–Originally published on FWB21 November 12, 2012–

Culture is shaped in the city.

It’s true, you know. What happens in NYC, Chicago, and L.A. has a far-reaching impact on places like Dickson, Tookiedoo, and Indian Trail, but what happens in those small towns generally stays in those small towns. With few exceptions, culture shift flows from the city outward to the more rural areas.

I just got back from my first trip to New York City where I saw this truth with my own eyes. I am no longer shocked by things I see on T.V. or in the news because I have seen the source from which they flow. The vibes and currents I felt as I wandered about the city for three days are hard to put into words, but they are nevertheless very real and very sobering.

Now, don’t think that my trip was disappointing. I found the Big Apple to be greater than my expectations. The people were friendlier, the sights more impressive, and the streets and subways safer than I had imagined. However, I did sense very keenly that I was in the midst of a mass of humanity with absolutely no consciousness of God. Two stickers I saw on the back of a sign sum up the sentiment quite plainly: “God = imaginary friend” and “In the beginning, man created God.”

In the midst of this dark, hopeless throng of people, we encountered a small handful of believers. Some were playing hymns or worship music in public places, others were handing out fliers and proclaiming the hope of Christ, and still others (dear friends of mine) are living out their faith as active members of a fledgling church. One thing I noticed about these people is that their lights shine quite brightly in such a dark place. I was edified by their presence and witness and encouraged to continue in my own faith, knowing that I’m not alone and isolated as a believer (which is very much how I felt there).

Each of those believers needs that very same encouragement and uplifting. Living in the city is hard, and the pressures of life and culture can extinguish the faith of those who are weak. But living in the city is necessary if God’s people desire to move this culture toward Him.

I think David Potete is right: God is calling more believers to the cities of our nation. The problem is, most of them are too comfortable and content with their lot to leave it and do the hard thing.

God already has a calling on my life, but He has given me a burden that I believe I’m supposed to share. If you’re reading this, you need to take some time right now and begin praying about whether or not you should be moving to the city. That’s where the nations live, and your command as a believer is to make disciples of all nations. If God isn’t calling you to go to a specific nation, He may be calling you to the city instead.

If, after much prayer, the firm answer from God is no, look for ways to be an encouragement and a help to those whose answer is yes. Staying put doesn’t get you off the hook: you and everything you own belong to God. His heart is to redeem people to Himself so that they may worship Him, so make your life count to that end. Ask God to make your life have the greatest possible impact for His kingdom, then obey whatever He asks you to do.

Even if that means moving to the city.