Last week I blogged about the upcoming conference, The Gospel and Our Cities. I’m excited for it because I love the three things it is about: the gospel, cities, and gospel movements.
But since the focus of this blog is productivity, we need to ask this question: What do cities, the gospel, and productivity have to do with one another?
In fact, if we don’t connect cities to our understanding of how the gospel advances, we will be much less productive in our work and ministry.
Productive Christians Care About All of Society
First, we need to understand the in the Christian view, productivity is not just about our own effectiveness and peace of mind. Rather, a gospel-minded Christian also cares about their community and all of society. Our aim is not just (or chiefly) to make ourselves better off; our aim is to see society better off because the greatest command is to love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself. Further, our concern for the surrounding culture is holistic: we want to both serve the common good and see the gospel advance.
How are we doing with this?
Christians Are Not Being Productive Enough in Serving the Culture
We might think we are doing well. But in To Change the World, James Davidson Hunter argues that, as Christians, our impact is far less than our numbers would lead one to expect. There are more than 50 million evangelicals in the United States, and more than 86% of Americans have some type of faith commitment. Yet, as he points out, “our culture — business culture, law and government, the academic world, popular entertainment — is intensely materialistic and secular.”
In other words, in spite of our numbers, we are not being “productive” in serving and renewing the culture. Our impact is far less than you would expect from our numbers.
Why is that?
To Change This, We Need to Reach Cities
It’s because, contrary to popular belief, culture is not simply the result of the number of people who hold to a certain view. Rather, culture is created in networks and institutions. Hence, you cannot change culture if you are absent from those networks and institutions. Since evangelicals are largely absent from the centers where culture is created, our impact on the culture has been small — even though our numbers are very large.
This is one reason it is crucial that more Christians move into cities and work in cities. For, as Tim Keller argues in “To Transform a City”:
People who live in large urban cultural centers, occupying jobs in the arts, business, academia, publishing, the helping professions, and the media, tend to have a disproportionate impact on how things are done in our culture.
Hence, if as Christians we are going to have a greater impact on the culture, we need to have an impact on the city.
Our Aim is Holistic Impact
What kind of impact do we want to have on the city? We don’t believe in imposing a Christian worldview. Rather, as mentioned earlier, our aim is twofold: to further the common good and advance the gospel. When it comes to the common good, the aim is to make things better socially and economically, as well as in the spiritual dimension. To bring justice, truth, beauty, respect, and generosity more to bear in all aspects of life. Leading from respect and service rather than command and control; making more usability products; and treating employees with generosity and trust are all examples of things that further the common good.
When it comes to the advance of the gospel, this means more people coming to faith in Christ and following him fully. This matters in itself — it is not simply for the goal of culture change. But it will have an impact on the culture when people come to faith and see that faith relates to all of life, and is not just individual pietism.
So the impact we seek to have is more people coming to faith and, in turn, living out their faith holistically in all of life — including in the institutions where culture is shaped and formed. Further, this cannot happen to a large extent across the nation if we ignore cities. For cities is where most of the people are, and cities are where most culture is forged.
It Takes a Gospel Movement to Reach a City
How can we do better at reaching cities with the gospel? In his article “What is God’s Global Urban Mission?” (get it by subscribing to the City to City conference mailing list at the conference website), Tim Keller notes:
What it takes to reach a city is a city-wide gospel movement, which means the number of Christians across the city is growing faster than the population, and therefore, a growing percentage of the people of that city are connecting with gospel-centered churches and are finding faith in Jesus Christ. That will eventually have an impact on the whole life of the city. That’s what I mean by a city-wide gospel movement.
In other words, it takes more than just one church or a few committed Christians to reach a city. It takes a movement of Christians, including churches of all kinds of denominations and styles.
How Do You Build a Gospel Movement in Your City?
That’s where I think we need to do a lot more work as Christians.
A great place to start is by attending Redeemer City to City’s upcoming fall conference, The Gospel and Our Cities. It is in Chicago this October 18-20. By attending, you will not only learn about the city, creating gospel movements, urban challenges, faith and work, and more; you will also have a chance to meet others in your city and develop the networks necessary for a gospel movement to start.
The way we are serving and renewing the culture right now is not very productive, because it de-emphasizes the place of the city and gospel movements. It’s time to learn the more productive approach of reaching cities through gospel movements.
That’s how a concern for productivity and the gospel leads to a concern for cities and gospel movements.
Register at the website, and use the code “chicago” to save an extra $25 before June 4!
This is a sponsored post for The Gospel and Our Cities: Chicago 2018