Ray Bakke may know more about urban ministry than any other evangelical. How he got to this point is proof that God knows better than we do how to weave together the disparate strands of our lives. Bakke's youthful ambition growing up in rural Washington State was to become a high-school teacher and coach. But when he attended Moody Bible Institute, he fell in love with Chicago. So instead, he became an inner-city pastor, first in Seattle, then in Chicago. A single congregation could not contain his vision or energy, however, and eventually the whole of Chicago, and later cities in general, became his parish.
Not that he entirely gave up on teaching. Bakke, an American Baptist, has taught Bible at Trinity College (Deerfield, Ill.), church history at McCormick Seminary, and urban ministries at Northern Baptist and Eastern Baptist seminaries. He still tries to read a book a day.
Bakke, 58, has served as senior associate for large cities with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; helped found the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE), which trains urban pastors; launched the Seminario Biblico Hispano of Chicago; and helped found Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU).
Officially, Bakke is senior associate of International Urban Associates, a Chicago-based network that seeks to empower God's people in the largest cities of the world. What Bakke really is is a lover, student, and teacher of cities the world over. His passion is mentoring urban ministers, helping them "exegete" cities—interpret their significance in light of biblical revelation and God's mission in the world. His newest book, A Theology As Big As the City, will be published by InterVarsity Press in May.
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