One day I was talking with a pastor who serves in a community a few hours from D.C. He casually mentioned that there are about 3000 people who live in his community. In a split second, it struck me — there were about 3000 people who lived on my street.
At the time I lived in a high rise condo building—one building that stood tall like a soldier next to several others just like it. I knew how many residents lived in my building and did the quick math to discover how many people lived in the few short blocks that shared my same street name. There are about as many people who live on my street as in his entire town. Now multiply that by the numbers of streets in my neighborhood...and then the number of neighborhoods in my city. That's a lot of people on Jesus' mind.
I don’t know if the difference in our communities seemed as dramatic to me before that day. I don’t think that the people on my street are more important as the people in his town—but there are just so many of them.
I have lived in the suburbs, the city and literally off a dirt road in the country, and I have to say that urban living is a bit of a different beast. One reason for that is the mass of humanity present that sometimes feels squished together in a small space. There are just an awful lot of us. And it’s not just that there are a lot of people—there is a high number of remarkably diverse people. I daily bump into neighbors from different cultures, ethnicities and religions—different in dress, customs, world views, language. It was like the nations had come to live on my street. No, the nations actually had come to live on my street.
The beauty of this crowded reality is that the cross section of this diversity invites us to incarnate the Gospel in so many arenas. And ministry on any urban university campus shares a similar opportunity. Take the nations, fill up a small space with them, give them opportunity to learn and exchange ideas, then watch them graduate to dramatically influence their world.
Truth be told, urban living can be both exciting and maddening. It's not always easy to live so crowded, and it's ridiculously expensive to live here. Sometimes we long for open space or silence (or, at least the sound of something other than a siren!). Sometimes we'd love to be able to afford more square footage for our dollar. But Jesus called us to be with people in order to incarnate His message. In the city, there are a lot of people here who can see the message lived through our lives.
I have to admit it--I'm a city girl. I enjoy the energy of the city and I don't really mind the sirens (all that much). Yes, we're crowded but bumping into people simply gives me the opportunity to show some Jesus to them when we do bump.