City Church: What’s in a Name?

City Church: What’s in a Name?

In November 2008, a small group of families came together to decide on a name for a new church that will be planted in York City. After a few hours of deliberating, we decided on the name City Church. At face value, the simplistic name denotes that we are forming a church in the city. This, of course, is true. But of much greater importance than the obvious geographic connotation is the theological reasoning behind the name. We believe that Christians are citizens of two cities, an idea that comes to us from the fourth century monk Augustine.   His book The City of God argues Christians maintain their true citizenship in the City of God and yet are simultaneously part of the human race as citizens in the City of Man.

As the citizens of the City of God, followers of Christ are commanded to advance God’s kingdom through the means that He has provided. These means are not the sword, political power, or force. Jesus Christ gave the Church a very different means of advancing His kingdom: the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, the incorporation of disciples into His family through baptism, and the family meal called the Lord’s Supper or Communion. The Church is not to attempt to establish a Christian government or try to create a Christian culture. Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one with implications for the material or physical aspects of life.

As citizens of the City of Man (the city of York) we understand that we are to work to help the city flourish physically and culturally. The Scriptures are filled with constructive examples. Both Joseph and Daniel were taken from their homes and placed in a city that was not their own. They did not separate themselves from the city so as not to be corrupted by the ungodly culture. Rather, they participated in the culture and politics of the city. They attended the “public schools” and excelled. They worked for the benefit and reform of the city. The book of Jeremiah chapter twenty-nine is also instructive on this point. God spoke to His people who were exiled in the city of Babylon. He did not tell them to avoid the people of the strange city and await His deliverance, but He commanded them to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

As citizens of York City, we are humbly attempting to follow these Biblical examples by striving to identify with the city. If the city prospers, we prosper; and if the city struggles, we struggle. We will work in the city alongside our unbelieving neighbors as doctors, mechanics, artists, teachers, and soccer moms. We are attempting to be good citizens and good neighbors. As we continue to grasp the reality of our citizenship in the two cities, we are learning what Christ said summarized the whole law of God: to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

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