Articulating the Mission of God in the Global Urban ContextBy Glenn Smith
And in many communities, their symbols and characteristic behaviour are also focussed in stories. Furthermore, the answers to fundamental questions such as “Who are we?” “Where are we?” and “What are the problems we face and how will we solve them?” give us great insight into the worldviews of a community.
The Urban Context
When we discuss the task of the Church in a city-region, immediately we are struck by the necessity to address both macro and micro issues. In choosing to “address” the city, we need to remember two foundational issues that are often overlooked by God’s people living in metropolitan areas.
- We need to place each individual city in its own context, yet understand its place in the larger urban system. Because of globalization, no one metropolitan area exists in isolation from others. When you ask someone where he or she lives, the answer depends not just upon where you are but to whom you are talking. I can tell a Lavalois that I live on 5th Street, a Québécois that I live in Chomedey, but to someone outside of Québec, I am from Montréal. Each address tells something about me: my living environment, the languages I use on a day-to-day basis, my lifestyle, and perhaps my social status. It is important is to see the interrelationships among the different addresses in which we live, from local to national to global. It is also important to adjust these “addresses” for the audience in question.
- When the Church addresses the city, we must direct our attention to urban realities. And, we need to understand our own assumptions and framework. We will always want to keep our focus on a biblical perspective on cities.
1. 1974. The Fall of Public Man. New York: Vintage Press, 39.
2. 1996. London: Routledge Press.
3. Racine, Jean-Bernard. 1993. La ville entre Dieu et les hommes. Genève: PBU, 296-297 (Author's translation).
4. For a more detailed analysis on methods in pursuing urban ministry reflection, read Glenn Smith’s 1996 article, "Doing Theology in the Canadian Urban Context: Some Preliminary Reflections," in Studies in Canadian Evangelical Renewal—Essays in Honour of Ian S. Rennie. Toronto: FT Publications, 81-103. Also see note 24 on pg. 225 of Espoir pour la ville: Dieu dans la cité. QC: Éditions de la Clairière, 1994 and chapter 8 in Towards the Transformation of Our City/regions. LCWE, 2005.
5. This distinction becomes critical as we examine the biblical categories of principalities and powers in God’s project for human history.
In the United Nations Population Fund report, State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, the authors began by stating,
Glenn Smith is senior associate for urban mission for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and is executive director of Christian Direction in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is a professor of urban theology and missiology at the Institut de theologie pour la Francophonie at the Université de Montréal and at the Université chrétienne du Nord d’Haïti. He is also professor of urban missiology at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle, Washington, USA. Smith is editor of the Urban Communitees section.