For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter is a book for pastors, church planters and Christ-followers who want to make a difference in their respective cities. The heartbeat of the authors is to instill a passion for proclaiming the gospel faithfully and living the gospel in authentic, transparent, gospel-centered communities.
There is much to commend here but I especially appreciate the fiercely anti-pragmatic approach which is grounded in gospel-centered ministry. The authors present four approaches to the city. The first three are popular but do not reflect the burden of the New Testament.
Church IN the City
This first approach reflect churches that are merely in the city, geographically. While they strive to get people to church to hear the gospel, there is very little interaction with the city itself. This approach may be well-intentioned but doesn’t go far enough.
Church AGAINST the City
This approach opposes the city and carries an “us vs. them” mentality. Examples abound here. Frankly, these churches are an embarrassment to the evangelical world.
Church OF the City
Here is the opposite extreme. Instead of blatantly opposing the city, the approach caters to the whims of the city and leans heavily on a postmodern ethos and as a result, loses its saltiness and gospel influence. Some emergent churches live here. Horrible!
Church FOR the City
The authors hold the final option as the only option for the New Testament church: In this approach, “the church speaks the truth of the gospel and is not afraid to uphold a biblical worldview and moral standard. Such a church proclaims the truths of Scripture with passion, clarity, and boldness. At the same time, though, this is a church that commits itself to seeking the shalom, the flourishing, of the city. This means seeking the shalom of the people they live in community with, living sacrificially and using their gifts, time, and money to seek the peace and prosperity of their neighbors.”
While the authors never hint at it, this author wonders out loud whether a stringent premillennialism (and I’m premillennial) has negatively influenced churches that would otherwise exist as a church FOR the city.
For the City is filled with practical help, strong admonitions, and bold challenges. A timely work from two seasoned church planters.