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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the November edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Um and Buzzard’s book Why Cities Matter. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation



Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church

Authors: Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard

Publisher: Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2013, 176 pages. Also available in Kindle format. (B008DXFN08).

ISBN: 978-1-4335-3289-4


The importance and growing dominance of humans clustered together in cities is undeniable. This book reinforces our understanding of the strong influence of cities the world over. Not only do the authors explain the importance of cities along with their characteristics, but give valuable information on its “story line” and then conclude the book with ministry applications for today.

 Best chapter

Chapter 1: The Importance of Cities

“Because cities function as a magnifying glass for humanity, displaying our best and worst potential, one might argue that the grand scale of the atrocities of the twentieth century was partly dependent on the grand scale of the cities in which they took place. Furthermore, the industrial city was simply not sustainable. A look at industrial cities like Detroit and Buffalo, which to this point have had difficulty reinventing themselves, shows us that a city will not thrive if it places a higher premium on material production than human innovation.” Kindle location 333

“Edward Glaeser’s definition is helpful here: ‘Cities are the absence of physical space between people. . . . They are proximity, density, closeness.’ He would even go so far as to claim that ‘cities are people.’ We think he’s right.” Kindle location 373

“Whether you find yourself cheering for cities, or feeling suspicious of them, the reality is that they are the primary shapers of the culture in which we live.” Kindle location 424

“Cities are built Top of FormBottom of FormTop of FormBottom of Formupon the things from which humanity attempts to derive its ultimate significance. Whether centered around a mosque or a financial district, a cathedral or an entertainment sector, all cities are built in honor of and pay homage to some type of a ‘god’.” Kindle location 452

“Cities are centers of worship because they are filled to the brim with worshipers—people giving their lives away to realities they believe will fulfill them. Add to this the endless numbers of potential options for worship, and you find that city living has a unique way of fostering spiritual openness.” Kindle location 471

Best quotes

“This much is clear—the cities are where the people are. In the course of less than 300 years, our world will have shifted from one in which only 3 percent of people live in cities, to one in which 80 percent are resident in urban areas. If the Christian church does not learn new modes of urban ministry, we will find ourselves on the outside looking in. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must call a new generation of committed Christians into these teeming cities. As these new numbers make clear, there really is no choice.” Kindle location 125

“Cities no longer shape just their surrounding regions—they now shape the whole world. This new world presents Christians and the church with an unprecedented opportunity to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into every dimension of human life. God is doing something new and big in our cities, and he’s calling some of us to participate in it.” Kindle location 179

“Cities are diverse, dense places where different types of people interact with one another. Cities are populated with people of various cultures, different worldviews, and different vocations. Cities force individuals to refine their cultural assumptions, religious beliefs, and sense of calling as they rub up against the sharp edges of the assumptions, beliefs, and expertise of other city dwellers.“ Kindle location 193

“The Bible teaches that the city is God’s idea, invention, and intention.” Kindle location 203

“The Bible invites us to engage, to settle down in, and to contribute to our cities (Jeremiah 29). Instead of retreating from our cities, we’re encouraged to understand and engage with what is happening in the city. Instead of touring our cities, we’re invited to put roots down into our cities. Instead of merely taking from our cities, we’re invited to contribute to the life and development of our city—be it through art, business, law, literature, music, medicine, education, finance, etc.” Kindle location 217

“Cities contain large numbers of people who possess an abundance of that uniquely human trait known as aspiration.” Kindle location 554

“But the gospel is not only for aspirational people who will inevitably face difficult times, but also for marginalized people who are seeking to find refuge.” Kindle location 573

“The flip side of the city’s promise of economic prosperity and social tolerance is the dissatisfaction we all eventually find in unfulfilled promises. Many will never earn enough money to move beyond the life of economic disadvantage that drove them to the city. Many cities do not have the necessary systems in place to move individuals from poverty to prosperity. Tolerance, when taken to the extreme, has often led to significant societal degeneration.” Kindle location 601

“The primary reason why we choose to live in close proximity to one another is that regular, challenging face-to-face interactions with other people make us more creative, innovative, and productive.” Kindle location 635

“In short, the potentially powerful effects of clustered density are dependent upon a city’s track record of fostering connective diversity. When these two aspects of a city interact, the result is the amplification of human potential in every dimension of life and culture. When cities thrive at amplifying their citizens’ talents, skills, and ideas, they become the engines that drive our world, for good or ill.” Kindle location 690

“Creativity is the fuel on which the world increasingly runs. And nowhere is this fuel to be found in greater abundance than in cities.” Kindle location 705

“While our earthly cities can never provide ultimate refuge, fulfillment, or hope to their citizens, by God’s common grace they can flourish humanity and foreshadow that future city in which we will ultimately thrive in perfect communion with God.” Kindle location 757

“In this way, the city offers us countless opportunities rightly to direct our worship to the one true God. Additionally, as we will see in the pages to come, Christians ought also to be the ones striving toward this truth, goodness, and beauty—the common good—as those who desire to cause the entire city to rejoice (Prov. 11:10).” Kindle location 762

“Cities are important, yes; but they along with their citizens are also fallen and broken, and in need of the renewing and reconciling grace of God in Christ (Rom. 8:19–21; Col. 1:20). It is ultimately the upside-down, power-sharing, worship-reordering, redemptive work of Christ that urban dwellers lack and need.” Kindle location 793

