Ministry to the Cities



Psalm 48 is often viewed as the city dweller's twenty-third psalm. The Lord is “greatly to be praised in the city of our God” (verse 1, NKJV). It is God's presence in the city that makes it beautiful in its loftiness, “the joy of the whole earth, ... the city of the great King” (verse 2, NKJV). That God could so identify with an earthly city should alert us to see the potential of the cities of today through God's eyes. MTC 9.1

Cities, though, have often been arrayed against God. Such cities were dominant when the Bible was written. Jesus, Moses, David, Daniel, and most of the other Bible prophets had to deal with cities, some of which were huge for that day. Nineveh was “an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent” (Jonah 3:3, NKJV), having “more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons” (Jonah 4:11, NKJV). Babylon had about 10 miles (16 kilometers) of walls surrounding a major populace and monumental buildings that included one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. New Testament Ephesus had street lighting along its main artery, the famed Arcadiane. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Athens, Corinth, Susa, and Thebes were among the great cities of Bible times. MTC 9.2

Paul was Christianity's premier evangelist to the major cities of the Roman Empire. Peter, Philip, Apollos, and other Christian leaders evangelized the cities as well. Those accustomed to thinking of cities as places of evil should remember that in vision John saw God's ultimate intentions for humanity as a city of incomparable glory and joy. MTC 9.3

When Jesus walked the earth, He “went about all the cities and villages,” teaching, preaching, and healing. The crowds moved Him deeply: “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were ... like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:35, 36, NKJV). Today most of the world's population lives in cities. Does Jesus care for them any less than He did for those in the cities 2,000 years ago? It is no wonder that Ellen G. White was given so much counsel on the city to equip the church for comprehensive urban evangelism and ministry. Yet her instruction on city work is less well known than her appeals for locating in more rural settings. The brief compilation Country Living (1946) has brought well-deserved attention to those appeals. As a complement to that collection, the current volume, Ministry to the Cities, is designed to help readers understand God's plan for doing ministry in the city. Prepared in the offices of the Ellen G. White Estate, it draws not only from the articles, books, and pamphlets of Ellen G. White, but also from her letters and manuscripts. It is not an exhaustive compilation of her counsel on the cities, but as a representative collection it is highly informative. It covers many areas of instruction Ellen White received for the church and its outreach to the world's cities. To aid the reader, years are given for the statements included in this volume. For letters and manuscripts, the year indicates the time of writing; for other sources, it is the time of first publication in the stated form. Citations to Testimonies for the Church, volumes 1-5, reflect the year of their earlier publication as Testimony pamphlets. MTC 9.4

Many decades have passed since Ellen White wrote the last of her counsels. In some respects the conditions that we face today differ from those she addressed. The reader should remember that time, location, and other factors must be considered in laying plans for today's work. Conditions may change, the methods for dealing with them may vary, but the principles behind the counsels remain the same. These principles should inform and guide our efforts in meeting today's challenges. MTC 10.1

As Christ's second coming approaches, Ellen White's words take on new urgency: “The work in the cities is the essential work for this time. When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed” (Medical Ministry, 304). It is our hope and prayer that Ministry to the Cities may help readers become more committed to implementing the counsels we have received and more effective in reaching the cities with Christ's last-day message. MTC 10.2

—The Trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate
Silver Spring, Maryland