3 Challenges in Urban Ministry

Urban ministry engages depravity, longevity and community.


While cities are an excellent place for gospel advancement, urban ministry is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges can be better explained by three words: depravity, longevity and community.

Depravity is everywhere, not just cities

Quite a few Christians view cities as depraved. Undoubtedly depravity seems more evident in a city because there are many people in close proximity. The reality, however, is that sin and brokenness are everywhere. In the midst of the overwhelming evidence of depravity is the opportunity for the gospel to shine forth. When sin abounds, the gospel can abound even more.

Cities are fundamental to God’s design and intent for the world, because while he begins his story in the Garden of Eden it ends in a city (Revelation 22). In light of this, Christians need to move away from their fear of the city and stop seeing cities as inherently wicked.

Instead, they need to see cities as good and full of opportunity. God is at work in the midst of depravity and brokenness. Some of the most vibrant Christian communities are found in cities. The gospel is going forth. Lives are being changed.

Christians who love mission should view our world’s cities as great places for gospel advance. People are moving into cities (albeit at a slowing rate in the US), which means churches should be moving into cities as well.

Loving a city means longevity

Another challenge of urban ministry is longevity; this type of ministry is not a quick fix. I planted my first church in Buffalo, NY among the urban poor and spent six years doing the hardest work I had ever done. We grew slowly and incrementally. The 20 megaton growth of a suburban mega-church rarely happens in a downtown urban context.

It takes longevity—in ...

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