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The Why, What, and How of Urban Ministry

urbanconcern : July 25, 2018 10:22 am :


High School home church

Old school Xenos members who haven’t attended a recent youth meeting may not realize how much different the church looks today than it did in the early days when pastors Dennis McCallum and Gary Delashmutt were sporting bell bottoms and rocking out to Freebird.  Today, Student Ministries is home to a diverse group of young people from a variety of cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

But “Urban Ministry” can be an ambiguous term that means different things to different people and churches.  Tim Keller’s book Center Church notes, “Cities increasingly influence our global culture and affect the way we do ministry. With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic, and underserved places for gospel ministry.”  However, it’s no doubt that inner city Columbus neighborhoods bear little resemblance to the Manhattanite context from which Keller writes.

When we talk about urban ministry in Xenos, we are talking primarily about ministry to students and families who are low-income and under-resourced.  As indicated by our own census and the extensive opportunity mapping done by OSU’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, urban neighborhoods like South Linden, Weinland Park, and Franklinton, among others, rank lowest in the city for various opportunity indicators including Housing & Neighborhood, Transportation & Employment, Health & Safety, and Education.

Yet, hundreds of students from these neighborhoods attend Xenos affiliated Bible studies each week!

The “Why” of Urban Ministry

Why is it important for the church to take urban ministry seriously?  Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God leaves no gray area in expressing his special concern for the poor.  Not only is serving the poor commanded (Deuteronomy 15:10), Christians are to advocate and seek justice regarding the very systems of oppression that contributes to their poverty – both economic & spiritual.  The result of such effort? Blessing for those we work with and blessing for the church at large (Isaiah 58:6-11).

Likewise, the Lord Jesus, himself, went to great lengths to self-identify with the poor and chose the oppressed as specific recipients of his favor and blessing through the Gospel (Luke 4:16-19).

Why do urban ministry?  As the church, we affirm that what’s important to God is important to us.  And secondly, we are merely trying to keep up with the direction God himself seems to be leading at Xenos!

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