A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry

by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos, eds.

A Heart for the Community explores a wide range of issues relevant to holistic ministry in the city.

 Moody Publishers, 820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610, 496 pages, 2009, $34.99.

Reviewed by Michael Crane, professor of urban missiology in Asia; currently working on a Ph.D. in urban missiology.

Ethnic diversity, religiously diverse communities, gentrification, and a plenitude of other issues are realities for our increasingly urbanized world. These terms only begin to describe the complexity of urban life. For this reason, the book A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry is a welcomed work. Editors John Fuder and Noel Castellanos have assembled a series of chapters written by those who are both experienced in and knowledgeable about urban ministry. Ten years prior to editing this book, Fuder edited A Heart for the City: Effective Ministries to the Urban Community. This new volume does not require reading the earlier publication, but does feature lessons learned in urban ministry over the last decade.

A Heart for the Community explores a wide range of issues relevant to holistic ministry in the city. The authors represent incredible diversity in background, culture, and expertise, but find common ground in an evangelical commitment to share the good news of Jesus in the greater Chicago area. In this way, Chicago becomes an extended case study for examining a variety of critical issues, church-planting models, ministry to suburban needs, and parachurch ministries.  The authors each introduce their subjects by telling about their community and offering stories that bolster the main points.

The book does an excellent job of introducing the reader to a nuanced understanding of important issues faced when doing urban ministry, particularly in North America. For example, Wayne Gordon reflects on gentrification by providing both critical reflection on the phenomenon and suggestions on how to best help those impacted by it. In fact, the book as a whole includes a good balance of information and practical models and the reader will find solid community development principles explained and practiced.  

One newer trend this book explores is the “suburbanization of poverty”—the recognition that the revitalization of downtowns is pushing the poor out to the suburbs. This is creating new dynamics for the Church as she seeks to serve and help the poor. Also highlighted is the need for the wealthier suburban churches to be involved in helping the less fortunate even if they are not in their own communities.

The book has some limitations. It is most useful for urban ministry in the United States. Many of the dynamics highlighted are unique to the United States, and many of the solutions involve government resources not available outside of a developed world context. There is a common trend among books focused on North American urban ministry to heavily promote multicultural churches and denigrate the Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP). Although several of the contributors in this book write the HUP off as unbiblical, this is a topic worthy of deeper theological exploration. The original intent of the HUP was the recognition that the gospel flows along natural cultural lines; it was not intended to be an excuse for segregating worship. Overall, though, this book is an important resource for those who intend to seek the shalom of the city in which they reside.

Check these titles:

Conn, Harvie M. and Manuel Ortiz. 2001. Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City & the People of God. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.  

Fuder, John, ed. 1999. A Heart for the City: Effective Ministries to the Urban Community. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 3, pp. 364-365. Copyright  © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

 


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