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12-10-14 Serving the World's Cities: An Andrews University Response

Cities have been interwoven in human experience from the beginning of time. Some will argue that humans prefer the gentle pastoral beauty and pace of life familiar to uncrowded rural settings, but the reality tells us otherwise. For whatever reason, we gather in cities. Today’s cities are larger, more creative, diverse and global than ever. In the mid-19th century less than 10 percent of the world’s population lived in a metropolis of 100,000 or more. By 1900 the urban population in the world had increased to 14 percent. Today, 60 percent of the human population is in the city, and in developed nations like Canada and America it is an astounding 75 percent. And the pace of migration to urban life is quickening. Today’s cities are the center of power, culture, economy and spirituality. [i]

People continue to migrate to the city. There is an optimism people have about the city, although there are large portions of today’s cities marked by poverty. The reality remains that the city is the center of power and wealth, and those who live in the city seek to share in that economic opportunity. Cities will continue to provide the narratives of our human experience.

The reality is that the cities are a dilemma. Though they hold promise, they do not always satisfy human need. They drive cultural and ecological change, growth and pollution at the same time. Cities enchant us with possibility, but for too many the attraction of the city has been a deception, and the city a place of injustice. One can describe cities as flourishing, as providing abundance, and at the same time as broken, in trouble, even as places of despair.

The significance and challenge of the city for the Christian church is the question of how to go about sharing the Gospel there. Or one might say how to live as a disciple of Jesus in its midst. The city is a space for 21st century mission. It is an opportunity for the church to respond with love and care to the challenges facing urban populations and to transform the culture.

Christians bring their influence into the life of the city as they live there, work there, play there and socialize there. Most young adults leaving our colleges and universities establish careers in one of our world’s urban centers. They need support as they bring the presence of Christ into those cultures.

Recognizing this challenge, the Andrews University Doctor of Ministry program offers an Urban Ministry Concentration. The next cohort in this concentration will begin in March 2015 in Chicago. Skip Bell, professor of Christian leadership, leads the concentration.

The goal of the Doctor of Ministry Urban Ministries Concentration is to develop three areas in a person who serves in an urban context: being, knowing and doing. Being helps the doctoral students to experience transformative development in several areas including spirituality, discipleship, compassionate vision for the city and appreciation of diversity. Knowing develops students’ knowledge base in issues of urban society, how systems shape life and mission in the context of cities, and how to promote healthy cities. Doing cultivates skills including creating vision, identifying needs, community development, leading and managing specific ministries and managing change.

The curriculum is a rigorous four-year experience plus a transformative project. The program requires work with the best literature in the area of study, field research, theological and spiritual formation, relational learning with a cohort, dialogue and lecture with the world’s leading experts on urban culture and mission and immersion in three specific cities: Chicago (Illinois), Toronto (Canada), and London (UK). The participants will work with a variety of real urban issues including housing, poverty, justice, hunger, education, human conflict, health services and empowerment.

“This is an extraordinary formation and leadership opportunity for our church,” Bell states. “These Doctors of Ministry students will cherish a dream of Christ in the city, and of urban neighborhoods where the next generation of Christ’s disciples can thrive in faith and life.”

Sung Kwon, director of Community Services for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, has led an initiative of the NAD to provide two scholarships for these doctoral students in each union territory in North America. Interested students or church administrators can inquire about those scholarships from the Doctor of Ministry program.

The application deadline is January 16, 2015. Instructions, information and a DMin application package link can be found at the Doctor of Ministry website. The cohort is limited to 25. For more information, call 269-471-3544, or email the DMin program at dmin@andrews.edu.
[i] This report on the Andrews University Doctor of Ministry Urban Ministry Concentration is written from an interview with Skip Bell, professor of Christian leadership and coordinator of the concentration in urban ministry studies. With his permission, the report paraphrases and borrows broadly from his written works on urban culture and mission.
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
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