What makes a Great City?

Growing up in the Bay Area, when I think about great cities, I automatically think of San Francisco.

I first think of the landscape, the rolling hills cascading into the Bay. The fog rolling in and out.

Then I think about the bridges, and the historical landmarks. Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, the Marin Headlands, Palace of Fine Arts, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, the Barbary Coast Trail.

Sometimes it’s easy to look at these monuments of cities and forget the stories of those who built them decades ago.

That 3/4 of the city burned to the ground in 1906 and yet only nine years later the city celebrated its rebirth with the Panama-Pacific Expo, which gave us monuments such as the Palace of Fine Arts. Or, on the negative side, that the phrased “you’ve been Shanghaied” partly comes from bars near the Wharf with trap doors under the bar where drunk sailors would be captured only to wake up the next morning on a boat leaving port heading for Asia and an eighteen month voyage. True story.

At its core, a city is the sum of its people.

When God spoke of the city, His focus was on people. Jonah going to Ninevah. Abraham's plea for Sodom. Jesus’ Great Commission was to a city, state, region, and then the world. Each an unique subset of people groups.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that cities are much more than the buildings, parks, and landscapes. But when we think about cities, we need to recognize that most of what we see is the result of human intervention on a tactile canvas. And that just like the history of our cities, we today are writing the next chapters that will live in our city’s histories for generations to come.

We each have a hand in weaving the fabric of the community where we live. Our efforts today, or lack thereof, will determine the future of our cities, our communities, and what we leave our children.

The beauty is that it is universal for everyone who lives in your city. Some may have more influence and impact than others, but you are usually hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t care about the place they live.

This common denominator is a powerful force for inviting collaboration amongst adverse community and in the process, forging relationships with others who might not think like we do.

Yet, if we never find any common ground, not only will we never fully realize the potential for catalytic change in our communities, we’ll struggle to create bridges to share the Gospel message and fulfill our Great Commission to our local Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.