Urban Shalom and Discipleship

Urban Shalom and Discipleship

by Ash Barker


The world has rapidly changed and is challenging the very nature of Christian faith and mission as we know it. A fundamental change with significant implications for Christians is how and where humans live together. In 1800 only 3% of people lived in cities, but now more than half of all humans live in urban areas with over one third facing severe urban poverty. With over 70% of people predicted to be urbanites by 2050, the increased disparity, diversity and density of living will leave no person, place or culture untouched.

Areas of urban deprivation and poverty are especially complex places to make a long-term impact, but they are some of the most critical frontline contexts for mission today. A resilient and thoughtful theology and spirituality as well as innovative skills and frameworks are needed if effective, sustainable responses are to be found.

This week we will explore the nature and call of Christian discipleship as a core motif in response to these growing urban realities. Understanding the context we find ourselves is crucial in this, but much of this week’s notes will focus the significance of various conversions to help us centre on the risen Jesus and empower us to engage with his concerns as a way of faithful engagement from within these contexts. How can Christian discipleship inform and inspire our spirituality, practices and vision for our new urban world?

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Urban Shalom – The Practice of Hope

Urban Shalom - The Practice of Hope


Andre van Eymeren

The majority of the world’s population now lives in urban environments. This trend is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. Many of the cities that will house the increase in urban population are yet to be built and will be developed in Asia and Africa.

As a community of faith, the city is a cultural phenomenon that we have not been good at engaging. Christians have tended to see cities in a negative light. Believing they are only places where people live in overcrowded conditions, experience poverty and the numerous issues associated with lack of resources, relationships or voice. Faith communities have often seen cities as places of exploitation, mistrust and miscommunication, or where decisions are made by those exercising power, with very little consultation at the grassroots or margins.

However, cities do not need to be defined by their issues. The hope held out in the gospel story points to the possibility of cities where people can connect meaningfully to others, experience a sense of belonging and work together to meet basic needs and live lives defined by flourishing rather than subsistence.

This hope is reflected in much of the global conversation around the development of cities and is supported by UN Habitat’s New Urban Agenda http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf.However, there is much work to be done and the Christian community has largely been silent in this space ignoring systemic city issues such as development, social infrastructure, land use, the environment, policy frameworks, place making, poverty alleviation and so on. The Urban Shalom Society is made up of practitioners, leaders and academics passionate about working with others to create cities where people can flourish or experience God’s dream of shalom.