Ministry in Urban Areas: A Special Calling

Blog January 4, 2023

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In our last blog, we looked at data from the 2017–18 Church Leadership Survey on this topic: “Family Sacrifice and Support of Ministries of Adventist Church Leaders.” This survey was commissioned by the General Conference and was conducted in all Divisions. The survey examined different aspects and experiences of being a church administrator. This blog will focus on how many Adventist Church leaders had an experience of working in urban areas.

Service in Urban Areas

Respondents of the 2017–18 Church Leadership Survey were asked about their experiences with service in an urban area—that is, an area with a population of one million people or more. Seven out of ten respondents (71%) shared that they had worked in such a location at some point during their service within the Adventist Church. This shows that a majority of church leaders are aware of the challenges for the church work and also of people’s needs in big cities.

In late 2013 and early 2014, when the first Church Leadership Survey was administered, church administrators were asked a similar question—whether they had ever served the Adventist Church in a large urban area with a population that ranged from over one million to greater than 10 million. Almost half of the respondents said they had worked in cities with a population of between one and five million. However, only about 15% worked in large urban areas with over 5 or 10 million inhabitants. Overall, it seems that roughly one third of the respondents had not served in urban areas of over one million people or more. Thus, the 2017–18 Church Leadership Survey results show that there are now more church leaders who have experienced working in large urban settings than there were before.

Respondents to the 2017–18 Church Leadership Survey were then also asked how their experiences in an urban setting influenced their current leadership. One third (33%) of the survey participants shared that they had experienced personal or professional growth during their time of service in an urban area. Over one in five (22%) felt that such service they had experienced made them become more aware of the “bigger picture” of the Adventist Church. While 13% had felt such experiences were challenging, the same number (13%) responded that serving in an urban area had exposed them to/made them more aware of greater diversity.

Ministry to the Cities

In the book Ministry to the Cities, Ellen G. White emphasized the importance of ministering in urban areas.

The cities and villages constitute a part of [God’s] vineyard. These must be worked, and not passed by. Satan will try to interpose himself, so as to discourage the workers, and prevent them from giving the message of light and warning in the more important as well as in the more secluded places. Desperate efforts will be made to turn the people from the truth of God to falsehood. Angels of heaven are commissioned to work with the efforts of God’s appointed messengers. The preachers of the truth must encourage faith and hope, as did Christ, your living head. Keep humble and contrite in heart before God. Maintain an unwavering faith in the promises of God. [1]

In the same book, Ellen White continued to stress the necessity to work for people in large cities even if there were no churches established:

Again and again, I am instructed to present to our churches the work that should be done in our large cities. There is a great work to be done, not only where we have churches already established, but also in places where the truth has never been fully presented. Right in our midst there are heathen as verily as in far-off lands.[2]

However, White also shared that it takes people with special gifts, skills, and training to work in such settings.

Mission work should be done in all our large cities. There is special talent among us for this line of labor, and this talent should be educated and trained.[3]

We must plan to place in these great cities capable men who can present the third angel’s message in a manner so forceful that it will strike home to the heart. Men who can do this, we cannot afford to gather into one place, to do a work that others might do.[4]

We see that there is a great need for fervent, faithful workers in urban areas. Working in such a setting is a special calling. According to the findings, a majority of Adventist Church leaders have had this experience, understand the challenges of working in such settings, and are able to guide workers in this work. Let us remember that God calls us to reach out to people in urban areas, and while it might bring some challenges, working within cities can also bring many unexpected benefits, but most of all, it shows submission to the call of our Savior.

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Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry

Published by ASTR on 01/04/2023


[1] Ellen G. White, Ministry to the Cities, 5.1

[2] Ellen G. White, Ministry to the Cities, 55.1

[3] Ellen G. White, Ministry to the Cities, 56.1

[4] Ellen G. White, Ministry to the Cities, 56.6