When was the last time you were in a city? I’m there often. It’s a great place to work. But, I have to admit, my current city is not a place I have spent a great deal of time beyond working hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the city. It seems, so do many other people.
In 2010, 73.6% of the United States population lived in urban areas. These mixed-use, walkable settlements are filled with complexity and diversity.
Nashville is the city I currently call home. It’s a city under construction, poised for growth. Cranes are scattered throughout the city. From one vantage point on the city’s east side, you can see more than eighteen cranes scattered across the city being used to build multi-story condos, apartments, and mixed-use buildings.
The city is changing and coming to life in new ways.
But, more than buildings, people bring life to a city. The ethos of a city comes from the culture of the people who call it home. There’s no doubt, cities are places where diverse people groups live. How we think, feel, and behave can vary among cultures. That makes cities a great place to notice God’s movement. The diversity of people draws out a wide variety of God’s expressions. It’s as if God is posting on a marquee “Here I AM.”
Presence of God
One way to be for the city is to be with God in the city. Alerting people to the reign of God begins with awareness. The signposts that God plants throughout the city often appear in the form of people. Soong-Chan Rah reminds us the church can be a community of influence. He invites churches to help individuals and communities reflect the presence of God.
Our culture, traditions, customs, and norms vary. So will our concept of leadership, community, and faith. As the church seeks to be a community of hope, peace, and love, we will love one another by being aware of God’s presence with each other.
As the church embodies God’s shalom and embraces culture, people become witnesses to the presence of God. Perhaps then, people of faith are being invited to increase our awareness of God’s presence in the midst of individual and community life in the city. That’s another way you can be for the city.
And, no, you don’t have to live in the city to be a part of practicing awareness of God’s presence in the city. You can be a person who prays for the city.
Pray for Peace and Prosperity
So, then, maybe Jeremiah has the best reminder about being for the city. “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city…Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7 NIV).
For the Hebrew people, seeking the peace and prosperity of the city is a new concept. If it is for you, too, be reminded that working toward and praying for the prosperity of their captors was unique and unprecedented. It’s unlikely you’re reading this while physically captive. But, the idea of praying for the peace and prosperity of the city may be a new experience for you.
The word for “peace” and “prosperity” is the Hebrew word shalom. The Hebrew people were being instructed to seek shalom for their captors (enemies). They were being instructed to seek shalom for the city in which they lived.
Perhaps our circumstances are different than the Hebrew people. Even so, as you work in the city, visit the city, play in the city, and live in the city, let me challenge you to pray for the city.
Let us, together, seek shalom for our city, for our church, and for one another. I am convinced that God’s shalom is the answer. I am also convinced that the Church is the catalyst to realizing God’s shalom.
And, if you haven’t been to the city lately, it’s time for a visit. As you go, keep your eyes and ears open for the presence of God. As you go, may you be reminded God is working for your good, too.
As we seek to follow Jesus, may we seek God’s shalom for the city, for the Church, and for all humanity.
Soong-Chan Rah, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010), 29-36.