6 Uncomfortable Takeaways From Urban Church Leader Ray Bakke: 'The Oldest Churches in Christendom Are the Newest Churches in America'

Raymond Bakke has spent the past six decades focusing on urban ministry and is the author of several books on the subject. | (Photo: Morgan Lee)

On the Middle East and Christians and Middle Eastern Christians

"They're huddled. They're traumatized. And they're your neighbors. The oldest churches in Christendom are the newest churches in America."

"Syria has come to Burbank. This last year, 1,000 new Egyptians joined the Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia. That's pain."

"I like to look at the Bible especially in this last 10 years or so when we're at wars with Iraq and we're demonizing Iran to remind Christians that there are five books of the Bible from Iraq (Jonah and Daniel) and Iran (Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.)"

(Quoting a Syrian Church leader) "You Westerners tend to think of the Great Commission as 2,000 miles. Your passports permit that; ours do not. For us to break commission it's not 2000 miles, it's 2000 years. Will we be faithful in this place as this Gospel has come to us in this place 2000 years? Will we be able to be here 2000 more years?"

On social change

"The message of [the book of Esther] is that when sin gets written into the law code, you can't just repudiate it. You've got to access power and change it."

"Some people have to go inside the black holes of politics and practice power and change law. This is absolutely true. You can't just change the streets on the streets. People have to go up to the power and down to the powerless."

On the mass exodus of his white congregation ("White Flight") that greeted him when he and his family moved into Chicago in the 1960's.

"The people that sang 'red, brown, yellow, black and white,' as soon as they showed up in their kids' classroom, they were out of there. People who said 'Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world' took the Spirit and tried to run from the city. The people who believed in foreign missions shocked me because when the foreign mission came home, they left too."

On his Biblical understanding of cities prior to moving into one

"We were infusing scripture [that was] turning us into an anti-urban person without even knowing it."

"I am proof that you can be taught to read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek and not have a theology as big as the city."

What Bekke Found Out About Cities When He Opened His Bible

"When I opened up the Scripture I was surprised to find the word 'city' appear 1250 times."

"The fault line for Evangelicals today is someone between having a misology for the city and a theology of the city."

"I needed to know the city because if you don't know it you can't love it."

On Common Grace

"Calvin also had a thesis called 'The Difference Between Saving Grace and Common Grace.' 'A city, he said, 'is a gift of common grace.' A city wall is a common grace of protection. A sewer system, a school system, the healthcare system, the transit system for those who cannot drive, these are common grace institutions. You pay for common grace by tax money. You pay for saving grace by tithe money. But it's all God's money."

The quotes above are taken from Raymond Bakke's Movement Day 2013 address given on October 10. The conference is aimed at bringing together hundreds of church leaders passionate about working for the good of their city.

Raymond Bakke pastored inner-city churches from 1959-1979 in inner city Chicago and Seattle. Bakke for many years served as a professor at several universities across the country and has written several books about urban ministry. He currently is the head of his own nonprofit, Ray Bakke Associates, through which he advises, speaks and consults on urban ministry.

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