Theology of Place

Ray Bakke writes in his classic book on urban ministry, A Theology as Big as the City (60-61):

The evangelicalism I grew up with had a theology of persons and programs, but it lacked a conscious theology of place. Protestants generally had cut themselves off from ‘parish’ thinking – an ongoing commitment to their place of ministry – so that when a church’s location became ‘inconvenient’ it simply relocated to a new place, often near a freeway (reflecting our society’s shift from a walking to an automobile culture). Along the way, we abandoned real estate that had been prayed for fervently by Christians before us – and along with it abandoned any commitment to the neighborhoods we left behind.

I think it is much more than a practical, operational church decision when a church relocates in such a manner. It is a theological bias toward Greek individualism and away from a biblical holistic theology, which for me includes not only the physical aspects of persons but also the geography in which we have identity and security.

Does God care only about people, or does he also care about places, including cities? And if the Holy Spirit of Christ is in us, should we also care for both urban people and urban places?

Something that needs more thought…


One Comment to “Theology of Place”

  1. This is an intriguing quotation. Phrase it differently and see what you get: “If a church relocates, would the community notice that the congregation had left, other than that parking is easier on Sunday?”

    How many congregations have a direct ministry to their immediate neighbors?

    Thanks for posting this!

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