealt with the people’s questions and issues first and only later was the priest Ezra called in. We need to nurture and encourage people and give them permission to act. If power is the capacity to act, those long denied it need to learn to use it.

In Rotterdam, two Christian youth workers brought the local community together by inviting a local Christian footballer to join them. They said that they were not there to convert the young people but cared deeply about the drugs and violence in the area. Their parents agreed and an after-school project started up. Computers for school work and patient conversations led to many Antillean people, the most frustrated youth in the Netherlands, making it their home. This social project eventually led to ‘Thugz church’ starting up on a Saturday night.

The Isaiah agenda

The second half of Isaiah 65 (verses 17-25) became the basis for congregational evangelism in Hong Kong. Raymond Fung organised the women in his church to engage with others in the factories on a wide range of issues mentioned in these verses: housing, employment, economic development, healthcare, prayer, personal relationships and joy.1 This agenda shows that urban mission is holistic.

On the north side of Lisbon, I heard that the newly elected mayor by-passed the traditional priest to visit an Assemblies of God church to seek a blessing from the evangelical pastor. The church had grown from 30 to 300, and many of the congregation were migrants, but the reason for the visit was that the municipality knew this new church for its holistic care for drug-addicts and the elderly. Of the 75% who went back to live in society following rehabilitation, more than 50% joined a church and more than 25% found regular employment.
1 Raymond Fung, The Isaiah Vision: an Ecumenical Strategy for Congregational Evangelism, WCC, Risk, 1982


This article also features in our June 2012 edition of Sphere. Click to see more Sphere articles.


Leadership Development as Outreach

Alan Tower from Friends International shares with us about a new initiative for International Business Students called Leadership Development. See See also www.trueleadership.org.uk and www.iliveleadership.org for more information.

International students, half a million a year, arrive in the UK to further their education and improve their prospects, many starting with language study, many returning home as high fliers in their government or business sectors. In 2014/15 38.4% of Business students in the UK were internationals, as were 33.1% of the engineering students.

To befriend them while they are here, and help them see life with a Christ filled perspective as they map out their future can start easy but become tricky.Read more


The Sustainable Development Goals: one year on

(Photo from the United Nations website)

How do you transform the world? Marx thought it would be by the revolution of the proletariat regaining the means of production from the bourgeoisie. Motorola thought it would be ensuring that every man, woman and child on the planet had their own mobile phone number, while Facebook expect it to be by the ubiquity of their social network in everyone’s lives.Read more


Europe on the cusp of 2017

In the last two years mission in Europe has received unprecedented attention. But where is the continent on the cusp of 2017? The most dramatic aspect of Jim Memory’s (ECM & Redcliffe College) research into European history has been the recognition that for much of the last six hundred years Europe has been in one crisis after another. The relatively peaceful era since 1945 has been an exception and all of us who are living in Europe have benefitted from this. However, the recent past may not be a path for the immediate future. Why not?Read more


A Pilgrim Heart – Reflections of a Missions Leader from Psalm 84

Our second new author Rachel Issitt shares her thoughts on Psalm 84. 

Psalm 84 has personally become a theme and soundtrack to my life in recent years as my husband and I have pioneered a missions ministry. We have a vision to see thousands of younger generation Christ followers finding their calling, being sent from their local church into mission and yet we face the reality of financial restraint and small, but not insignificant, disappointments. The gulf between the vision and the reality can often seem embarrassing and yet we press on. I’m sure many can relate to this sentiment.Read more


Equality, dignity & responsibility

We are very excited to introduce our new authors to you over the next few weeks. The first is Esther Ross, PA to the Operations Director here at Global Connections. Her post concerning refugees at her church is insightful and should lead us to heartfelt prayer for equality, dignity and responsibility. See below for the post…

I was grabbed recently by something in a piece of literature put through my front door. Unusual, I know. It was a prayer diary for the Middle East. In it I found a prayer for government officials to return to displaced peoples equality, dignity and responsibility. Lack of these things, or violent suppression thereof, in many countries is the very reason many refugees are fleeing in their droves. And it really got me thinking.Read more


The Chairs of two Mission Agency Boards met at a London club

“What did you make of what Eddie Arthur was saying on his Kouya[1] blog about Mission Boards lacking theologians?’

‘I don’t normally read his blog, but someone showed that one to me. I couldn’t really see his point. All my board members are evangelical Christians, but I didn’t select them for their theological acumen. There are other skills that we need on our board.’

‘ I thought it was useful. We have one theological college lecturer on our Board and he often asks questions that the rest of us don’t think about. He reminds us that we are not just like any other UK charity, but rather carrying out the mandate from our Lord.’

‘ But what has that got to do with good governance? It is not something that the Charity Commissioners are concerned about. We spend all our time making sure that we are compliant and continually solvent. We also need to keep an eye on what our CEO is doing. We haven’t time for theology!’

Read more


Mission in Crisis

In 1991, David Bosch wrote a book that many consider to be one of the most important theologies of mission of our age; Transforming Mission. In the introduction, Bosch asserted that mission is facing  crisis because of massive changes in the church and the wider world. He suggested six ways in which this crisis manifests itself (though he does not claim that the list is exhaustive).

  • The advance of science and technology, and the worldwide process of secularisation.
  • The slow but steady de-Christianistion of the West.
  • The fact that the world can no longer be divided into “Christian” and “non-Christian” spheres.
  • Western guilt for racism and colonialism, leading to an unwillingness to engage in mission.
  • The increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
  • The reaction against over-academic Western theology in many parts of the church.

Read more


They had been with Jesus

Why does Jesus call us?

Perhaps we’ve never really pondered that question before.  We might initially think of reasons such as he needs us to be witnesses, to serve him, to worship him, to pray to him on behalf of others.  And all these would be valid activities and not a waste of our time.  And some of us have particular callings to these activities.  But they’re not the primary reason why Jesus called us. Read more