When I first stepped into missions, I had a specific vision for what I thought it would look like. I pictured myself with a machete in hand, chopping down branches on a three-day trek into the jungles of some country I’d never heard of, on my way to a village that has never seen westerners, in order to preach the Gospel. Years later, that dream has yet to come true. I have never been in a jungle, I’ve never blazed a trail with a machete, and I’ve never gone on a three-day hike (yet). As I’ve followed God’s leading in missions, I always seem to find myself in a city. Whether in Europe, Australia, or Asia, I keep being led to these concrete jungles. Eventually, I started to wonder if there was a reason God kept directing me to urban areas instead of unreached trails. After spending more and more time in cities, I discovered one overwhelming truth: cities desperately need the Gospel. Here are four reasons why:
1. Cities are filled with the poor and needy.
Statistics show that up to 75% of people below the poverty line live in cities. That’s a huge deal. Westerners tend to think of the poor and needy similarly to the way we think of missions. It’s the people in remote areas: mountains, jungles, deserts. This is often true; a lot of people living in rural communities around the world are below the poverty line. At the same time, our perceptions of cities are tall buildings with expensive apartments and hip cafes. However, a lot of what we see of cities are either the tourist hotspots or the arts districts. As great as those areas are, they don’t give a good perception of what a city truly is. We often stay away from the harder parts. If we are committed to the Lord in ministry, shouldn’t we be caring for the least of these, even if that means braving inner city streets or bringing the Gospel to our own neighbours?
2. People are seeking.
As we go into art districts, we find one demographic that fits into a totally different category: seekers. Seekers have what the world says is good. Many of them have grown up with money and a family. They have everything, but at the same time, they feel empty. These people are starting to realise the emptiness of the world. Author C. S. Lewis once compared life to a car’s engine. An engine runs off petrol, much like our lives, created by God, were meant to run off Him. People search for happiness and peace by themselves, but can’t have it without God. So many people are seeking this happiness, but their search leaves them empty, with only a greater need of Jesus.
3. Cities have cultural diversity.
If you’re exploring a city, it doesn’t take long at all to discover multiculturalism. You can walk down one street and find pastries and cheese shops but on another you may find authentic tacos and Mexican blankets. It’s easy to apply this to western cities, but I even found this when I was in Manila earlier this year. One day I’d could be talking to an engineer who grew up in the city and had rarely left, and the next I’d find myself speaking with a man from a rural area who had grown up without ever seeing a two story building, but who eventually moved into Manilla looking for work. I’d even found people from other Asian nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia who had come to this city to find a better life. Urban areas are filled with so many different groups of people and can be utilized to discover and reach new cultures.
4. Cities impact the nation as a whole.
I heard someone say that if you impact the cities, you impact the nation. Meeting people in cities, you will start to understand this more. Since urban areas bring a lot of opportunity, many people come from rural areas to cites when they need to better provide for their families. When I was in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, I met so many people who did just this. They’d work during the week and travel home to their own communities in other areas on the weekends. Just like the population isn’t confined to the city limits, the influence of a city is incredible. When you reach out to a city, it doesn’t stop there. It always stretches way farther than your hands can reach.
All things considered, my personal journey in cities has taught me that missions is far more than we think! It’s not only reaching the hard to reach and the remote locations, but also reaching the poor, neglected, hopeful, and hopeless people everywhere, and urbanization gives us such an amazing opportunity to do just that!
by Tommy Pequinot
YWAM Newcastle City Transformation DTS Staff