City (Gospel) Movements

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Time Period
2000
Description
City movements represent an emerging paradigm in urban mission marked by partnerships between ecclesial, parachurch, marketplace, and civil leadership united by their faith commitment for the purpose of Christian witness and transformation of the city.

Early in the 21st century, this grassroots level movement began taking shape as evangelical Christian leaders began to recognize the need for unity across the prevailing barriers dividing faith communities (e.g., racial segregation, denominational differences, etc.). In order to overcome this issues, city movements propose: 1) unity of churches throughout the city; 2) holistic witness involving both gospel proclamation and service to the community; 3) and sustainability focusing on long-term engagement with local communities.

To date, there are more than 63 such gospel movements in cities throughout North America and worldwide. Noteworthy among these City Gospel Movements are New York City Leadership Center (New York, NY) and Luis Palau Association (Portland, Ore.).

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Social Movements and Religion in American History
Narrative
In the first decades of the 21st century, an incipient grassroots level movement began taking shape as the result of faithful service in the preceding years. Evangelical leaders began to recognize the need for unity across the prevailing barriers dividing faith communities. The most significant were ethnic and racial segregation, denominational and ecclesial barriers, church and parachurch divide, and finally the clergy and the laity split. Jesus’ high-priestly prayer for unity (John 17:22) became the rally cry as clergy and laity united for prayer and fellowship in various grassroots movements throughout North American cities (White, 2001).

As these movements developed, the key question became: what does city transformation look like? (Swanson and Williams, 2010). Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, defines cities as "a walkable, shared, mixed-use, diverse area. It is a place of commerce, residence, culture, and politics" (2010, 26). City transformation, then, refers to the "integration of good news and good deeds of Jesus in such a way that it brings spiritual and societal transformation" (Palau, 2013b). For this to take place, the movement's advocates say they need a gospel movement involving a "united, sustainable effort by churches and cultural leaders to transform their city by meeting critical needs and sharing the love and message of Jesus Christ" (Palau, 2013a). The vision is three-fold: it involves the coming together of churches throughout the city, holistic witness involving both gospel proclamation and service to the community, and sustainability focusing on long-term engagement with local communities in contrast to short-term strategies.
Noteworthy among these City Gospel Movements are New York City Leadership Center (New York City, New York), Love Akron (Akron, Ohio), Luis Palau Association (Portland, Oregon), Vision San Diego (San Diego, California) and City Unite (Denver, Colorado). To date the Palau organization has identified more than sixty-three such gospel movements in cities throughout North America and worldwide.

Several key features characterize city movements. First, the unifying factor of prayer across racial and denominational lines forms the first step toward the formation of a citywide coalition of churches, clergy, and committed laity. Second, their collective potential is channeled for service in the city, especially to those who experiencing marginalization. A third feature is to mobilize and resource cultural influencers to combine their faith and employ their gifts to shape culture for the good. Gospel proclamation features prominently as believers offer the eternal hope of salvation through large-scale celebration events. Finally, these movements include the mobilizing the planting of churches throughout the city by resourcing existing churches and recruiting and mentoring future church planters.

References

Barth, Glenn. 2010. The Good City: Transformed Lives Transforming Communities. Tallmadge, OH: S.D. Myers Publishing Services.

Swanson, Eric and Sam Williams. 2010. To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

White, Tom. 2001. City-Wide Prayer Movements: One Church, Many Congregations. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.

White, Tom. 2013. The Practitioner’s Guide: Building City Gospel Movements. Tallmadge, OH: Good Place Publishing.

Palau, Luis. 2013a, November 1. What is a Gospel Movement? with Kevin Palau. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiL8hpkd73I&list=PLGfBDPBoLnYkGG1Vys5p5D1eXF-lHpDBC&index=5.

Palau, Luis. 2013b, November 1. What is City Transformation? with Glenn Barth, Eric Swanson, and Sam Williams. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3Y3-Ac_1qY&list=PLGfBDPBoLnYkGG1Vys5p5D1eXF-lHpDBC&index=2.

Biographies
Keller, Timothy
Photographs

East Heights UMC at LOVE Wichita- Flickr- photo by Great Plains UMC (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Timothy Keller portrait- Flickr- photo by Frank Licorice (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Luis Palau speaking- Flickr- photo by Paul Bowman (CC BY 2.0)

Mission Arlington, city gospel movement in Arlington, TX- Flickr- photo by Ulster Project Arlington (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Stanley V. John

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