By Scott Armstrong
Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:
- Urban Mission
These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial. And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.
I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes. However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.
If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission. Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica. We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence. And it is happening!
Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited. And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.
This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population. The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:
- General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
- In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
- Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five. Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
- After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
- The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people. That’s 54%. More of us live in a huge city than don’t. Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?
- If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people. That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.
- #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene. Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it. In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
- A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?
My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics. I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so! Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.
Would you pray?
Would you give?
Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?
Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city. Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org. Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.
We need your help. The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.