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'Cities and Faith' by David Kinnaman; Barna reports available to ECPA members for discount

Thursday, May 05, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Cities and Faith

by David Kinnaman
President of Barna Group
Author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity

Numerous deep-seated transitions face the Christian community in the U.S. One trend on the rise is city-wide expressions of faith and faithfulness.

To define this a bit more clearly, there is a growing awareness among many American believers that they are part of larger community beyond the congregations they attend. They belong to a larger Christian community that lives in a particular region or city. This idea suggests that the Church ought to be more regionally inter-connected and inter-dependent, as well as visionary and strategic, spiritually and practically.

Of course, the Church is both global and timeless. Hebrews 12 suggests we are connected through history to the saints who have gone before us. But there seems to be increasing attention (or perhaps we might say rediscovery) of the role of Christians situated in cities. The idea of city-reaching has become a significant subject of many conferences, church planter events, multisite strategies, magazine articles, and various other ministry strategies.

In a few short paragraphs, we cannot do justice to a theology of cities. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, among others, has done so. Still, it is worth pointing out briefly, that there are many places in Scripture that seem to advocate our responsibility to think in terms of cities, such as Paul’s writing and missionary work to specific city-based communities of faith¸ John’s Revelation includes letters to the seven churches located in particular areas, and Jeremiah’s exhortation to pursue the welfare of the city where you are planted (Jeremiah 29).


I believe we are reaching a type of tipping point back toward some of these biblical notions of "city faith.” Here are eight reasons that city expressions of faith could rise in the next decade:

  • increasing economic pressure on non-profit organizations causes churches and leaders to have to band together in new and innovative ways
  • the changing role of denominationalism lowers boundaries and encourages the need for different, deeper kinds of collaboration
  • rising secularism causes an end to the luxury of feudal views of faith
  • the role of technology and social networking in linking Christians to fellow believers in their city (and beyond)
  • younger leaders and young adults who are more interested in collaborative and symphonic approaches to "doing church” and living "Christianly”
  • deepening skepticism (and in some quarters, hostility) toward Christianity and churches causes Christians to rethink their purpose and approach to "loving our neighbors”
  • growing desire for unity, for local churches to be a unified Church, move away from one-dimensional forms of faith
  • the flourishing of different forms (or models) of the local church, making it more difficult to see where a congregation begins and ends


This mix of trends brings opportunities for Christians and church leaders, including:

  • reaching the diverse needs of the next generation (children, teenagers and young adults) through diverse means across a city or market
  • sharing resources and connections via technology
  • mapping the needs of a community in a more systematic way for ministry planning
  • creating new ways of understanding vocation and marketplace ministry
  • developing new centers of learning; the Church becomes a new type of "public university”
  • facilitating new and more sophisticated partnerships with civic, nonprofit, educational, and business leaders
  • cultivating partnerships across churches – and even across faith segments – for the good of the city
  • reasserting the importance of founders, entrepreneurs, innovators and strategists in the shaping of the Church

It may be productive to consider how Christian publishers may be affected by these realities. And, beyond simply reacting to the trends, I wonder how ECPA and its members might help to facilitate healthy, biblical city-based expressions to emerge?

After all, during periods of great change, leaders shape what’s on the horizon—including the future of faith in cities.

How Barna Group Can Help | Exclusive ECPA Offer

This year, Barna Group launches two groundbreaking reports on how faith is expressed in various cities and states in the U.S.

The pair of reports, Markets 2011 and States 2011, provides intelligence and insight about the state of Christianity in 85 U.S. Markets and the 48 contiguous states.

Based on nearly 40,000 Barna interviews, these reports can help your organization market and sell Christian books and resources more effectively, understand various dimensions of faith in cities, anticipate market trends, and enhance the support provided to authors.

We are offering these reports for an exclusive, significant discount for ECPA members. Email David Kinnaman for more information:

About the Author

David Kinnaman is president of Barna Group ( and author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, and the Barna report, Teens and the Supernatural. Since joining Barna in 1995, David has designed and analyzed nearly 500 projects for a variety of clients, including Columbia House, Compassion, Easter Seals, Habitat for Humanity, Integrity Media, InterVarsity, NBC-Universal, the Salvation Army, Sony, Thomas Nelson, Time-Life, Prison Fellowship, World Vision, Zondervan and many others. As a spokesperson for the firm’s research, he is frequently quoted in major media outlets (such as USA Today, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and The Wall Street Journal). He is also in demand as a speaker about trends, teenagers, vocation and calling, young leaders, and generational changes. The son of a lifelong pastor, David has served in various capacities within congregations he has attended, including working with teenagers, teaching, and providing strategic consulting. He graduated from Biola University (La Mirada, California), where he served as Student Chaplain.  David and his wife, Jill, live in Ventura, California, with their three kids.

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