How many Christians does it take to create a tipping point?
According to Tim Keller in Center Church, neighborhoods and cities stay the same when new types of residents (like Christians) are less than 5 percent of the population. When the number of new residents reaches somewhere between 5 and 25 percent, “the whole neighborhood shifts and undergoes rapid and significant change.” When enough pieces are in place, and a sufficient number of churches are healthy, a movement can become self-sustaining. The next threshold is the citywide tipping point. “This occurs when the number of gospel-shaped Christians in a city becomes so large that Christian influence on the civic and social life of the city — and on the very culture — is recognizable and acknowledged.” Keller writes:
I have heard it said that when the number of prison inmates following Christ reaches 10 percent, the very culture and corporate life of the prison changes. There is no scientific way to precisely determine a city’s tipping point — the point at which the gospel begins to have a visible impact on the city life and culture. In New York City, we pray for and work toward the time when 10 percent of the center city population is involved in a gospel-centered church. In Manhattan, this would amount to about 100,000 people.
I’m trying something this month that I’ve never done before. I’m focusing on the city of Toronto in this blog. I don’t know the exact percentage of evangelicals in Toronto, but I’d venture to say that it’s closer to 1 percent downtown than it is 10 percent.
To see this change, we need new churches planted, and we need existing churches revitalized. But we need more than this. Keller continues:
Every city in the world needs Jesus Christ. But our cities do not merely need a few more churches and ministries here and there; they need gospel city movements that lead to citywide tipping points. So urban ministers enthusiastically and passionately give their lives to these goals, even though they may not see their consummation in their own lifetimes.
I dream of the day that 10 percent of the population of Toronto is involved in a gospel-centered church. In Toronto, that would amount to about 280,000 people. That number is so staggering that it’s almost inconceivable.
But here’s what I know. Right now, there are churches in Toronto that would be changed with an infusion of 5 people. Or 2 people. I dream of hundreds of people intentionally moving to Toronto and joining church plants, or inner-city churches that need an infusion of people, and working to love churches and neighborhoods back to life. Not only is Toronto a great place to live, but you could be part of seeing this city loved and reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My friend Tim Strickland says, “So many believers have moved out over the past two generations, and have not been replaced by evangelism or by people moving back. I think the ‘Move Back’ idea is a powerful missionary challenge for people.” I agree.
Could God be calling you to be part of a “Move Back” movement to Toronto?