Mennonite Brethren and the Urban Challenge (Mennonite Brethren Church, 1978)

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Mennonite Brethren and the Urban Challenge (MB, 1978)

The Mennonite Brethren of North America live in a culture that is approximately 75% urban. The general trend for the foreseeable future continues to be further urbanization. The next two decades will see (say urbanologists and demographers) between 85- 90% of all the inhabitants of the United States and Canada living in cities and towns of over 2,500. In the United States, about 30% of the people live in cities of over 100,000. Mennonite Brethren churches appear to be able to adapt to, and to minister effectively in the smaller towns. In large, multicultural, urban centers we must confess that we have not been too successful.

Acknowledging the fact that urbanism has become a way of life--not only for the culture that rounds us, but also for the culture of which the Mennonite Brethren have become a part--we need to clearly set forth and accept the challenge of learning how to serve and minister to the urban masses. While the past century has been a century of revolutions, the revolution which most challenges the North American Mennonite Brethren church today is the move from rural to urban to metropolitan. The example of Jesus as well as that of the apostles, especially Paul, stand us in good stead. It is significant that most of the early Christian church communities were founded in the major cities of power--Corinth, Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi, Rome, and Ephesus. It appears to have been part of strategy of the Holy Spirit to plant His church is the great cities of the Roman Empire.

The rural heritage of the Mennonite Brethren has tendencies to create fear and anxiety in our approach to urban ministry. We know cities to be places of loneliness and impersonality; they are places of complex racial injustice and social evil; they are oppressive in religious indifference and secularism; they are places of crime and sin. Yet it is precisely in the cities where the salt and yeast and light of the Gospel are needed the most and can make the greatest impact.

Therefore, realizing that the mandate of Mark 16:15 "Go ye into all the world . . ." includes the world of our cities, we wish to affirm that:

  1. We accept the challenge of the urban frontier. We hereby recognize the importance of our church witness to our urban culture and commit ourselves to prayerfully and practically find ways to serve our Lord in the urban culture.
  2. We recognize that the nature of the church is determined by the nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Gospel cuts across all class barriers. The fellowship of the Spirit prevents ethnic, racial, economic, intellectual, and sex barriers from being set up. The Kingdom is for all people, inasmuch as Jesus died for all.
  3. We assert that we are a covenant community based, among other things, on mutual service. Just as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, so we commit ourselves to be a servant church. We confess that it is easily possible to be imprisoned in buildings and static methods, which often prevent us from effectively reaching a mobile society. We wish to become more responsible students of our society so that our methods of ministry better reflect the whole Gospel. While we affirm aggressive evangelism, we mean by that the ministry to the total needs of man, modeling our methods after the methods of Jesus.
  4. We continue to assert our prophetic ministry to the urban culture. Historically the Mennonite Brethren church stood for righteousness, justice, and mercy. We wish to continue in that prophetic tradition, recognizing that as imperfect as our witness is, God has called us to be light to a darkened world. Whether our witness is directed to inequities in the market place, in labor relations, in race relations, in government/state relations, et cetera, we wish to speak the truth in love, all the while urging that justice be done, "for righteousness exalts a nation." We commit ourselves to be peacemakers and reconciling agents of the love of God.
  5. We declare our openness to new patterns of ministry that take into account urban man's anonymity, mobility and technology. We pray for increased sensitivity and a compassionate spirit toward cities filled with needy people. Our churches must concern themselves with the activity of God in the world. Through urban studies courses in our seminary, colleges, and Bible institutes, through urban church workshops and conferences, we will exercise our stewardship in planning so that it might seem "good to the Holy Spirit and us" to make us effective in urban ministries.


Yearbook, 54th session, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, August 3-6, 1978 (Winnipeg? : Kindred Press?, 1978), 8-10.