Messenger of the Lord


Relating Wisely to the Cities

Plight of the cities. The cities of the world have always been centers of corruption and vice. From early Bible times, cities were not the place for believers in Jehovah. In modern times, the phenomenal population increases have exponentially increased pollution and vice. 50 MOL 367.9

At the 1903 General Conference session Ellen White warned that denominational institutions should “keep out of the cities.” She urged church members to “get out of the cities into the country, where they can obtain a small piece of land, and make a home for themselves and their children.” She predicted that “erelong there will be such strife and confusion in the cities that those who wish to leave them will not be able. We must be preparing for these issues.” 51 MOL 367.10

Although she urged church members to leave the cities for a number of reasons, she also counseled common sense: “Let there be nothing done in a disorderly manner that there shall be a great loss or sacrifice made upon property because of ardent, impulsive speeches which stir up an enthusiasm which is not after the order of God, that a victory that was essential to be gained, shall, for a lack of level-headed moderation and proper contemplation and sound principles and purposes, be turned into a defeat.” 52 MOL 367.11

Mrs. White recognized that the great cities of the world were not suitable places for Christians to live and raise families, but she carried a heavy burden for the unevangelized people in these crowded urban areas. In 1909 she urged: “The instruction has been given me, Work the cities; work the cities where the first and second angels’ messages were proclaimed. The work of warning the cities has been kept before us for more than twenty years; but who has felt a burden for this work? Who has done real missionary work among them? We are bidden to go to those cities and preach the gospel and heal the sick.” 53 MOL 368.1

However, after warning of the increasing turmoil and corruption that would sweep over the world’s cities, Ellen White repeatedly urged church leaders to place city evangelism high on their agenda. Indeed, without her insistence in the early years of the twentieth century, the Adventist presence in the large cities of North America would have been minimal. She specifically pointed to such centers as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Nashville, St. Louis, New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Portland (Maine). MOL 368.2

Many letters were sent to leading ministers, beginning with the president of the General Conference, to make city evangelism top priority. 54 In 1905 she wrote: “We stand rebuked by God because the large cities right within our sight are unworked and unwarned. A terrible charge of neglect is brought against those who have been long in the work, in this very America, and yet have not entered the large cities.” 55 MOL 368.3

Ellen White’s urging created immediate results. In the greater New York area alone by 1915, fifteen evangelistic companies were at work, mostly in tents. Mrs. White strongly emphasized that “in our large cities the medical missionary work must go hand in hand with the gospel ministry. It will open doors for the entrance of truth.” MOL 368.4