As we anticipate this first edition of New Urban World many thoughts and ideas have raced through our minds and into our discussions. In this first issue we want to cover a wide range of ideas that have direct impact on urban ministry under our theme, Rise of the Urban Poor. How we look at the world of the urban poor will have a direct bearing on how we conceive of urban ministry and especially our role in this new era of modern missions that focuses on the city.
Jesus told the parable of the sower. An individual went out to sow seeds—that is what landowners do, plant their fields. Jesus used this basic agricultural example to show each of us that sowing seeds is important kingdom business, regardless of the outcome of the sowing or even the field being planted. Jesus also taught us that God gives the increase, we are to sow seeds. While the world is now more urban than rural—and the rate of increase in urban population is accelerating—Jesus was using an agricultural example to show that the priority of sowing seeds remains. As our fields have changed from agrarian to become more urban, so our methods of sowing must also change.
Perhaps a modest proposal is needed as we look at the urban areas of our world. A starting place is to sow seeds of shalom. This most basic of human interactions, at the core of Jewish society in the Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God in the New Testament, is so vital in our world today. Shalom, bringing wholeness, justice, restoration, reconciliation, and peace into relationships and structures corrupted by sin and affect the lives of people. Shalom is needed now more than ever. This is why Jeremiah instructs slaves in Babylon to “seek the good of the city.” In spite of the reality that their own city had been plundered, burned, and left in ruins—as they watched, God instructs the new slaves to seek the good of the city, home of their captors, and their home for the next seventy years. Can we do no less? This is the golden rule in action and our changing world urgently needs what we have to offer in the name of Jesus.
In the parable of the sower good and bad seeds are allowed to grow side-by-side. At the harvest the landowner seperates the good from the bad (wheat from the tares). In the same way, the seed of shalom is planted, grows, and it has effect even as light dispels darkness, salt preserves meat, and yeast leavens bread. So Christians, living in a strange land, sow good seeds and make a difference in the city. This incarnational presence in the city may take on many forms. It may involve many activities. We start where people are hurting the most, and we bring reconciliation and hope, we seek the good of the city wherever God has called us.
Jesse A. Zink said it this way, “God’s mission has, from the beginning of the Bible, been the same—the restoration of right relationship among people and between people and God. This is the mission of reconcilliation; to use a Hebrew word, it is about building up shalom, the completeness and wholeness we find only in God. Received, forgiven and transformed by God in baptism, it becomes our ongoing role to figure out what part of that mission we are called to share in.”
Let’s ask ourselves a missiological question: Is there a seed of shalom that we can plant today that will bring reconciliation and hope and will grow into redemptive reality in this our new, urban world.