If you have kept up with this series, you will recall that I have used the limitations in my own research to point to the need for more and better urban research in the United States and Canada. And while I have attempted to keep the focus on the urban context, the reality is that the non-urban areas of these countries are also lacking in the area of research.
Here are the previous posts–in case you missed them:
In this final post, I wish to offer four steps that will begin the process of moving the Church in the right direction. Of course, these are very general, but necessary to get us started. I hope they–along with the previous posts–will move the conversation to practical reality. More detailed steps are needed. But, when little to nothing is present, generalities are necessary.
A missiology is needed that embraces research for North America.
Most of the missiology serving as a foundation for missional activity in the United States and Canada not only falls short biblically and theologically but also fails to value research as a tool to assist in strategy development and contextualization. Until research is understood as a valuable contribution to missions in North America, we will remain in our ignorance and strategy will suffer within the United States and Canada.
A recognition is needed that better urban research at home has significant implications for missions abroad.
Many of the world’s unreached peoples are moving to the urban contexts of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, most Evangelicals continue to embrace a missiology that dichotomizes missions according to geographical boundaries: “International” missions happen “over there.” “Domestic” missions take place here. And rarely do the two meet. While I am not stating that we should discard the importance of geographical differences, I am attempting to point out that our world is much “smaller” and more connected than ever before in history. Such global shifts influence gospel advancement.
Transnational migrations, high speed transportation, and instant communication have helped to reduce the appearance of distance between countries. Peoples migrate and continue to be active in the social and political realms in their countries of birth. Mission strategy today needs to integrate strategies developed by missionaries “over there” with those developed by missionaries “over here.” Many of the peoples residing in North America are gateway peoples to reaching unreached peoples in other lands. If we fail to miss this point, we will miss wonderful opportunities to get the gospel to all regions of the world.
Support networks need to be developed for a cadre of urban researchers at both the professional and volunteer levels
Since I began this series of posts, I have had a few urban researchers contact me and share their work. I am so excited that brothers and sisters are conducting outstanding research in different cities. However, well developed support networks do not exist within most denominations, parachurch organizations, and local churches.
This matter brings me to the final step.
Collaboration among Evangelicals to conduct, share, and disseminate findings as quickly as possible is needed.
Differing groups and denominations should form their own networks of urban researchers. While this matter is a good thing, the hoarding of findings, feeding of egos, competition in the Kingdom, and lack of cooperation are detrimental to the process necessary to provide healthy urban missiological research. The United States and Canada are far too large for any one group to study all of the urban contexts. There absolutely must be collaborative efforts on studying the peoples of the cities. Without such cooperation among Evangelicals, the desperately needed work will remain unaccomplished. Such is not a call for an ecumenical movement or theological compromise but rather a call for urban researchers to work together on research. I am not calling Baptists and Presbyterians to plant churches together; I am calling for them to work together as researchers.
What are your thoughts? If you have kept up with this series, what practical steps would you suggest? If you are aware of such research networks, please feel free to share them as well. If you are in a position of influence in your denomination, parachurch organization, or local church, what can you do? If you are a student, have you considered becoming an urban sociologist/anthropologist, an urban missiologist, an urban missionary?