A Place of Unparalleled Potential
For the past hundred or so years there has been a massive shift in the population of people groups all over our world. According to the United Nations, in 1900 over 13 percent of the world’s population was urban. By the year 2000, the number grew to about 47 percent, with more developed nations at about 76 percent urban.1 In 2010, according to the United Nations, 3.49 billion people lived in urban areas. That means as of 2010, 60.6 percent of the world population is now urban.2 Therefore, after July of 2007, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population became urban. According to current trends, it is estimated that by the year 2030, 60.8 percent of the population of the world will reside in the cities.3 In 1900 there were only twelve cities in the world with a population of one million or more people. As of 2000, there were 411 cities in the world of more than one million people and forty-one “megacities” defined as cities of five million people or more. In 1950 there was only one city that had more then ten million inhabitants. By 2015, twenty-three cities are projected to hold over ten million people; all but four will be less developed countries.4
Ray Bakke also wrote that “we will add one billion people to the planet in the next ten years, mostly in Asia and primarily in the cities.”5 What is the influence or power that has caused such a surge in migration to the cities of our world? Without question there are sociological and political reasons for this migration, but the real power behind this massive movement is our sovereign God. In Psalm 24:1 it says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains.” God is the sovereign master and owner of the universe. He is not an absentee God but is actively directing the affairs of mankind. There is one power behind this massive movement of humanity. God is strategically moving the masses of mankind for a fundamental purpose. Most conservative Bible scholars agree that the coming of our Lord is imminent. We believe that the clock is winding down and that we are in the last years before the return of our Lord. God is passionately seeking those who would follow him and has commanded us to disciple people from all over the world. Because of the shortness of time, I believe God is flooding people all over the world to our doorsteps so it will be easier for us to reach them.
This is not only a foreign phenomenon. As of 1990, more than 50 percent of all Americans lived in thirty-nine metro areas of more than one million.6 In fact, according to Wikipedia, 81% of the population of North America resided in cities and suburban areas as of mid-2005 (the worldwide urban rate was 49 percent).7 God is urbanizing his world. Roger Greenway says, “At no time in history has it been more true than now that he who wins the city, wins the world.”8
1. Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision and World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unup.
2. United Nations Population Fund, “World Population 2009. Facing a Challenging World: Women, Population and Climate.” Online: http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2009/en/pdf/EN_SOWP09.pdf., p. 91.
3. Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2003 Revision and World Urbanization Prospects, http://esa.un.org/unup.
4. Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, “World Population Prospects: The 1999 Revision” Online: http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wup1999/urbanization.pdf, p. 8.
5. Bakke, Ray, A Theology as Big as the City, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997, p. 13.
6. Ibid., p. 157.
7. Wikipedia. “Demographics of the United States.” August 2010. Online: http://en.wikipeda, “Demographics_of_the_United_States.”. 2010
8. Greenway, Roger, Apostles to the City, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978, p. 11.
(This excerpt comes from chapter 2 of Urban Impact)