A year ago this month we moved into Liberty Village, a condo community in the heart of Toronto. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, and have spent the past 20 years living in the inner suburbs. Moving into an urban condo community was a new experience for me. I thought I would love it, but it’s been even better than I expected.
I want to be careful in this post. I don’t want to suggest that cities are inherently better than other places. Sometimes you get the impression that people think city-centered ministry is what really counts, and everyone else has missed out. That’s not at all the case, and I don’t want you to think that’s what I’m saying.
But here is what I am saying: I love the city, as many of you love where you live. And here are just two reasons why.
The City as a Great Place to Live
My father lived in a village in Kent, England. When I visited him I appreciated many of the aspects of village life. We walked everywhere. We relied on public transit (bus and train) when we needed to travel. We visited the high street almost daily. We got to know others in the community. It was easy to see why a village is a great place to live.
When you live in a certain type of city neighborhood, that’s exactly what you experience. Liberty Village isn’t called a village for no reason: with train tracks on the north and south, and only a few ways in and out, it really does have the feeling of a village within a large city. We tend to walk everywhere. To travel within the city, we often use transit. (It’s almost a kilometer to drive our car from the parking spot to the street outside, for one thing.) We shop the local shops and regularly bump into people on the street. We meet them at parties and community events. We have the best of village living in the big city.
Not only that, but we have all the benefits of urban life as well. We have many of the ingredients of great city living: diversity, culture, food, a critical mass of people. Our commute time is low because we live where we work. Jane Jacobs and others have described the qualities that make cities healthy, and many of them are present here. Contrary to what many people think, the city is a great place to live if you want to improve the quality of your life.
The City as a Great Place to Serve
As far back as Ray Bakke, and as recently as Tim Keller, people have been arguing for the importance of city-centered ministry. I won’t go over all of the arguments, but there’s no doubt that there is a need for churches in the city, just as there are in the suburbs and the country as well. I love how James Boice put it:
Not every Christian needs to live in our cities, but far more should live in them than do now. They should live in them as their mission field of choice….since we want to be ahead of the times rather than lagging behind them, we should probably lead the way with an even higher percentage of Christians relocating to the urban areas. Many thousands should move there.
The whole post on Boice’s view of the city is worth reading.
I really resonate with Boice’s statement, “And while we’re working on it we should not think that the world is utterly opposed to us. Society is often less hostile than we think.” One of the reasons that the city is such a great place to live is because there is such a need here. When a church shows up that loves the city, it is often met with more receptivity than one might have guessed.
One more thing: city ministry has the potential to be much more community-based than in other settings. We are essentially starting a parish church. I don't have to get in my car and drive 15 minutes to a church meeting. I can walk a few minutes and meet most of the people who are part of Liberty Grace Church. The potential for living in purposeful, missional community is staggering.
The city is not for everyone. Some people are city folk; some aren’t. We need people and churches everywhere.
My point is not to run down where anyone else is living or serving. My point is to tell you that the city is an amazing place to live, and a great place to plant a church, and that you should consider it for yourself.
Last year, Nathan and Sarah Fullerton moved into Liberty Village to join us. It was because they have a love for the city, a calling to the city, and a desire to serve here. I'm so glad they share my love for Liberty Village, for the Lord, and for service, and that they've brought others with them. I want their tribe to increase.
Don’t believe all the bad press about how cities are such a bad place. (A lady told me the other week: “Good luck working with all the murderers in Toronto!”) If you feel the draw to a city, consider how you might live and serve there for the glory of God. We certainly could use more servant-minded believers who love the city in our church plant and other church plants!