Darren Cronshaw (editor)
Seeking Urban Mission: Integral Urban Mission in a New Urban World
International Society for Urban Mission, 2014

ISBN 978-0992394103

If you wanted to attend a conference on mission in the last year and either did not make it or came away looking for more pieces to fit a mission picture for you then read this book.

It is a series of papers, sprinkled with personal stories and experiences, delivered at the 2013 ISUM Summit in Bangkok. This organisation was formed in 2012 to "seek God’s Shalom in cities, especially in the Majority World, and to come together to seriously grapple with issues of urban poverty".

"These are different times we are living in and this book reflects that change and the need to be engaged in what God is currently doing in the neighbourhood He has placed you in."

"These are different times we are living in and this book reflects that change and the need to be engaged in what God is currently doing in the neighbourhood He has placed you in."

The book’s twin tablets are: maintain a presence and work for justice as you live and share the Gospel. Their theme was working with God in mission requires "compassionate service, advocacy for justice, faith-sharing, church planting and care for creation".

The opening paper stresses the need to dwell with God and with others. One thought that caused me to pause was: Whatever urban ministry we are in, whatever work God has for you, you are challenged to remind yourself about not whining, not complaining, not pointing the finger, but to live and exemplify in word and service the peace of Christ, even among those people with whom we do not get along. In these small acts of faithful speech and true worship, in doing justice, and sharing bread, God’s promise is that God’s people will shine like stars.

The second paper continues the theme of having a theology of place and community. As one who has become a little tired of Christianese talk around the subject of God’s calling there are some little pearls to be had here:

• In order to work in apostolic ways, our identity must be anchored in our vocation as neighbours, outside the walls of church buildings.

• We need not be geographically promiscuous. There is a promised land. It’s your neighbourhood

• There is no need for an anointed calling, advanced training, or specialised education. One simply needs to go home.

These papers, indeed the whole book, should be read with your neighbourhood or mission context firmly in mind.

The importance of dwelling of living in a place that enables you to live out Christ’s compassion, care and love crops up in varying ways with various speakers/writers. For example: "Having visited 100 churches during a research project, I found that only three were formed by Christian community development. Rather churches were founded through healing, care and love; they didn’t begin with structures, projects and programs from the West, rather an active commitment to release the oppressed and to bringing the good news of holistic salvation to the poor."

In respect to the second of the twin tablets, working for justice, you will find statements such as:

• "We must let the character of Christ heighten our senses to situations of injustice, give wisdom in when and how to respond, and keep us humble and dependent in our responses."

• "We must be mindful of not re-exploiting...through un-dignifying story telling or 'poverty porn'...collaborate with them to design programs that empower them as individuals and communities."

Add in accounts of people engaged in urban mission, especially in the Majority World, and you meet people like Rev Aroon, with his work in India.

The world of mission has and is changing. One hit events and attempts to rescue people out of their community into the security of a ‘compound Christian community’ have largely disappeared. Traditional missionaries are going the same way and are being replaced by ‘tent makers’, missionaries who use their work skills to be part of a community and thus engage with a community from the inside. The colonialist approach has been relegated to a previous generation.

While the world is becoming increasingly urbanised, and cities compress all that is good and bad in humanity, the social mores of newly formed dense populations cry out for some Gospel hope, some Christ light, some peace of God. 

Those who attended the ISUM Summit took "courage that God has consistently sparked revival and change on the margins of empires. Whether slaves and women in the first century, Welsh coal miners in 1904, or 21st century Dalits in India, God loves to move powerfully among those deemed 'least' by the powerful. God has mobilized young people by the droves to move to places considered geographically, sociologically, culturally or spiritually distant from their places of origin".

These are different times we are living in and this book reflects that change and the need to be engaged in what God is currently doing in the neighbourhood He has placed you in.

To buy this book, follow this link Seeking Urban Shalom: Integral Urban Mission in a New Urban World.