I grew up in a city. When I moved to the village of Washington, Vermont, which only had one paved street and more cows than people, it was a bit of a culture shock. But after 20 years of ministry in Vermont I moved back to a metropolitan area. I had to go through culture shock all over again.
When I grew up, suburbs were just getting started, so farmland surrounded the city. A person could get back to nature with a short drive. When I was younger cities had a mix of Anglo and African American populations, both of which spoke English. The very small numbers of other ethnic groups often kept to themselves and were seldom part of the larger fabric of the city.
Urban areas have changed in the twenty years I was sojourning in rural areas. Now cities have a wide variety of ethnic groups who speak dozens of languages. Many of those ethnic groups are highly educated and both expect and deserve a seat at the cultural table. They are not content to keep to themselves in some isolated corner. Cities have expanded in size, gobbling up the farmland around them so getting back to nature is much more of a challenge for those living in urban areas. Suburbs have grown substantially, often with a population that rivals the city itself, which creates its own set of problems in an era of limited resources to support densely populated regions. Though many cities still have pockets of extreme poverty, increasingly they are being gentrified so that only the wealthy can live there. This concentration of education, money and cultural influence has given urban areas political and economic power that is reshaping our nation.
This reshaping is also impacting the church. Many rural churches are struggling to retain the younger generation because young adults are moving to urban areas after college. Many urban churches that have historically been primarily Anglo are now shifting to become multi-ethnic. As culture becomes more secular, churches have to find ways to capture the attention of a population that seems less interested in spiritual matters with each passing year. Existing churches are struggling to make those changes.
Into that vacuum of cultural change have stepped legions of innovative church planters who are starting urban churches that are uniquely designed to address these challenges. Though many leaders in existing churches are filled with despair as they face these challenges, church planters look at those same challenges as opportunities to do church in a different way.
It is my hope that existing churches and new churches can learn from each other and be on mission together to reach cities across New England. I take heart in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (ESV).” I believe the gospel is powerful enough to work through existing churches and new church plants. I believe the gospel is powerful enough to reach both rural and urban areas. I believe the gospel is powerful enough to reach both English speakers and all those who speak other languages who have come to live in America. I believe the gospel is powerful enough to overcome economic disparity and political pressure. The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to all. What we have to do is share that gospel with others. Whether we live in an urban or rural area, are involved in an existing church or a new church plant, speak English or some other language, let us rediscover our voice and share the gospel with as many as possible and watch how God transforms our urban areas for His glory.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at: