Nehemiah 11:1 – Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem.
As we’ve looked at several reasons why God calls His people to cities to do ministry, today we’ll look at the final reason as evidenced in Nehemiah 11 as we follow in the example of Jesus Himself.
Six, Jesus Himself relocated from Heaven to demonstrate for us how to be missionaries in our city. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us no less than 39 times that He was a missionary from Heaven who came to minister incarnationally (literally God “in flesh”) in an earthly culture (John 3:34; 4:34; 5:23, 24, 30, 36, 37, 38; 6:29, 38, 39, 44, 57; 7:16, 28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44, 45, 49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21).
Furthermore, Jesus also commands us to be missionaries in culture as He was, saying in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” He also said in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
In closing, I want to share with you an example from history of what happens when the principles of Nehemiah are practically applied to a church-planting church in a city.
In the 1550s, John Calvin saw the population of his city of Geneva double as Christians fled there from persecution. One of those refugees was the Englishman John Bale, who wrote: “Geneva seems to me to be the wonderful miracle of the whole world. For so many from all countries come here, as it were, to a sanctuary. Is it not wonderful that Spaniards, Italians, Scots, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, disagreeing in manners, speech, and apparel, should live so lovingly and friendly, and dwell together like a…Christian congregation?” (1)
In His loving providence, God forced Geneva to become a short-term training ground in urban missions. Christians from varying cultures lived together there under the teaching of John Calvin and they had to determine what to receive, reject, and redeem from their culture in order to effectively contextualize the gospel and do evangelism.
After they had such wonderful theological training and missiological experience, many of the Christians returned to their cultures once persecution subsided. The result was an explosion of contending, contextualizing, and church planting. There were only five underground Protestant Churches in France alone in 1555, but by 1562, 2,150 churches were planted, totaling some three million people. Furthermore, some of the churches were megachurches, with anywhere from 4,000-9,000 people in attendance.
Additionally, church-planting missionaries were also sent by Calvin to Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, and the free imperial city-states in Rhineland. The Atlantic Ocean was even crossed by church-planting missionaries Calvin sent to South America and what is Brazil today, often starting in cities and spreading out from there into regions and nations.
- Frank A. James III, “Calvin the Evangelist,” Reformed Quarterly 19, no. 2/3 (Fall 2001), http://www.rts.edu/quarterly/fall01/james.html.
What believers in the Bible lived in pagan cities and were used by God to greatly influence culture? (e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah)
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