Church Planting and Urban Missiology
Church Planting and Urban Missiology
Q&A Interview with Dr. Terry Gyger
Dr. Gyger has planted churches in numerous metropolitan areas. We recently sat down to ask his thoughts on urban church planting and Redeemer City to City.
Q: Why is urban church planting important?
A: The world is moving at an unprecedented pace toward large urban areas. At least 50 percent of the world’s populations now live in cities. But why concentrate church planting in these strategic centers? Two reasons. One, they are the cultural-shaping centers of regions, nations and the world. If we are concerned about the influence of the gospel in all areas of life, we must pay attention to these mega population centers. The urban areas are also highly connected to each other, especially in the digital age. In many respects our present world reality is like the interconnectedness of the Roman Empire. Two, these growing metro areas also need many more churches and different kinds of churches. As these areas grow, the number of churches to effectively reach and influence these cities is actually declining in relative numbers. But we also need churches that are doctrinally orthodox, city friendly, culturally relevant, and ministry balanced. What brings these foci together is the gospel seen in its fullness and relevancy.
Q: What does City to City do?
A: City to City is a relatively small organization with a single-minded focus: plant gospel-centered churches in the influential centers of urban areas that reach young professionals. Our ultimate goal is to foster church-planting movements that will plant churches in all areas of the city and establish networks of congregations and agencies that concentrate on renewing the city spiritually, socially and culturally.
Q: What does a City to City church look like?
A: These new congregations in different cities, and therefore in different cultures, will not all look alike. What we hope distinguishes these churches will be the DNA, and values-enriched attitudes and ministries. Above all, our prayer is that each new congregation will be gospel centered and enriched in every aspect of ministry.
Q: Why did you start City to City?
A: This relates to two aspects of the work in New York City: (1) Tim Keller’s original call to be a church planter in New York was to start a church that would have a multiplying catalytic influence on the city. He knew that to have this kind of influence, Redeemer Presbyterian Church must concentrate on planting and multiplying congregations in every part of the city. (2) Later, I was called to bring this vision to reality in a more concentrated effort of church planting and to expand the scope of city-center church planting in other global population centers of the world. Though Redeemer City to City is a separate organization that can function internationally and be related to the wider church, it remains highly connected to Redeemer itself.
Q: What distinguishes a Redeemer City to City Church?
A: First of all, Redeemer City to City doesn’t actually start churches. To be more clear on this, we facilitate, encourage and train local leaders to launch these new congregations. We do not seek to replicate Redeemer Church in these other countries. Our goal is to communicate a certain gospel-centered DNA or value-rich structure that can be applied in different circumstances and cultures in which ministries of evangelism, discipleship, mercy, justice and cultural renewal can be harmonized into a unified effort. Examples of this DNA would be (a) gospel centered in message and practice, (b) city friendly, and (c) ministry balanced.
Q: Why should Christians care about cities?
A: Christians should care about cities because they are the influence centers, cultural-shaping centers, and communication centers of our world. They are also some of the most unreached areas of our world. When Tim started Redeemer Church in New York, Manhattan, the most important area of New York culturally speaking, had less than one half of one percent evangelicals. Yet its influence in our western culture is so vast and deep it is hard to overestimate its influence.
Q: What does being “city positive” mean in a missional context?
A: We use this language to communicate that our effectiveness in the city will in many ways be measured by our attitude toward the city. If we have a positive attitude toward the city, seeing city-centered realities of the positives as well as the negatives, we will shape our work, lives and ministry to bring peace, prosperity and hope to the city. This “city-positive posture” will affect our attitudes as to how we personally relate to the city and ministry approaches, and how we function and serve in the city. We can stand above the city in a critical and condemning posture, or use the city for our advantage, or we can love the city and seek to serve the city with love and humility.
Q: Why is being “city positive” important to the gospel?
A: The gospel has to do with God’s love and grace applied all across the city in all kinds of groups and neighborhoods. It is the ultimate “good news” for a city in conflict and turmoil. The gospel also is hopeful about present and future reality. The city can be a place of justice, of shalom, of service and of love. But as we serve the city we are painting small pictures of a future reality–the reality of restoration of all things.
Q: How can Christians contribute to the social renewal of cities?
A: As Christians we must live, work and serve the city with its vast and deep needs with humility and boldness. This can be done on the large stage of social issues and challenges as well as on the small stages of neighborhood needs and opportunities. All large cities are combinations of “local neighborhoods,” where we can meet and relate to our “close-by” neighbors, where we can see small pieces of ministries that can really be accomplished as we work with other Christians and work as well with people in the city who also have a concern for the common good. Small touches taken together amount to broad and deep impact.
Q: What are some of the challenges to pastors today trying to do ministry in an urban setting?
A: Some of these have to do with financial challenges. Cities are areas of high cost, especially in relationship to housing and other basic living costs. They are places of challenge for families in terms of both living space and education. There are also challenges related to the modern, secular mindset of young professionals or the difficulty of adapting to the different cultures that make up the great cities of the world.
Q: Has Redeemer in its network of churches made an impact on the socio-cultural and spiritual life of New York City?
A: This is not easy to measure. However, we can look at the following aspects: (1) We know there are now more than 100, possibly as many as 150 new churches in New York that God has raised up over the past 10 years. (2) We know in 2000 there were approximately one half of one percent evangelicals in Manhattan. Today 6% of evangelicals worshipping on Sunday and 3.5 percentage of the population who are evangelical live in Manhattan. We see the possibilities of a “tipping” point on the horizon. (3) We see a city movement of evangelical ministries being accomplished by a coalition of like-minded churches, agencies and individuals working together to see city change in New York
Q: You recently stepped down from City to City. Can you share with us what the next phase of your ministry looks like?
A: I am super enthused about the new leadership of John Hutchinson and the future of Redeemer City to City as it continues to facilitate church planting in New York and the large cities of the world. I will remain tied to the ministry and vision of Redeemer City to City as a consultant. In the meantime, a few friends and ministry partners will seek to serve specific functions in different organizations and ministries through a small training and consulting ministry called LinX.
*Dr. Gyger will be teaching a course “Church Planting” in the Doctor of Ministry program this fall. For more details, please click here.
*This article was in the spring 2013 issue of Knox Now. See the full magazine here: