More Information
ISBN: 9781783684977
Imprint: Langham Global Library
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 17
Publication Date: 31/03/2019
Pages: 324
Series: Global Christian Library
Language: English

Seeking a City with Foundations

Theology for an Urban World


More than half the people in the world live in cities, including a growing number of megacities with populations exceeding ten million people. This trend means that an understanding of urbanization must be an urgent priority for Christian theology and mission across the globe. This updated edition of Seeking a City with Foundations, with an additional chapter, explores Christian responses to the city, ranging from rejecting the urban as evil, to embracing it as being central to God’s redemptive purposes.

Drawing from a wide range of disciplines, including history, social science, urban planning, and the history of art, readers are given a detailed text which confronts the challenges that contemporary urbanization presents to world Christianity. Looking at urbanism as a theme throughout Scripture, culminating with the great vision of the New Jerusalem, David Smith explains that God’s own future is revealed as urban, highlighting the need to identify modern-day idols as we share the gospel in cities and acknowledge the impact of global economic forces. The book also explores the causes of what has been called the divided city and traces the urban theme through the Bible to present an alternative vision of the urban future – a future in which the injustices in ever-growing slums and a crisis of meaning among the privileged might be overcome through the power of the reconciling message of the cross. This timely book proposes a way forward for urban mission, highlighting that transformation of our cities must be the focal point of Christian mission and hope.

Author Bios

David W. Smith

David W. Smith spent eleven years as a pastor in the heart of Cambridge, UK, until he sailed to Africa with his young family in a Nigerian cargo ship to work in the rain forest and burgeoning cities of Africa. After returning to the UK with a host of questions, he earned a PhD in Secularization and Evangelicalism under Professor Andrew Walls at Aberdeen University. He later spent time in various leadership roles at theological institutions across the UK, where he made a significant contribution to the field of missiology.


The book describes the marginalization of the urban poor by elites and foreign landgrabbers, creating an ever-widening gap between a minority of rich people and the poor majority. It points too, toward the hope of the emergence of a global movement characterized by love and justice, and offers a very cogent description of the emerging concerns arising from the phenomenon of the endless city.

Samuel P. Ango, PhD
Theological College of Northern Nigeria

David Smith has beautifully described the unprecedented influx of people into the cities, and the complex problems arising from this, including the threat to the natural world. Drawing insights from different fields of study, this is a must-read book for those who are committed to making the Christian message relevant in a global context today.

Jangkholam Haokip, PhD
Dean of Theology and Ethics,
United Biblical Seminary

This book will prove to be an excellent guide for students and practitioners alike who seek a deeper understanding of how the texts of the Bible can powerfully and prophetically speak afresh into our contemporary urban world.

Colin Smith, PhD
Church Mission Society, Oxford

Seeking a City with Foundations lays a foundation that all future urban theological works must reckon with if they are to be faithful to their task. Smith both instructs and inspires in this very important book.

Eldin Villafane, PhD
Professor of Christian Social Ethics,
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Recent years have witnessed an increasing focus on the growth of cities and megacities in the non-Western world. David Smith’s book provides foundations and perspectives on the city and what it means to engage with the urban contexts of today in missional and gospel centred ways.

Peter Rowan, PhD
Co-National Director, OMF UK

This ground-breaking, beautifully written and lucidly organised text is thoroughly grounded in the literature of urbanism and urbanization, and also informed by the urgent theological problem posed by a radical change whereby more than half of humankind now lives in an urban environment.

David Martin, PhD
Emeritus Professor of Sociology,
London School of Economics

This is a magisterial, complex book that deeply challenges the reader. It is recommended reading for Christians who are serious in seeking to understand and confront the changing needs of urban life throughout the world.

Geoff Gobbett
Former London-Based Pastor

David Smith’s fascinating interpretation of global cities such as Mumbai, Brasilia, Dubai, and Glasgow, and his detailed urban reflections on the biblical text takes his readers on the most thrilling of journeys. Students and practitioners of urban mission will benefit in profound ways from absorbing this newly expanded book.

Stuart Weir, PhD
Scottish National Director, CARE

In Seeking a City with Foundations, David Smith argues with passionate conviction, Christianity’s shift in its “centre of gravity” from Europe to the Majority World. The future of urban Christianity, the book maintains, is in its potential for being “global” – a world religion. It is a major contribution to Christian religious studies. The book is of particular interest to scholars and readers in the Majority World.

Kanchana Ugbabe, PhD
Professor of English and Writer in Residence,
Fordham University

What David Smith is talking about in this book, that is urban pathologies, is a reality I see and experience in my own Asian context in the Philippines. What makes this book important for our context is not only that it shows us the reality but that it gives us a vision that empowers us.

Federico G. Villanueva, PhD
Publications Secretary, Asia Theological Association

Table of Contents

  1. Preface to the New Edition
  2. Preface to the First Edition
  3. List of Figures
  4. List of Photos
  5. Introduction to the New Edition
    1. 1 Introduction
  6. Part I The Urban World
    1. 2 The Challenge of an Urban World
    2. 3 The Birth and Growth of the City
    3. 4 Urban Visions, Urban Nightmares
    4. 5 City Skylines, City Meanings
  7. Part II Biblical and Theological Perspectives
    1. 6 The Bible and the City: From Patriarchs to Prophets
    2. 7 The Bible and the City: From Jesus to John of Patmos
    3. 8 Theology for an Urban World
  8. Bibliography
  9. Index of Names
  10. Index of Subjects
  11. Index of Scripture

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