Study Your City: Key Questions Missional Christians Should Be Asking About Their City

Over the last few years, the word “missional” has gained particular amounts of attention. However, defining missional can be a complicated process. For example, this week I had a conversation with an aspiring church planter who wants to plant a church in a bar in the southeast as I did a few years ago. He’s been reading, praying, and thinking about what a man on mission looks like. Let’s say you’re in this boat too: being convinced by Scripture and convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out, deeply burdened to see lost people in your neighborhood, bars, coffee shops, gyms, grocery stores, and schools meet Jesus. This means you have to think like a missionary—a mindset that requires both studying the culture you find yourself in, as well as engaging with it.

For starters, identifying the needs, the idols, and the history of the city must become part of your routine thinking. This is the prep work, and oftentimes the success of your ministry rides on it. That’s not to say that God can’t use you or accomplish his will or that all the pressure is you, but a call to lead is a call to prepare. A call to obediently make disciples as Jesus commands (Matt. 28:18–20) is also a command to focus on what’s in front of you. This part of the job can be really fun! Most of it can be done by using a concept already in your vocabulary. No, it’s not what some long word theologians constantly debate over—e.g. sublapsarianism, variegated nomism, or penal substitutionary atonement—rather, it is a simple, but often overlooked word: intentional.


All missionaries (and if you’re a Christian, you are a missionary) have got to be the most intentional people in the world. Asking questions, studying demographics, and making note of trends help make this possible! If you intimately know whom you want to reach, then you will be better set up to engage people effectively with the gospel of Jesus.

What are the goals, values, and beliefs of your city?

Here are just a few questions that we, as missional Christians, should be asking:

  1. What’s happening in my city?
  2. Who’s moving into my city?
  3. What buildings are going up in my city?
  4. What buildings are coming down in my city?
  5. How many schools are there in my city?
  6. How many people are here in my city?
  7. What is the crime rate like in my city?
  8. What are the goals of my city?
  9. What are the values of my city?
  10. What are the beliefs of my city?
  11. What is the history of my city?
  12. How long has my city been a city?
  13. At what times and days does everything come alive in my city?
  14. What do the people in my city love about my city?
  15. What do people despise about my city?
  16. What’s the media saying about my city?
  17. What do people in my city put their hope in?
  18. Who’s hurting in my city?
  19. Who’s succeeding and thriving in my city?

For everyday missionaries, the questions are endless.

Bank clerks, grocery store checkers, hair stylists, and property development workers can tell you so much of what you need to know about your city because they are in the city, working in the city, and up to date on what’s going on in the city.

Perhaps if you don’t know where to start, you should go get a trim and practice asking the person cutting your hair questions.

Dear Christian, are you studying your city?

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Alex Early

Alex Early

I planted Four Corners Church in Newnan, Georgia, three and a half years ago with Acts 29. Our church plant was a bit peculiar being that the calling to plant was birthed out of first seeing an interview in 2006 with Pastor Mark where he described his week of ministry as a pastor who was on mission in the city, reaching the broken, burned out, and hopelessly lost. After that I was convicted: I quit my easy church job, got a job at a bar, and started reaching out. Before long, I had a vision and planted the church in Newnan, factoring in a one-year leave where Jana and I moved to London to pursue my second master’s degree in hermeneutics at the London School of Theology. The church was planted and today has over 300 in weekly attendance. Jana and I have been married for eight years and have two kids. Our daughter is Tovah (2), and our son Jude (13 months). I joined the Lead Pastor Residency Program because I deeply love the ministry of Mars Hill and now have the oppurtunity to serve as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Ballard.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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