Words with two meanings

The church I attend is taking the youth group to DOOR-Miami next week.  For a lot of different reasons I am nervous.  Both my boys are going and I hope they learn to appreciate DOOR in a whole new way.  I also want the group to have a faith-enhancing experience. So on Sunday when one of the group leaders came looking for me because he had some questions, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be found.  I tend to run and hide when there is a possibility for stress.  Eventually I did the right thing and we talked.  His question was simple, “Has DOOR ever hosted a group from an urban church before?”

My answer was quick and simple, “Yes.”

But his question and my response have been bothering me ever since.

“Urban” is one of those words that means different things to different people.  For some it has a geographical meaning, describing a location within a metro area, usually the neighborhoods closest to the city center.  In many American cities, these neighborhoods are being radically changed through the process of gentrification

So one use of “urban” has to do with where the church is located.  This was not what my friend was asking me.  For him, “urban” had a whole different meaning.  He wanted to know if DOOR has worked with folks who are urban by birth and mindset.  This is very different than urban by location.  It shapes how people understand violence, homelessness, poverty and their faith.

Urban by birth and mindset speaks to a way of viewing the world.  Just because a person moves into an urban neighborhood does not immediately imply that they understand what it is to be urban by mindset.  I am not saying that one way of being urban is more authentic than the other, but they are different and that is important to be aware of. 

At DOOR, we have been living and working between these two urban realities for 26 years.  Sunday was a good reminder that differences in perspectives and world view do exist.  Differences, if approached with humility, can be marvelous teachings tools that help expand our understanding of God.