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Serving the World's Cities: An Andrews University Response
By Skip Bell
Cities have been interwoven in human experience from the beginning of time. Some will argue that humans prefer the gentle pastoral beauty and pace of life familiar to uncrowded rural settings, but the reality tells us otherwise. For whatever reason, we gather in cities. Today's cities are larger, more creative, diverse, and global than ever. In the mid-19th century less than 10% percent of the world's population lived in a metropolis of 100,000 or more. By 1900 the urban population in the world had increased to 14%. Today 60% of human population is in the city, and in developed nations like Canada and America, it is an astounding 75%. And the pace of migration to urban life is quickening. Today's cities are the center of power, culture, economy, and spirituality.
People continue to migrate to the city. There is an optimism people have about the city, although there are large portions of today’s cities marked by poverty. The reality remains that the city is the center of power and wealth, and those who live in the city seek to share in that economic opportunity. Cities will continue to provide the narratives of our human experience.
The reality is that the city is a dilemma. Though they hold promise, they do not always satisfy human need. They drive cultural and ecological change, growth, and pollution at the same time. Cities enchant us with possibility, but for too many the attraction of the city has been a deception, and the city a place of injustice. One can describe cities as flourishing, as providing abundance, and at the same time as broken, in trouble, even as places of despair.
The significance and challenge of the city for the Christian church is the question of how to go about sharing the Gospel there. Or one might say how to live as a disciple of Jesus in its midst. The city is a space for 21st century mission. It is an opportunity for the church to respond with love and care to the challenges facing urban populations and to transform the culture.
Christians bring their influence into the life of the city as they live there, work there, play there, and socialize there. Most young adults leaving our colleges and universities establish careers in one of our world's urban centers. They need support as they bring the presence of Christ into those cultures.
Recognizing this challenge, the Andrews Doctor of Ministry program offers an Urban Ministry Concentration. The next cohort in this concentration will begin in March of 2015 in Chicago. Dr. Skip Bell, Professor of Christian Leadership, leads the concentration.
The goal of the Doctor of Ministry Urban Ministries Concentration is to develop three areas in a person who serves in an urban context: being, knowing and doing. Being helps the doctoral students to experience transformative development in several areas including spirituality, discipleship, compassionate vision for the city, and appreciation of diversity. Knowing develops students’ knowledge base in issues of urban society, how systems shape life and mission in the context of cities, and how to promote healthy cities. Doing cultivates skills including creating vision, identifying needs, community development, leading and managing specific ministries, and managing change.
The curriculum is a rigorous four-year experience plus a transformative project. The program requires work with the best literature in the area of study, field research, theological and spiritual formation, relational learning with a cohort, dialogue and lecture with the world's leading experts on urban culture and mission, and immersion in three specific cities; Chicago, Toronto, and London. The participants will work with a variety of real urban issues including housing, poverty, justice, hunger, education, human conflict, health services, and empowerment.
“This is an extraordinary formation and leadership opportunity for our church," Bell states. “These Doctors of Ministry will cherish a dream of Christ in the city, and of urban neighborhoods where the next generation of disciples of Christ can thrive in faith and life.”     
Dr. Sung Kwon, Director of Community Services for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist church, has led an initiative of the North American Division to provide two scholarships for these Doctoral students in each union territory in North America. Interested students or church administrators can inquire about those scholarships from the Doctor of Ministry office.
Applications must be begun by January 16, 2015. Instructions, information and a DMin application package link can be found at the Doctor of Ministry web site accessed through the Andrews site, or The cohort is limited to 25. For more information, call or email the Doctor of Ministry office at 269-471-3544 or email
Skip Bell is professor of leadership and director of the doctor of ministry program at the Andrews University Seminary