A life-size statue of Ronald Reagan was constructed a year ago at the Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula, California. Last week, the statue was torched by vandals. Temecula is not a huge city, with a population of around 100,000. Its small size makes it an unusual location for violence among today’s headlines.
Over the weekend, more than 70 people were killed when a group loyal to al-Qaeda attacked a popular mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a city of more than three million. In Peshawar, Pakistan, a city of nearly three million, a pair of suicide bombers assaulted the historic All Saints Church. At least 85 people were killed in the largest-ever attack on Christians in Pakistan.
When you think of terrorist attacks, what comes first: cities or small towns? Are you more afraid in large cities or in rural communities?
I just finished Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church. Written by two church planters, one in Boston and the other in Silicon Valley, it is a fascinating read. Here is some of what I learned:
- The largest urban population explosion in history is occurring today. In less than 300 years we will have shifted from a world in which three percent live in cities to one in which 80 percent live in urban areas.
- Nearly 5.5 million people move into cities every month, creating the equivalent of a new San Francisco Bay Area every 30 days.
- More than 90 percent of all economic output in the United States is generated in metropolitan regions.
- The largest 40 cities in the world account for two-thirds of global economic output.
From its inception, Christianity has been an urban movement. Jesus based his ministry in Capernaum, a thriving business center in northern Galilee. Paul centered his global ministry in Antioch, the third-largest city in the world. From there he focused most on Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus and Rome and wrote his epistles to churches in cities. The book of Revelation was written to churches in seven cities. Early Christianity grew from 25,000 in AD 100 to 20 million in AD 310 primarily through its ministry in cities.
God cares about cities. Speaking of pagan Nineveh, he told Jonah, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11). Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). God instructed his people in Babylon, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf” (Jeremiah 29:7).
How are you seeking the welfare of the place where you live? Will you “pray to the Lord on its behalf” right now?