Building the City

I was busy yesterday conducting another funeral. It was for a bricklayer called John Mason. He was well named Mason, because his working life centred around the building trade.. Preparing for John's funeral got me thinking about the biblical references that invite us to think more clearly about how we build our lives. What kind of foundation are we building upon. In 1 Corinthians 3. 10 Paul the Apostle writes about the importance of a foundation that is eternal. Only things that are built upon love will last. "10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames." Paul, is reminding his readers that we are all building our lives on a foundation. The one that will last is the one built on precious stones symbols of love and eternity. This idea brought me to reflect on the passage in Revelation 21, where John the Apostle speaks of heaven as a city. Its a city built four square shining with precious stones. Of course all this thinking and picture painting in words, is about human-beings trying to describe something that is beyond their imaging. Paul in another place writes " Eye has not seen or hear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of a human-being, what God has prepared for those who love him" However the image of a city as a community of great beauty is wonderfully described in Revelation 21. Talking about cites reminded me that this time last year I was in South Africa at the Lausanne Congress. There was a very important seminar inviting delegates to consider how we as Christian leaders connect with our cities. I'm becoming more convinced that the Church on Scotland needs to pay more attention to the cities. I found Tim Kellar from the Church of the Redeemer New York to be someone who had a realistic strategy for the evangelisation of the world. Kellar talked about the city as a strategic metaphor to help us understand the final destination of humanity. It was an interesting idea that he posed. Human life may have started in a garden that was ephemeral but our ultimate destination is to be citizens of an eternal city. Kellar quoted facts that document all around the globe literally millions of people are migrating from the countryside to the cities. It is this migration that is causing problems relating to sustainability of city infra structures and is creating the growth of shanty towns with millions of people living below the breadline. Kellar suggested that the church that will truly minister to the city, will have a receptive response, but they must first address the following seven points. 1.Be culturally sensitive. Be understanding the relationship between faith and work 2.Be comfortable with disorder 3.Be willing to promote evangelism that is connecting with thinking people 4.Be famous for the way it cares for the poor and needy 5. Be able to connect with the artist, academics, politicians, thinkers, the media 6.Be relational in leadership reflecting the variety of cultures 7.Be church that works in partnership with relevant networks of specialist ministries He spoke of the importance of the mega cities as repositories of ideas and influences. Many of these cities were perhaps more powerful than some nation states. I began to think that perhaps this city strategy could be thought through as a possible way forward to create a renewal of faith in Scotland. While in an ideal situation we might argue for a church in every parish, until we can make such churches effective and viable, can we have an alternative plan on the go? Could we regroup and begin to see the importance of the city as the place of witness and mission. Could Kellar be right, "capture the city and the countryside will follow".
1 Comment

Posted By: Andrew S   On: 30 Oct 2011   At: 12:02am

Very appropriate - after all Augustine (of Hippo) seminal work as “City of God”, wasn’t it?

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