Urban exegesis, a theological reading of the city, can be an insightful and effective lens for observing and interpreting any urban community. After considering some foundational elements of the Rainier Valley’s physical context, an examination of significant urban “cultural texts” in the community will explore cultural and theological meaning in the built environment of the neighborhood. This approach to observing and interpreting an urban community is essential not only for prospective church planters, but also for anyone who is seeking to embody an incarnational presence in the city.
How does the Western Church proclaim the gospel to a post-Christian world that does not care about its message? The Church must speak with confidence the authority of Christian scripture, despite the temptation for scriptural relativism. As an alternative to the idolatrous individualism perpetuated in the West, the Church must provide a visible testimony of authentic community. And the Church must adopt a missional identity in which every church member is recognized as an agent of gospel mission. The world is changing, but the Church can make a difference with a renewed, gospel-centered heart.
Modern Western evangelicalism is experiencing a crisis of discipleship and gospel witness because of its perception of spiritual maturity in almost exclusively individualistic terms. The Scriptures, however, conceive of spirituality and growth in corporate terms. The leader’s role, then, is not to disciple a select few, but to create a culture of mutual discipleship, resulting in communities of genuine grace and repentance. Western churches need to recapture this community approach to discipleship to combat the crisis.