Ray Bakke, senior associate for large cities for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, directs the Chicago-based International Urban Associates. He has led consultations in some 130 cities around the world and was himself an urban pastor for several years. Bakke chaired last month’s biennial urban congress sponsored by the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE), which was attended by 950 people representing 40 states and 32 countries. He discussed with CHRISTIANITY TODAY the problems and possibilities for urban ministries.

What is the most significant thing you have learned in your role as an urban consultant?

If I have made a contribution to missiology, it is the discovery that 80 to 90 percent of the barriers to successful ministry are inside the churches. The problem is not poverty, Marxist oppression, or Islam. It’s the ego of our leaders—in some cases, mission and denominational leaders committed to outdated structures. It’s the we-never-did-it-that-way-before syndrome, or the attitude that says, “The seminaries didn’t prepare us for this,” or, “If we do this, they’ll accuse us of being liberal.”

Have theological conservatives abandoned the city?

Sometimes it seems only mainline churches are active in urban ministry. But there are many evangelicals, including myself, who come from mainline denominations. Evangelical denominations—Nazarenes, Conservative Baptists, and the Baptist General Conference—were well represented [at the SCUPE congress]. And there are conservatives outside these categories, including Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, the Salvation Army, charismatics, and black churches.

But the traditional evangelical establishment in many ways abandoned the city in the era of “white ...

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