Lessons From Downton Abbey On Urban Ministry

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Many seminaries now offer an urban ministry studies program, which tells you that it has become an official fad.

Many people have moved from the suburbs to the inner cities, reversing the trend of the suburban flight. Cheaper homes, shorter commutes, and a love for all things hipster contribute to the migration and churches have not escaped the urban fever.

Many Christians are studying for urban ministry or joining churches and/or ministries that serve the inner city. It hasn’t quite become the cottage industry that youth ministry has attained but that may be just a matter of time. This is where the action is, where “real” ministry is taking place.

What drives the passion for urban ministry? Is it a desire to help the poor or is it something else?

gentrify

In my own hometown I’ve seen the gentrification of poor neighborhoods with the intent of development. Large swaths of people come in along with businesses that cater to that audience but they’re like foreigners. Some people may object to that but I’m not here to criticize the trend. It does make me wonder if Christians are going to an “urban” mission field or if they’re staying in the same cultural environment.

One problem I do have is that urban ministry reminds me of missions trips to Third World countries. I’ve seen too many people get excited adventures around the world but neglect the people in their own backyard. You don’t have to leave town to find opportunities to help people. I fear that the same desire to feel good about yourself is stronger than the desire to serve.

We should end urban ministry and continue ministering in the city. We should stop trying to end poverty and, instead, help poor people. The church can do much good if we deal with real people rather than artificial categories.

In a scene from Downton Abbey the chauffeur, Tom, is talking with a woman who shames him for being a part of an aristocratic family. She says that she doesn’t care much for “their type,” to which Tom responds, “I don’t believe in types. I believe in people.” Would that we believe likewise.

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