Working Definitions for
“Theology and Strategies
“Theology”: “Paradigms of
Understanding that inform Action as to the ultimate nature, purposes and
activity of God towards Creation based upon the Biblical record”. Theology
itself does not save, being a “distilled” and subjective human version of
the Word itself, but ought to lead people to the foot of the cross where the
living Word not only redeems, and the Spirit enlightens, but also guides one
through the course of life itself.
For this course, there is considerable interplay with three types of theology. First, there is a “Theology of the City”, that is, what does the Bible tell us about the City, both good and bad, but especially as we are informed about the vision of the New Jerusalem. Second, there is nuggets of insights that together compile pieces of “Theology for the City”, that is Biblical insights that are especially pertinent to the needs of the City, or help us to identify “signs of the Kingdom” in the City. Then there are various “Theologies that emerge out of the City.” Some of these represent the pathologies of the City while others express uncommon grace found in the City, that inform the larger body of believers in fresh, new ways.
“Strategies”: “Planning and Actions that result from appropriate theological understanding of ministry to the City.” In essence, “strategies” involve envisioning what God’s purpose is for our common grace Cities, and mobilizing resources, individuals, and God’s leadership to live out that vision in practical, self-sustaining, and redemptive ways.
“Urban”: “A city is an agglomerate social organism containing a population of at least 20,000 (UN definition), in a relative density that packages a critical population mass necessary for spawning a variety of value-systems, lifestyles, and power constellations. Cities are particularly receptive to, and instrumental in creating innovation and change. With this capacity for change is introduced various kinds of dysfunctional effects, including cultural, sociological, economic, psychological and spiritual.” (>a composite definition with input from 254 urban ministry leaders).
Therefore, urban is not confined to the inner city, the ghetto or the “hood” but represents the entire community as an “organism” or a “body” operating with its many systems (like the human body), such as transportation, education, social services, legal and judicial systems.
Also, many of the characteristics of the City, now are seen throughout “City Regions” that may extend the influences of the city hundreds of miles into the hinterland. A new phenomenon that is emerging is the development of “Edge Cities” often following highways and beltways around or between cities.
Though urban ministry is seen as a separate field of study by many Christian institutions, the lessons discovered may have application in many environments that are not necessarily characterized as “urban.” Indeed, in the future, there may not be “urban mission” as almost all people will be found in cities, or simulating the issues of cities.
"Ministry”: “Urban ministry is the active engagement of Christians as co-regents with God in the life of the City, for the purpose of identifying, introducing, exhibiting and celebrating the
creative intent: that is, the building of community both as
ecclesia (the Church and alternative
communities, to the embellishment (beautifying, becoming holy) of life
in all dimensions.
Perhaps, “remedial intent” is best understood as employing that whole series
of “re-“ words, renewal, rehabilitative, revival, restoration, etc.
Whereas “creative intent” suggests that which is new, i.e. “newel”, “vival”,
not just returning people to a supposed prior healthy state, but to purposes
and positions informed and ignited more by God’s future than by human
past. “Confrontational intent,” then would suggest, “replacement, defeat
of inimical forces, so that the power of God can be made manifest.
The program of God to redeem the world and its communities, including cities and the individuals who comprise them. Mission focuses on the agenda of the Sender- God, while “ministry” (service) focuses on the activity that fulfills the mission. Functionally though, we will use the terms interchangeably for this course.