God Loves the City and Adopted a City For His Own – One of the evidences that God has a special love for the city is found in Ezekiel 16: 1-14. In this passage, through the prophet, He reminisces about the beginnings of His special relationship with the city of Jerusalem. Originally a “castaway” city, despised by its owners, God loved it and made it His own (“spread the corner of my garment” is symbolic of entering a marriage relationship, V.3.). Similarly, knowing the special beginning and call upon the city of Jerusalem, Jesus wept at the inability of the people of Jerusalem to recognize that He was the very One that loved Jerusalem from the beginning.
God’s ongoing protective love for His city is seen in passages like Psalm 48. Here the Psalmist is praising God for His presence and protective love as demonstrated by the preserving strength of the temporal structures of the city. To God, though a city’s buildings and other man-made items are just “finger paintings” made by His children, He still cares enough to preserve them on the refrigerator of His heart.
God Located His “Temple” Home in a City – God could have picked the highest mountain in the world, or a beautifully secluded forest as the backdrop for His temple. Instead, when it came time to establish a permanent structure where He would dwell and men could approach Him, His choice was a city (2 Sam. 6:16-17; 2 Chron.3:1).
Jesus, who came to show us the Father (Jo. 12:45, 14:9-10) also did not spurn city life. One small way He reflected this same heart of the Father is by not choosing to make His personal home in a rural or wilderness area. Though His cousin John was not a city dweller, Jesus made the city of Capernaum His permanent home (Matt. 4:13; Mk. 2:1).
God Sees Cities as Blessings – Jerusalem is not the only city that is important to God (See Zech. 1:17). Deuteronomy 6:10 reminds us that God gave cities as gifts to others. Apparently, ever since the fall, cities were a means, a tool, given by God, to protect those created in His image from some harsh realities of a sinful world. Because of this, all city leaders have the God-given responsibility to guide their city toward righteousness in order to properly wield His tool of blessing. Therefore, in this His common grace God cares about the protective quality of all cities. Jonah 4:1 tells us God had a concern for Nineveh. In Jeremiah 29: 4-7 God tells the Jews to help the city of Babylon to prosper. All cities potentially have qualities that can be used by God to declare His presence by showing His compassion. It is these good things that the enemy continues to try and corrupt.
Jesus Had Expectations for Cities – Just as every person cannot escape the truth that they were created for the purpose of bearing God’s image in the world (Gen. 1:26-27), cities cannot escape the call on it to be an extension of His protective grace. Cities and all communities can enhance this capability to the degree it corporately accepts Christ’s authority (Mk. 6:5). When a city rejects its God-given assignment, winks at justice and ignores the hurting, its leaders are often challenged by God. Jesus gave small cities like Korazin, Bethsaidaand even Capernaum (his home) an opportunity to repent for their lack of being a place that accepts its role as a steward of the Father’s grace (Matt. 11:20-24). Even today, cities that whole-heartedly reject the Church and its Gospel message are risking judgment.
Jesus also sent out His disciples instructing them to give every community they serve the opportunity to become an oasis of grace. (Matt. 10: 11-15). Each place was seen as worthy of the opportunity to either accept or reject their Creator’s desire to be worshipped in that city.
Cities are One of God’s Primary Methods for Evangelism – Through the prophet Isaiah, in Chapter 60, God commands the city of Jerusalem to “Arise, shine, for thy light is come…gross darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon, thee and His glory shall be seen upon thee” (V. 1-2). He then causes revitalization of the city to come forth to become a place of hope. In this chapter we see God causing the city to be restored to a bustling, strong center of commerce. Sea and land merchants come to do business (V. 5-6); traders come from around the world (V. 6b-9a); there will even be a surge of foreign capital and key international investors (v.10-11). Through the economic development He uses this city to draw people to know Him in worship at His temple (V. 6b, 7b). Though the special call on Jerusalem is unique, it still becomes a model for all cities challenging their core purpose which is to draw people out of the darkness into the marvelous light of fellowship with God.
Again, in this revitalization of Jerusalem we get a hint of one key reason why God wants people to come to any cities – to encounter Him and then learn to worship Him. Cities are a key strategy to reach the lost. The international nature of most cities gives the church (the agency where God now dwells) a special opportunity to be missionaries to other countries without even going abroad. It is this very reason God places churches in the city and why suburban churches need to partner with them to serve in the city.
Of course cities do not have to be perfectly holy to be useful to God. Just as every individual Christian is not yet perfect but seeks to imitate Jesus, so also, every city should seek to imitate God’s holy city. As long as there is a church in the city, there is hope for that city to execute its divine call.
God is Currently Calling the World to Cities – According to the Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division of the United Nations, in 1950, 29.4% of the total population lived in urban areas; in 1980 the proportion had risen to 39.9%. By 2000 over 50% of the world’s population moved to urban areas, and by 2025 the proportion is projected to be slightly higher than 60%. Others are estimating that by the year 2025 over 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.
More than 400 cities in the world have over a million people and almost 20 have over 10 million. Clearly it is this urban explosion that will be, in the providence of God, a main vehicle for the reality of world evangelization. God is calling the world to cities if at the very least to hear the truth of the Gospel. Urban dwellers tend to be more open to new ideas and change as they face the variety of pressures that come with living in the city. As a result city churches will most likely experience its best harvests to the degree they seek those who are facing the challenge of establishing life the city.
Cities are social interchanges and cultural conduits – The first century church understood the strategic importance of cities. It was no accident, for example that the apostle Paul was led to places like Corinth, Ephesus or Colosse and of course, Rome. First of all, most of these and other cities were a part of major trade routes, serving significant roles for commerce and Roman rule. They became natural places for connections to the non-Christian world. Secondly, each city had its own unique ethnic, cultural and economic mixes which helped to get the Gospel translated and delivered into smaller communities as friends and relatives came to and from their city. The same opportunity is true of our cities today.
Cities are a good place to efficiently serve the people – Scriptures are filled with mandates to not look past the poor. The poor are everywhere, but the density of cities give reason to consider the efficiency of targeting cities. It is also not difficult to imagine that because of the more developed infrastructures of cities, they also serve as “magnets,” drawing the hurting to the services that smaller communities just cannot afford.
Commuters, those who do not live in cities but drive the city streets (local and by-passes) regularly, should accept the parable of the Good (commuter)Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) as speaking to them. Here, Jesus identifies our “neighbor” as any hurting person God sovereignly places into our path. Cities are filled with the hurting. Instead of driving right past them, we should stop and lend a hand by partnering with those who are serving the poor in the city.
Cities are good places to effectively display Spirit-filled generosity – It is not an accident that the first church grew in the setting of a city. Every aspiring musician, mime or juggler knows it is easiest to draw a diverse crowd in the city. On Pentecost, God, with the use of a rushing wind, used a city crowd for His purposes. Peter spoke to an already primed audience. Of course, one of God’s favorite Spirit-filled attraction items is the one where diverse believers come together (Acts 2:44) and then contradict the self-centeredness of the world by living out a heaven sent generosity (4: 2-35). Where there is Spirit-led unity and generosity of God’s people the church is irresistible. What would God do if suburban churches and urban churches unselfishly came together to pray for their own display of a unity – generosity miracle for their city?