Linthicum, the author of City of God – City of Satan, was the North American Mission Enablers (NAME) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod conference speaker one spring in the late 1990s. I vividly remember how he opened his presentation on urban ministry—he opened his arms and said, “God Loves the City” and then put both hands on his chest and stated, “I love the city.” The illustration reignited my passion for mission to the city in ways that I have not forgotten nor lost the zeal for it.
But why am I so passionate about it? This is a question that we all have to ask about anything that we feel so strongly about. It is about checking one’s motive for it so that, as missionaries, our hearts may be in sync with the heart of God. This is not about me—it is all about Jesus. I know I may be sounding a little preachy in this, but it is the only way that I can express what I believe so strongly about the message of the Gospel for all people.
It is good to begin where the Church began her ministry in the Apostolic age in Jerusalem. This is the city for whom Jesus wept when he said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Luke 13: 34-35). Jesus’ sorrow was not over the geographic place, the city of Jerusalem, but his was over the inhabitants of the city—all inhabitants of the city.
As God’s heart is grieved over the lost people of our cities, I believe my heart should also grieve with him for I am a member of his body, the Church. For I know, as others have said it before, the church is the hope of the world, and that hope is made real only through the witnesses of us all, who by grace through the message of the Gospel have been brought to faith.
Why the city and not the villages? Three reasons for the strategic beginning of the mission of the Church in the city:
1. Cities are known as the centers of political power;
2. Cities are known as the centers of economic power; and
3. Cities are also known for being the centers of religious power. Cities have powerful influence over a nation and the world. Thus, if we lose the cities, we lose the nations with them.
Why am I so passionate about urban mission/ministry? Because it is strategic; the rich and the poor live together side by side in cities. Since the cities are centers of economic, political and religious powers, all the nations also gather or are represented in cities. The evangelization of a country then begins by winning the hearts of people in the city, and from there the church fans the flame of the Gospel to the entire region—the country and the world. Thus, Jesus said that we will be his witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
By: Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area B