“God designed the city with purpose and power. The city is the place that brings together and focuses human capacity to steward the resources of the earth in order to build its culture and civilization. This was God’s original cosmic plan for his creation.” Kindle location 867

“The city derives its legitimacy and purpose from God. God is the one who commissioned and empowered humanity to ‘be fruitful,’ to ‘multiply’ to ‘fill the earth,’ to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion’ over ‘all the earth’ (Gen. 1:28–29). In the creation that God established there is one city to be built. That city will extend the glory of God throughout the earth.” Kindle location 887

“Human history is moving forward in the direction of a city. The history of the world and the history of redemption converge, climax, and center on a bustling city. The last two chapters of the Bible reveal that the new heavens and the new earth will take the form of a city, and it will one day be inhabited by God’s people.” Kindle location 898

“Less populous, unwalled, nonurban dwelling places provided little defense against enemies, injustice, and unpredictable agricultural cycles. Cities provided refuge and opportunity that could not be found elsewhere. Such cities were meant to model the secure, corporate life God wanted his people to have—to be centers of rightly ordered worship of the one true God.” Kindle location 924

“From start to finish, the Bible presents to us a God who is committed to providing a city in which he can dwell with his people. The extent to which he goes to build that city is shocking. The promise of that perfect, future city has, in an already/not-yet fashion, broken into our present lives. Having been captured by the gospel and made citizens of the heavenly city, we are now uniquely equipped to live, work, and play as salt and light in our respective earthly cities.” Kindle location 1278

“Christians tend to make two very different but equally damaging mistakes in their approach to the city: abandoning their worldview or privatizing their worldview. Neither of these outcomes happens overnight—these are trajectories that begin as one first takes on a posture toward the city.” Kindle location 1376

“A therapist in Silicon Valley reports that there are two types of people she sees in her counseling practice. The first type of person came to Silicon Valley hoping to make it, but he didn’t make it, so he is unsatisfied. The second individual came hoping to make it, and he did make it, but he is also unsatisfied. If you abandon your worldview to accommodate and achieve your dreams in your city, whether you fail or succeed at your goals, you’ll be left unfulfilled. Our cities are not meant to carry the weight of our worship.” Kindle location 1401

“All cities are centers of worship, and urban dwellers are some of the most passionate, driven worshipers on earth. The issue is not worship. The issue is the false gods that garner our affection, devotion, and praise. In some cities of our world people are bowing down to gods of cast metal (Lev. 19:4), but in most of our cities idolatry has become modernized.” Kindle location 1732

“The gospel creates a community that is the solution to the loneliness in our cities. Jesus told his disciples that they were to be ‘a city set on a hill’ that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14). Jesus called his people to be a city within a city, a community of people who model to the city what human relationships are supposed to look like.” Kindle location 2076

“The problem is that our cities (and many churches) try to achieve community by putting community at the center. Scripture calls us to find community by putting God at the center. As churches focus on the triune God who suffered and sacrificed to bring us into community with himself, we can experience and model something that our cities rarely see: the reconciling grace of God at work in human relationships.” Kindle location 2105

“The gospel enables and encourages Christians to care not only for their own—we must at least do that—but also for the poor, marginalized, and alienated. The generosity at work in the institutional church ought to overflow into the city by way of the organic church as individual Christians catch a vision of God’s ultimate urban renewal plan. And one of the primary ways that Christians do justice and show mercy is through the integration of faith and work.” Kindle location 2170

“The Great Commission was instinctively carried out in the first century by disciples who planted new churches in new cities. Church planting was the normal mode of operation for the early church, and it should be the normal mode of operation for all who want to reach our rapidly growing cities. The gospel doesn’t only create well-balanced communities; it spawns reproducing communities. Just as healthy families reproduce, healthy disciples and healthy churches reproduce.” Kindle location 2209

“Jesus has promised to build two things: his church (Matt. 16:18) and a new city (Revelation 21). What Jesus is currently doing with his church, his city within a city, will one day culminate in the city to come—the joining of heaven and earth in an eternal city where the redeemed will finally see God face to face and discover that everything sad, fallen, or twisted has become untrue.“ Kindle location 2274

Best illustration

“Hit the gas pedal in your car and the engine under the hood will turn the fuel into energy. The engine functions to convert gas into motion. In the urban engine, the fuel of creativity is put into motion by competition. Competition takes creativity to the next level and explains, in large part, the concentration of cultural capital in cities.”  Kindle location 724

 Best idea

“Every city has a story. Once you’ve worked through the five city questions from chapter 4—your city’s history, values, dreams, fears, and ethos—you can piece together your city’s narrative. The baseline story is the overarching belief system that drives how a city functions.” Kindle location 1643

 Best take away

“The God of the Bible commissions Christians to be spiritually bicultural. Christians are summoned to enter into the city of man while remaining citizens of the city of God. The Scriptures obviously do not tell us to love the city and hate God, nor does God ask us to love him and hate the city—the call is to love both God and the city.” Kindle location 1312


If one is unconvinced that today’s pioneering work of missions is not to the great cities of the world, then read this book. The future of missions must be to the increasingly great urban centers found across the world. This is where the last unreached people groups are to be found and the density of humanity is to be encountered.


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