How have we made the transition from campus ministry to ministering to young professionals? In some ways, people are still people, and when you sit down with someone, loving someone in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, looks the same, no matter what phase of life they are in, language you are speaking, or topics you are covering. But, some things drastically change about the way we go about it. This past month, we had a training conference, here in New York City, about embarking on this new journey in City ministry. One of the hopes of the conference organizers was just to encourage us to think about all of the aspects of the City, the vastness of it, and the many complicated issues that arise. We wanted to summarize some of the things that we had learned along the way.
1. God's Kingdom on Earth started in a garden, but will end in a city: We spent some time looking at the theme of the city, and it is interesting to think about God creating Earth, and placing man on Earth in a garden, but how the completion of His Kingdom will come down as a city, as depicted in the book of Revelation (Ch. 21). The city has also represented man's effort to try to be independent of God, and in control of God's sovereign guiding, as depicted in Genesis with the tower of Babel. And yet, as God calls us to pray and hope for the second coming of Christ, the image we are given is that of a New City, the size of the United States split in half, coming down from heaven. We live in the period of redemption were we have Jesus, His death on the cross, and His resurrection as signs that the Kingdom of God is now and present on earth, and yet, sin still reigns, Satan has been allowed by God to influence people away from God, and the world pushes people towards living in slavery to sin. It is the truth that God's kingdom is both now and not yet, and the not yet that we are waiting for will come in its fulness as a city.
There is a certain tendency to say that people experience God mostly in nature. We have all had moments of experiencing the grandeur of God as we admire His beautiful masterpiece. And yet, Scripture tells us that man is actually the capstone to God's creation project. And, that we won't experience the complete fulness of God on Earth, until a city comes down from heaven. We need to develop God's heart for cities and the people in them, and in doing so recognize His work in the city now.
2. The Importance of Being Cross-Cultural Bridge Builders: Living in a city you meet people all of the time from different cultures. Race, ethnicity, country of origin, socioeconomic status, and religion are just some of the ways that shape who we are as people. If we want to be a part of bringing God's Kingdom in New York City, or in any City, we need to be people who build bridges to those who are different than us. We don't have to cross borders anymore to cross cultures, and as God is deeply concerned about all people from all people groups having a chance to hear the gospel, kingdom citizens in cities should be concerned as well. So concerned that we actually take steps towards seeing God use us.
3. The Power of Gospel Ecosystems Unleashed in a City: A man we respect very much would often say "Where there is difficulty, for the Christ follower there is always opportunity". He was trying to speak gospel hope into situations where on the surface it can seem impossible for change to ever happen. This is so true in a city, especially as big and influential as New York. There is spiritual apathy, secular thought reigns supreme, and Christians can often feel like the minority, and yet, for the Christ-centered disciple there is so much opportunity to have a kingdom impact. Culture, from television, to movies, the theatre, art, academics, business and food, just to name a few, find a lot of their origins for America in New York City. As we spent time experiencing different aspects of the city, it dawned on us that God could really do something special in New York as He reaches influential people.