Home > Blog > Ministry in the Urban Revolution

March 2, 2017

Ministry in the Urban Revolution

By Daniel Im

*Plus Members can listen to this entire Behind-The-Scenes interview by logging in and clicking here.

Life and ministry in the city, for most of the world’s population, has or will become the norm. According to the UN (United Nations), today over 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas; and by the year 2050, it is predicted that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities.[1]

Even those outside the city limits are or will eventually be impacted by the city. Ray Bakke, a scholar on urban studies, notes, “The city is a media stage prop in this cybernetic era, and its presence will impact everyone eventually. So, even in places far from large cities, banks, businesses and families are linked up to urban centers.”[2] In other words, with cities being the central hub of civilization, they affect many individuals, families, and entities outside their boundaries. Thus, whether people like it or not, urbanization is here to stay.

But what makes an area urban? According to many like Bakke, size, density, and heterogeneity (diversity) are the various elements that constitutes urbanization. In fact, Tim Keller writes, “A human settlement becomes more ‘urban’ as it becomes more a) dense and b) diverse in its population.”[3]

When it comes to the realm of missiology today, you cannot address the study of mission without addressing it in the context of urbanization—or at least for most of the world. But why is understanding an urban context important for effective mission? This is a question that I recently discussed with Dhati Lewis, Lead Pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, GA. During our time, Dhati explained that urban ministry—ministry among a dense and diverse population—is much different than the suburbia ministries of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s that implemented more of the homogenous unit principle. To effectively reach cities (urban areas) today, there’s no one size fits all approach. In other words, there’s no cookie-cutter ministry models that will accomplish the missional mandate of making disciples within urban contexts. Therefore, according to Dhati, churches will need to do at least three things.

First, churches will need to adopt a neighbor missiology.

It’s not enough to identify the different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes that live within one’s community. After identifying the diversity, it will require an intentional reach, which requires a neighbor missiology. A neighbor missiology is reflected in the parable of the good Samaritan. Not only did the Samaritan identify a beaten man on the side of the road, he intentionally went to him, cleaned and bound up his wounds, and brought him to an inn where he could recover. In short, a neighbor missiology requires personal touch and interaction.

To read the final two points and to watch to the entire Behind the Scenes segment with Dhati Lewis, click here.

This video is part of Plus Membership, so to get full access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member. Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.

[1] http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html.

[2] Ray Bakke, A Theology as Big as the City (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic), 12.

[3] Tim Keller, “A Theology of Cities,” cited from, https://www.cru.org/content/dam/cru/legacy/2012/02/A_Theology_of_Cities.pdf.


  • Over 50% of world’s population live in urban areas; by 2050, it is predicted that 66% of the world’s population will live in cities.
  • With cities being the central hub of civilization, they affect many individuals, families, and entities outside the city.
  • What makes an area urban? Size, density, and diversity.
  • “A human settlement becomes more ‘urban’ as it becomes more a) dense and b) diverse in its population.” @timkellernyc
  • To effectively reach cities (urban areas) today, there’s no one size fits all approach. It begins by developing a vision from burden. 
  • “To effectively reach cities will require churches to adopt a neighbor missiology.” Dhati Lewis.
  • “Churches must guard from disconnecting their activity from their identity. Identity drives our activity.” Dhati Lewis

Additional Resources:


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Senior Associate Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multiplying multisite church focused on reaching 1% of Edmonton for Christ. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, as well as the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for LifeWay, Daniel and his wife, Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.


view all
Succeeding in Church Planting

Exclusive Content

Should I Plant a House Church?

Exclusive Content

The Church Is Not the Building

Exclusive Content

Cultivating Leadership and Outreach [Behind-The-Scenes]
Developing Leadership and Outreach in a Church

Exclusive Content

What Should Church Metrics Be in 2021?

Exclusive Content