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"If God's way in the world can be described as cruciform and covenantal, so can the ministry to which we are summoned in urban settings. For urban churches are called to covenant with God and others at the intersection of the places where God is bringing life out to the death-tending ways of our urban realities." --from the introduction
This research explores the cultural and theological complexities within the urban context as some of the most prominent societal realities shaping our cities today. Cities represent the convergence of identities, industries, and ideologies in a dynamic urban ecosystem of pluralism and globalization. Far more than just the incidental built environment that houses such phenomena, the city is a living, breathing organism with vital systems and infrastructure that function as a means of sustenance for its inhabitants. Ultimately, cities are a cultural reflection of our common humanity in all of its beauty and depravity. More specifically, this work critically examines the cultural and theological significance of the urban context as an exercise in missiological contextualization. Through a dialectical exploration of the locality of Seattle's Rainier Valley and the universality of the street comer, three different lenses are used to examine the intersection of faith and culture in the city. First, through developing a rnissional theology of cultural engagement, the themes of incarnation, confrontation, and imagination inform a theological posture that is conversant with urbanism. Second, an interdisciplinary method of urban exegesis that synthesizes the symbolic systems of urban semiotics and the missional theology of cultural exegesis is applied to particular settings in Seattle's Rainier Valley as a form of observing and interpreting urban communities. Third, an urban contextual theology that is situated inan environment of physical density, social diversity, and economic disparity emphasizes the necessity of engaging the city with theologies of place, neighbor, and community. In an effort to equip and empower the church and others to engage the city as thoughtful, missional people, this research seeks to cultivate a combination of critical observational skills in the urban context and a constructive understanding of the holistic Christian mission among the poor and disenfranchised in our urban communities. From the street comer in the ghetto to newly gentrified enclaves of hipsters, "street signs" are all around us; they point us in the right direction toward deeper understanding, alert us to the presence of injustice on the horizon, and draw our attention to the redemptive beauty of the city that is revealed in the light of the gospel.
Our nation used to look at violence, poverty, and gentrification and assign those problems to urban centers. Today, these issues concern the suburbs, too. The Christian community is responding to this reality. Churches and parachurch ministries are actively working to transform lives and restore communities throughout the city and suburbs. In A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, you will be challenged by a collection of voices seeking community renewal. These individuals are involved in creative church planting initiatives, and they are serving the growing Hispanic and Muslim populations. Additional endeavors include serving racially changing communities, economic development strategies, and more. As anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time can attest, tackling some of the most challenging issues of our times is no mere academic exercise. The voices within these pages write from experience and offer workable, vibrant models of ministry that make a difference.
Rapid urbanization and globalization processes worldwide have changed the landscape of our times. In Asia and Africa the number of urban dwellers increases by an average of one million per week, according to the United Nations. More than half of the globe's seven billion human beings now live in cities. These realities have far reaching implications for mission in urban contexts at the start of the third millennium. Reaching the City: Reflections on Urban Mission for the Twenty-first Century seeks to address the missiological challenges associated with this new world order. Each author in this collection respectfully builds upon the significant contributions of seminal writers such as Ray Bakke, Jacques Ellul, Basil of Caesarea and others, while making new and creative proposals for urban mission in our world today. Beginning with the bigger picture of the global challenges of urbanization, and moving through theological, historical, and educational perspectives, this volume concludes with a rich bevy of case studies engaging these new realities of both North American and international cities to encourage a missional thrust to reach these communities.
Why is the city a battleground of hostile principalities and powers? What is the mission of the church in the city? How can the church be supported in accomplishing that mission? These are the questions that Robert Linthicum treats in his comprehensive and probing biblical theology of the city. In the Bible the city is depicted both as a dwelling place of God and his people and as a center of power for Satan and his minions. The city is one primary stage on which the drama of salvation is played out. And that is no less the case at the end of this pivotal century as megacities become the focal point of most human activity and aspirations around the world. This is a timely theology of the city that weaves the theological images of the Bible and the social realities of the contemporary world into a revealing tapestry of truths about the urban experience. Its purpose is to define clearly the mission of the church in the midst of the urban realities and to support well the work of the church in the urban world.
What, pray tell, does a faithful urban ministry require if not a triadic relationship of prayer, justice, and hope? Could such a theologically conjunctive relationship of prayer, justice, and hope fortify urban ministry and challenge students and practitioners to ponder and practice beyond the box? Frequently, justice is collapsed to charity, hope into wishful thinking or temporarily arrested despair, and prayer a grasp at quick-fix interventions. An urban ministry's steadfast public and prophetic witness longs for the depth and width of this triad. Via three countries' decades of endeavors, one chapter brainstorms urban ministry practices while another's literature survey signals crucial convictions. Amid many, seminal theologians are summoned to ground urban ministry intimations and implications: Niebuhr on justice, Moltmann on hope, and Merton on contemplative prayer. Evident is passion that fuels compassion in the service of justice, hope that engages despair, and prayer that draws from the contemplative center of it all--thankful resources for long haul ministry. The triad presses to illumine a concrete ministry's engagement of relentless, forced option issues yet with significant networks resourcing. Contrast-awareness animates endurance. The summary exegetes the original grace-based serenity prayer. Hence, hope vitally balances realism's temptation to cynicism. Realism saves hope from irrelevancy.
Drawing on their research involving urban pastors from across the United States, Bryan Stone and Claire Wolfteich identify and examine spiritual practices that foster excellence in urban ministry. After discussing the specific challenges facing urban pastors and presenting the kinds of excellence required of them, Stone and Wolfteich explore several practices that help sustain ministers working in urban contexts, such as cultivating holy friendships, practicing Sabbath, maintaining lives of prayer and study, and setting appropriate boundaries. Throughout, the authors weave together stories from urban pastors from a variety of denominations with insights from the history of Christian spirituality and theology to chart a theological course for the formation and renewal of pastors in diverse contemporary contexts.

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