Bringing the City of God to the Cities of Earth

Christian urban designers and developers explain how their faith affects their work—and how their work affects your faith.

The design of our communities shapes how we interact with one another, love one another, and grow with one another. But who shapes those communities?

In a broad sense, we all do. Our choices of where and how to live, learn, work, and worship collectively influence the market, ministry decisions, and what feels “right” and “normal.” But some professions—city planners, urban designers, architects, and real estate developers—take a larger and more direct role in creating our cities and neighborhoods. And for many Christians in these industries, faith guides their construction of spaces for community flourishing.

Where we live can echo both the creation and redemption yet to come (Rom. 8:18–25). These places can foster deep, lasting community in a fragmented world, four Christians in these industries told me, and the local church can be a model of inviting, appealing design.

The pillars of good urban design—beauty, function, community building, accessibility—are more than fads or human preferences. They’re a foretaste of the redeemed earth, a signpost pointing us toward a better way of living. And it shouldn’t be lost on us, said Chris Elisara, chair of the Congress for New Urbanism Members Christian Caucus, that the world to come isn’t described as a garden or a quaint village but as a city (Rev. 22:3). “As we participate in kingdom building,” he told me, “it culminates with [that] city description in Revelation. And that’s where God dwells with his people again.”

Accordingly, more mundane “kingdom building” through city planning and urban design shouldn’t be thoughtless, out of touch, …

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