Worship Ministry in the Urban Context

By Andres and Janette Flores

Did you hear the news? After 40 years in the idyllic suburban town of Oak Brook, McDonald's is moving its headquarters to hip and edgy downtown Chicago. You may ask, what does this have to do with worship ministry? The reality is that the McDonald’s move is just one indicator of a larger trend deeply relevant to worship leaders and the church in general. The world is “urbanizing.”[1] The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs projects that 68% of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050. Urban areas are attracting creatives, risk-takers, and entrepreneurs, along with secular and post-Christian young adults. The city is a place where conflicting worldviews converge and where people are looking for the hope, community, and peace that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide. What is the task and calling of worship leaders in urban contexts? We propose three key characteristics of worship ministry in the urban environment that nurtures discipleship. 

Substantial. People in the city are searching for substance and engage with the beauty of the Gospel of Christ. Their preference for creativity and risk-taking moves them to find meaning in a rich narrative theology. Our design for worship services in the urban context should not follow simplistic and predictable formulas because urban dwellers love being challenged with complex and appealing reasons to believe in the hope that only Jesus can bring. 

Captivating. The main challenge for the church in urban contexts is not to share information and content but to capture the imagination of an urban population who already have an information overload. Every worship leader should craft worship services that not only convey the coherence of the Christian message but also invite participants to perceive the beauty of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our worship services should not only be intellectually appealing but experientially captivating. Our worship and message should not only stimulate the mind but also capture the hearts of people, moving them to reevaluate their affections and realign their hopes. 

Practical. Worship leaders are called to break the rhythms of the secular age. Worship should me more than “inspiration” in the urban context; it should allow people to rehearse changes in the rhythms of their daily lives. Our worship services in urban contexts should encourage urban dwellers to “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We should not be shy about offering practical challenges that will help people envision and practice a gospel driven life in the city.  

[1] Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier (New York: Penguin Books, 2014).