Carl Trueman has posted at Reformation 21 about The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band On Urban Theology. While the name of the band doesn’t ring a bell, Mr. Trueman’s point certainly resonates with my thinking.
He acknowledges the importance of cities in evangelistic efforts,
as areas where there are the highest concentrations of human beings, they are inevitably significant as mission fields.
but he decries the emphasis of the urban to the neglect or demeaning of suburban or rural ministry,
But the suburbs are important too (and not simply for the faux urbanites who commute from thence for their urban church experience on a Sunday); and the countryside has its reached and its unreached. They may not be as cool in secular terms, and I would certainly not want to portray them as superior to or more authentic than the city in a way that some do . . . but it would be good to see the obsession with cities as some kind of eschatologically unique or superior entity disappearing from the trendy reformed discourse, to be replaced by much less contentiously significant biblical categories: those who see the cross as foolishness or an offence, and those who see it as the power of God unto salvation. It would also be good to see suburban and rural pastors being given their due as well.
photo via Candy Apple Red @ flickr
Perhaps my position as a rural pastor influences my thinking on this, but my philosophy of ministry influences me more. It concerns me to see young pastors buying into the mentality that urban is superior, and many leading pastors from diverse evangelical and fundamental camps have perpetuated this.
If my goal is to have the biggest crowd, then the city is the place to do it. If it’s to be hip and cool, then rural is out. But if my measure of success is to faithfully pastor a group of believers, minister to my community, and clearly proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers, then whether I serve in an urban, suburban, or rural ministry I can be obedient to God’s will.
I’m not suggesting that everyone who is involved in urban ministry has this mindset, nor am I advocating deserting the cities. In fact, no one should serve in a rural or suburban environment just to escape the difficulties of urban ministry. Each servant must seek to be obedient to the unique location of God’s call to them. The danger is in minimizing other areas of service and developing a sense of superiority about one’s own.
As Trueman concludes,
So let’s cut the pretentious gibberish about urban this and urban that and move back to more biblical, less self-serving and ultimately real categories. Yes, we need to understand cities to communicate with city people. The same applies to the suburbs and to the countryside. But that is a technical matter, not a theological one. People are still people wherever you find them.