It’s funny how a seemingly innocent photo can reveal a cultural fault line.
This photo of a sign on Taylor Street in Fort Wayne posted on Fort Wayne Observed was greeted with this response:
I think it’s on “This is Why Young People Want To Leave Fort Wayne” Street.
That is: Christianity, or a certain brand of it, contributes to Fort Wayne’s brain drain.
Let me answer the implicit challenge directly.
There is a certain kind of Christian who believes “Turn or Burn” is the entire Gospel, remembers Hell but forgets Heaven and Earth, and reduces the welcome of a gracious Father to a wagging finger.
But there is another kind of Christian who knows that the goal is not escaping Hell; it’s defeating it. And to do that, this Christian loves his spouse, his children and his neighbors with vigor and joy. This Christian knows cities are rebuilt person by person, with love and patience, and does not shrink from doing a task that will have to be completed by his children and grandchildren and will need to be guarded as long as this earth lasts.
Some will be attracted to a group of such Christians. But there is a certain kind of young person who would see such a faithful church and leave town all the faster.
— Photo courtesy of Mitch Harper of Fort Wayne Observed
Here is how Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, answers the question, emphasizing the importance of cities:
I’m throwing in with Jim Boice on this one (cf. his Two Cities: Two Loves.)
The evangelical church must stay true to its biblical foundations, and it must maintain and enhance the effectiveness of its expository preaching, the holiness of its members, the ‘thickness’ of its counter-cultural community, the fervor of its evangelism. But if it doesn’t learn how to do this in our biggest cities then we don’t have much hope for our culture.
If our cities are largely pagan while our countryside is largely Christian, then our society and culture will continue to slide into paganism. And that is exactly what is happening. Christians strengthen somewhat away from the cities and they have made some political gains, but that is not effecting cultural products much. It is because in the center cities (NYC, Boston, LA, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC) the percentages of people living and working there who are Christians are minuscule.
Jim Boice proposed that evangelical Christians need to live in the major cities at a higher percentage than the population at large (See Two Cities, p.163ff.) Currently 50% of the U.S. population live in urban areas (and 25% lives in just the 10 largest urban areas.) Boice proposes that evangelicals should be living in cities in at least the same percentages or more. As confirmation of Boice’s belief consider how much impact both the Jewish and the gay communities have had on our culture. Why? Though neither is more than 3-4% of the total population, they each comprise over 20% of the population of Manhattan (and in other center cities. )
So we have two problems. First, evangelicals (especially Anglos) in general are quite negative about U.S. cities and city living. Second, you can’t ‘do church’ in exactly the same way in a city as you do it elsewhere, not if you want to actually convert hard-core secular people to Christianity. There are churches that set up in cities without adapting to their environment. Ironically, they can grow rather well anyway in cities by just gathering in the young already-evangelicals who are temporarily living in the city after college. But that is not the way to make the cities heavily Christian-which is the crying need today.
— Hat tip: Justin Taylor. Photo by Francois Schnell
What are the four saddest words you might hear after church on Sunday?
“See you next week!”
What a depressing sentiment! We saints gather together every Sunday under one roof. We enter the very sanctuary of God together, we praise Him together, we receive the Word together and share Christ’s body and blood together. We are, in fact, knitted together as One Bride, as the very Body of Christ Himself.
Then, so often, we make no effort to reinforce our solidarity and community with one another between Sunday mornings.
“See you next week!”
That means I won’t invite you over for supper and you won’t try to find any common activity that we can share. I won’t see you at the store or at a coffeehouse. In fact, it means it’s our intention to live completely separate lives from one another, lives that touch for only a few hours a week out of the hundred hours a week we spend awake.
“See you next week!”
Don’t let those four words be the last ones you say to your brothers and sisters tomorrow. Try these instead:
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Come over for lunch!”
“Let’s get together soon.”
These sound so simple as to be too obvious. But we can build each other up only if we see each other more than once a week. Let’s clear our schedules for each other.
My first New Year’s resolution is:
Stop buying books.
I have enough books on church, culture, cities and community on my shelves to last me at least through December. And they all came highly recommended by those who have a love for the city. Take a look:
Here’s what I’ve read in 2007 or earlier but hope to restudy in 2008:
And beyond actually reading them and understanding them, I intend on commenting on them here at The Good City. Good grief!
I’ve just begun Life Together because I felt I needed some more spiritual sustenance. But do you have any suggestions on what I should pick up next? Any books on my bookshelf that you’ve already read and would recommend?
photo by austinevan on Flickr