Christians Engaging the City: A Simple Plan

No, this isn’t another Tim Keller quote. (But please, indulge me anyway and keep reading.)

Instead it’s by James Montgomery Boice, once longtime pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Boice exerted a significant influence on Keller in many ways, including his love and vision for the city. Like Keller, he was also balding and was a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Aside from those three things, I’m unsure of other notable similarities.

This quote comes from his book Two Cities, Two Loves, a contemporary restatement of Augustine’s City of God. Regrettably, Boice’s book is out of print. However, you can pick it up for cheap second-hand at various online booksellers.

If you appreciate Keller, then thank God for Boice’s influence on him. Reading his take on Christians and the city seems as if it was written by Keller himself (and this was back in 1996, long before Keller had the ear of the wider church). Boice succumbed to cancer and died in 2000.

Here’s Boice’s simple and workable plan for how Christians should engage the city:

  1. We Must Live in the Cities—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
  2. We Must Be Organized as Christians Living in the Cities—…it is not enough merely to have Christians living in the city, as many undoubtedly do already. They must also know each other, meet together often in informal ways. talk about the cities’ problems and what might be done, and actually  work together to help others.
  3. We Must Be a Community in the Cities—It is only as a community that we can model what we want. It must be Christian, because we want to model the unique qualities of life that being a Christian brings. 
  4. We Must Have a Vision for the City—We must have a vision for what a city can and should be.

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.

So let us not be negative. The world may yet be waiting to see what Christians can do.

[Reformatted for readability]

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