Reaching the City: Reflections on Urban Mission for the Twenty-first Century

by Gary Fujino, Timothy R. Sisk, Tereso C. Casiño

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 304 pages, 2012, $14.99.

Reviewed by Ivan Chung, director of International Student Services at Biola University.

Reaching the City appropriately expands on the changing demographics of missions today and adds essential thought, vision, and practice for diverse urban practitioners.  

Repeatedly throughout the sections, the authors emphasize the seminal year of 2008 when, for the first time in history, the world’s majority population lived in cities. Navigating the urban landscape, the authors observe the benefits and challenges of cities with respect to cross-cultural ministries, locally and globally, historically and presently. The “nations at our doorstep” mentality is underscored accordingly, and much attention is given to the continuous wave of immigrants populating the U.S. and global cities. How is the Church to respond to this current movement of internationals to mostly urban areas around the world, of which the number is equivalent to the population of Brazil?  

The authors discuss questions concerning the relevance of current mission training programs in the church and in academia, the depth of theology and understanding of the city, the level of prominence of solid urban research, how specific people groups and church communities do urban outreach well, and how they have learned from their mistakes in the midst of ever-transitioning ministry contexts. Strategies for reaching out to first and second-generation immigrants are highlighted.  

Certainly, all of these deserve comprehensive examination in urban missions. However, in this book there was not much mentioned concerning the pre-existing “inner city” “storefront” churches, many of whom, though small and seemingly invisible to larger suburban congregations, are experts in urban mission through the painful side of demographic shifts. The dire need of the mission enterprise in urban ministry is to learn from churches “left behind” to mobilize city agents of reconciliation, and how to befriend and partner with them. Mobilizing African American and Latino American churches and youth for both local and global missions needs much further study and practice.

More writing on urban missions needs to include research and case studies on not only multicultural congregations, but multi-class faith communities. The disparity of urban wealth and poverty in our global cities needs further deconstruction and theologizing. Following in the footsteps of Basil of Caesarea, reconciliation on all levels in the city needs to be discussed in order for urban missions to be fruitful.

Despite this glaring omission, I highly recommend this book for astutely adding to the urban mission discussion through its valuable insights and examples. It would be wise for missionaries, urban pastors, church leaders, and marketplace believers to follow the practical ministry recommendations of the authors in order to bring about God’s shalom to our local and global cities.

Check this title:
Conn, Harvie M. 2001. The Urban Face of Mission: Ministering the Gospel in a Diverse and Changing World. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing Company.

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