Are the Metro Evangelicals Right?

Metro-Evangelicals have developed a kind of “theology of the city” that roots city-centric strategy in biblical proof-texts

Of course, God blessed Paul’s urban strategy to build the church, but I’m not sure metro-evangelicals are gathering the right lesson from this history. It is true that Paul avoided the countryside for the most part, but not because he expected to find more open-minded folks in the cities. ‘Cause that isn’t what he found. In Ephesus, for example, some of these purportedly-open-to-new-things types tried to kill him.
Andy Crouch (or his headline writer) coined the catchy term “metro-evangelicals” to describe the growing urban resurgence within American evangelicalism. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Crouch explains that pastors like Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll see cities as the beachhead of a new evangelization. Crouch’s magazine, Christianity Today, has launched an extensive series on this work of God (This is Our City).

My first two reactions are profound rejoicing at the sending of workers into the harvest and profound prayer that these efforts may bear much fruit. To all who are called there (like my two siblings in Manhattan) the great opportunity and great difficulty should always occasion our concern and support.

Yet there is a timbre amidst all of this city-centrism that troubles me.

Maybe this is because the metro-evangelicals are not counter-cultural, but rather a baptized version of New Urbanism. In a culture that idolizes living in a loft in a gentrifying art district, a church planter is not exactly bearing a cross in deciding to “rough it” under such conditions.

Maybe it is that some of its advocates tell a story that previous generations fearfully abdicated the dirty, sinful cities. Thus, all this new “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” generation needs do is show up and things will get better. It’s worth noting that this mythical Evangelical abandonment never really happened and we should be more careful at imputing impure motives to previous generations of believers.

Or maybe the metro-evangelicals’ claims of self-importance are so hyperbolic that they insult the gospel work being done in less densely populated zipcodes. For example, some urbanist church planters claim that cultural transformation emanates exclusively from cities, as Mark Driscoll writes:

[C]ities are of greater strategic importance because they are upstream where culture is made and changed, yet most Christians today are downstream and subsequently are incapable of effecting cultural transformation. (Vintage Church, p. 298)

Incapable. Incapable? I do not think that word means what you think it means. /Inigo_Montoya_voice

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