Welcome to the very first issue of Journal of Urban Mission; so glad you could be a part of it. Our mission is to continue in the spirit of Urban Mission journal of the 1980s and 1990s, which was “Dedicated to the Advancement of Christ’s Church and Kingdom in Cities throughout the World.” We want to carry on this mission in our new day, now well into the 21st century, in our globalizing, urbanizing world.
When I was a student at Westminster, Harvie Conn was instrumental in making me a true believer of urban mission; then Manny taught, pastored and mentored me in urban church planting; and Sue nurtured and encouraged me in this pilgrimage as a practitioner and student of urban mission. So it is a great honor for me, as the junior member of the team, to serve as general editor and co-laborer with Manny and Sue in this endeavor. I am thrilled that Roger Greenway, the original editor for Urban Mission journal, is a regional editor for JofUM in North America–it sure feels like a regathering. I am also delighted that we have a robust and growing list of regional editors from around the world, pointing the way forward for all of us in the church’s global mission.
Reading Urban Mission journal as a student greatly encouraged me and informed me in the work. When the journal closed down its doors, I remember conversing with many about how we would miss the journal, and how it would be a great idea to see it resurrected. When the Festschrift for Manny, Globalization and Its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century,1 was published in the spring of 2009, the back story of the Urban Mission journal narrated within it inspired me, and gave us the boost we needed to get going on this new project and continue the work in our new context and time.
A decade ago, Harvie Conn, in the last issue of the Urban Mission journal, surveyed the current urban mission landscape in his editorial entitled, “Urban Mission: Where Are We Now?”,2 and found many positive changes since the journal’s beginning in 1983, including a more positive perception of the city and a greater desire for social justice among evangelicals. But he also noted that the missing pieces in the midst of all the positive changes were evangelism and church planting.
Today, many things have changed, but many things have also stayed the same. North American evangelicals are gaining a new reputation for international relief and development. A New York Times columnist recently noted that there is a growing and maturing concern for social justice among evangelicals.3 This is good news. On the other hand, often absent from the social justice circles is a concern for gospel proclamation, conversions to Christ, and church growth.
Concurrently, there has been a renewed vision and enthusiasm among North American evangelicals for church planting and missional churches. This also is good news. But this vision doesn’t always go hand in hand with the central gospel concern for justice and an emphasis on the poor. The old dichotomy between word and deed ministries stubbornly persists in the church psyche.
Still elusive, therefore, are truly holistic ministry approaches to church planting, evangelism and discipleship–ministry efforts that will bring together preaching grace and doing justice into one whole, in order to witness to the whole counsel of the gospel message; efforts which are incarnational, gospel-centered, and kingdom-mission-minded. We are still pilgrims in our global cities seeking signs of the kingdom–Christ-centered communities of grace that live out just and reconciled relationships, where the poor, the outcast, and the downtrodden are welcomed and find life abundant.
Many people have noted that the center of Christianity has shifted southward during the 20th century. Manny and Sue mention this in their word of welcome. This, together with the bursting onto the scene of globalization, has opened up a veritable plethora of new vistas and possibilities as well as challenges for the mission of the church. The church is struggling to come to grips with what all of this means.
All this to say: I am looking forward to all that the Lord will do in the world’s cities through his body in the coming decades. I pray that this journal will make a contribution to his work, by providing a forum in which to speak, listen to each other, learn, and grow in the ongoing work of faithfully witnessing to the good news of our eternal Lord to our ever-changing world.
I am deeply indebted to the service provided by Greg Ash who not only designed the web site, but thoughtfully engaged us in the process of developing our identity and turned our ideas into concrete symbols. Much acknowledgment also to Keeley Chorn, Dan Cason and Jenn Heron, who provided much needed help in the editing process. Thank you, Matt Bainton, our web developer, who put all the cogs and wheels together so this thing can run.
Welcome to a global conversation. May the Lord of our global cities receive the glory and may his people hear his call, and move into mission.
1 Susan S. Baker, ed. Globalization and Its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 2009).
2 Urban Mission, Vol. 16, No. 4 (June 1999):3-5.
3 Nicholas D. Kristof, “Learning from the Sin of Sodom,” New York Times, February 27, 2010, Opinion section, Global edition, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/opinion/28kristof.html