The Urban Challenge

January 14, 2008

Over the next three weeks, I will be sending on to you short articles from Tim Svoboda, YWAM’s International Director of Urban Missions. For two reasons: one, Romkje and I leave this weekend for New Zealand to be with family there, returning early March, and this saves me extra work! More strategically, what Tim has to say is important, not only for the YWAM workers he primarily addresses, but for all interested in the welfare of our cities.
Tim is uniquely qualified within YWAM to address these issues, having led our urban work in Chennai, India, where he pioneered city-wide networks and diverse ministries in ways unprecedented in our mission. He is currently a doctoral student under Dr Ray Bakke, Lausanne Senior Associate for Urban Missions, and speaker at the upcoming International Cities Conference, April 21-25, 2008, organised by Tim and others in Vancouver, Canada.*
Tim: The world is quickly urbanizing. Two hundred years ago, the world was 97% rural and just 3% urban. Today more than 50% of the world are living in urban areas. This is not just taking place in Europe. This is a world wide phenomenon. Africa and Asia urban populations are expected to double in the next three decades. The UN predicts that 7 out of 10 people in China will live in cities by 2050. In the next 5 years China is building 300 new cities just to keep up with the massive migration!
The YWAM Urban Network is not just talking about the big cities. There are four kinds of cities we are focusing on:

  • Super Giant Cities: There are now 25 cities with a population of over ten million. Growth in these cities is levelling off.
  • Giant Cities: 49 cities have a population between four and ten million.
  • Mega Cities: Another 468 cities are from one million to four million in population and are growing quickly.
  • Frontier Cities: These are the cities from 100,000 to four million in population. There are thousands of such cities like this in the world today. These are the cities where explosive growth is going to take place.

If we look at the 4K Project** through the eyes of cities we can quickly see where we are located and where we are not. Here is a slide of the cities in the YWAM region of Western Europe.*** The cities in black are where some kind of YWAM ministry exists. The cities in red are where there is no presence at all.
Remember that just because we have one YWAM presence in a city does not mean we have penetrated that city! Out of the 854 YWAM listings in the 2007 Go Manual****, 623 of them are single address listings. This does not mean that we do not have multiple ministries in those places. However it also does not indicate that we have multiple locations in those places. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Cairo, Calcutta, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and many others could easily have 20 or more YWAM locations in one city with diverse expressions.
We have to also keep in mind that the 10/40 Window is moving! East is moving West and South is moving North. Amsterdam is home to 180 nations. The whole former British empire lives in London. Paris is quickly become African and Germany is becoming Turkish while Toronto is becoming Chinese.
San Francisco is now 38% Asian. My own neighborhood of 20,000 people in San Francisco operates in 9 languages. Vancouver has more Sikhs than any city outside the Punjab. Bangalore operates in Urdu, Hindi, Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, English and more.
The world has moved to the cities! Mission is no longer geographically distant. It is now culturally distant while being located just across the street in our own cities around the world. In the past, missions was primarily about going over the ocean, through the jungle, across the desert to reach the remote. Today missions is about crossing the street in the cities where we live.
Next week Tim writes about micro apostles and macro apostles in the urban context.
* Register at
** See
*** See showing maps of cities in other regions, including China and India.
**** YWAM’s international directory
Till then,

Till next week,

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