Kevin Rogers

If we are to understand and appreciate city life, we need a good working definition for the word “urban.” Once we see the city for what it is, we can find our place in it and live out God’s mission.

Isn’t it amazing how you can drive 120 kilometres per hour on a multi-lane highway until, at rush hour, you reach the city? Suddenly, you are parked and inching forward, wrestling with feelings of dismay at being delayed.

While everyone talks about the fast pace of city life, the truth is that those who live in the city core are learning how to live slowly on foot, bicycle and mass transit. Those who settle into the rhythms of city life are finding ways to slow down and experience their environment in ways that might puzzle their country cousins. Could it be that suburbanites are living a more hectic pace than those who live and work downtown?

If we are to understand and appreciate city life, we need a good working definition for the word “urban.” Once we see the city for what it is, we can find our place in it and live out God’s mission.

Steve Pike of Urban Islands Project [1] defines urban with three “HD” words:

High Density

High Diversity

High Disparity

High Density” refers to population density. High-rise developments and small lot sizes bring people into greater proximity with one another.

High Diversity” refers to the increased range of social, ethnic and cultural groups of people found in the city.

High Disparity” refers to the coexistence of the very rich sharing public space with the very poor.

The fact is that city life amplifies everything human. The majority of technological advances, media arts, entertainment, business development, education, medicine and cultural change originates in city centres.

We can take a pessimistic view of city life as we see the worst traits of human nature being acted out, or we can see goodness expressed as people live out their best traits as image bearers of their Creator. If you cannot see any good in the city, you are not looking in the right places.

The PAOC has an agency that is placing urban missionaries in the heart of our great Canadian cities. Mission Canada has long recognized that our urban centres have a missional gap: the places where population density is the highest have the fewest number of churches per capita. We are largely a suburban, town, and rural movement.

When people moved out of the cities to the suburbs, churches followed suit. Many urban churches left to go where prospering families were moving. With over 80 per cent of Canadians now living in urban centres, we see a trend where both the most prosperous and the most disadvantaged find their homes downtown.

Urban missiologist Dr. John Fuder says, “God’s work does not begin when we show up; it is already well underway. A big part of our job is to slow down and observe where He is already at work and join Him there.”[2]

What does it look like when we join with God at work in our cities? The Mission Canada Urban Guiding Group has identified five markers that characterize our engagement with urban centres through PAOC ministries and Mission Canada workers.

This is our QUEST.

Qualitative neighbours

Imagine living in the city specifically on mission to your residential neighbours. Such people move in and look for ways to live as light bearers that benefit the lives of those they encounter on a daily basis. Often, rhythms of spiritual practice are more home-based than church-centred. There is a greater focus on living a shared life in shared space with others in the discipleship journey.

Raymond Bakke asks, “Is Jesus just our message or is he also our model? In fact, we know now that nearly all urban persons come to Christ through relationships, not through media. The bigger the city, the higher this percentage seems to be.”[3] 

Urban church

This is primarily a congregational expression of disciples in the urban core. While often called a city church or a mission church, congregations located in urban centres tend to have a mix of both local residents and commuters who make the journey because of attraction to the unique local mission or historical attachment to the congregation. These churches have varying degrees of parish focus and integration into the surrounding neighbourhood.


There is an intentional focus on shaping culture in the arts, media, education, social services, politics, and community engagement. Energizers are deliberate about making disciples in subcultures and among influencers.

Street workers

This is a combination of evangelism and social justice work with people moving about the urban core. The workers are mobile and go wherever they can develop meaningful connection to individuals in need.


Transformers bring an intentional focus to at-risk populations and express the compassion of the gospel through hospitality, development and discipleship. Strategies include street missions, food security, housing initiatives, and programs for children and youth.


If God moved you downtown, what would your life as a disciple look like? God deeply loves all cities because they are filled with people. If God loves the city so much, should we not also be where He is?

Kevin Rogers has been the lead pastor at New Song in Windsor, Ont., since 1994 and is a founding member of the band 2fish. He serves as the Mission Canada Urban Ministries co-ordinator along with a stellar team of urban sojourners. To join us on the urban “QUEST,” connect with Kevin at kevin.rogers@paoc.org. This article appeared in the July/August/September 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com.


1. http://urbanislandsproject.org
2. John E. Fuder, Noel Castellanos, eds., A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2103), 136.
3. Raymond J. Bakke, A Theology as Big as the City (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 197.

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