I’m blogging from the annual Ministry Forum at Fresno Pacific University today. Our keynote speaker is Ray Bakke, a pastor, teacher, and professor of urban theology. Ray is the chancellor of the Bakke Graduate University. Our theme for the forum is “One Church, One City.” Ray is a brilliant theologian with provocative and relevant thoughts for the urban church. Rather than editorialize, I thought I’d just share a cluster of ideas he’s been sharing today. These are loose paraphrases of his comments.
In 1800 2%, 1900 8%, 2000 50% of the planet lives in cities
Cities are growing by 100,000 per day; ½ by birth, ½ by relocation
Ray’s most shocking experience was to watch churches flee the cities in the 60s. Those who sang “red and yellow, black and white” bought into “white flight.”
Christians fled L.A. and Chicago and met in Colorado Springs
Evangelicals think they can’t survive in the cities because there’s a belief that gardens are good and cities are evil; there is an exodus theology in play
In the bible: 1250 texts regarding the city, 141 individual cities mentioned. Ez 16: cities are families (this is the part of focusing on the family that Dobson has left out). Biblical idea of family - hooked to geography and history.
Paul’s use of contextualization in the city:
Philippi - Lydia and women in an upper class city lead the church
Athens - quoted Greeks at Mars Hill
Corinth - he made tents, the crossroads the marketplace/commerce (urban and rural)
Ephesus - went to synagogue to dialogue (Socratic method)
Paul adjusts his message, methods and meaning places to meet people where they where
A theology as big as the city includes all of these
Luther and Calvin had a marketplace theology
Common Grace: taking care of schools, hospitals, public sector
Saving Grace: in the churches paid for by tithes
Tax money or tithe money - it’s all God’s
Why have Christians removed themselves from Common Grace theology? (This comes largely through American revivalism and personal piety movements)
God is bringing the nations to the city neighborhoods
The Lord of history is bringing the nations to California - why is he doing this? what does this mean?
This is not the time to flee the city in favor of gated communities. We need common grace.
Four worlds people live in: biological, geographical, relational, recreational worlds
The task of the pastor is not to get 10% growth this year but to get congregants into their four worlds as missionaries
“Evangelism is scratching people where they itch in the name of Jesus”
“Church growth” is about getting a hundred people into four hundred worlds touching thousands of people
Church Growth strategies have typically encouraged a pastor to build a church in his/her own image and then attract others to it creating homogeneous cultures
“I had to decide if I wanted to be a come-structured pastor or a go-structured pastor”
Form the second century in Epistle to Diognetus: what the soul is to the body, the Christian is to the city
Jesus died in the city and the church was born in the city at Pentecost
Does any of this get you thinking about Christianity, ministry and the urban context? I’d love to hear your thoughts.