Sean Benesh : Vespas, Cafes, Singlespeed Bikes, and Urban Hipsters: Gentrification, Urban Mission, and Church Planting

Vespas, Cafes, Singlespeed Bikes, and Urban Hipsters: Gentrification, Urban Mission, and Church Planting

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Politics & Current Events, Religion & Spirituality

For Readers Of

Timothy Keller, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, Richard Florida, Edward Glaeser

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Urban Loft Publishers

Publication Date

February 15, 2014



About the Book    About the Author

Gentrification is a complex process that historically has created dividing lines between the haves and have-nots. In urban renewal, there are clear winners and losers as neighborhoods and districts become revitalized. On the plus side, there is a reclamation and preservation of grand historic buildings, homes and edifices alongside renewed economic vitality. On the negative side, gentrification means many minorities and lower-income families, who for years had called the old neighborhood home, are getting pushed to the urban periphery because they cannot afford to live there anymore. In light of these competing if not contradictory values, how should Christians respond? Is there a biblical and theological foundation on which to build such a response? Vespas, Cafes, Singlespeed Bikes, and Urban Hipsters takes a look beneath the surface of this phenomenon to uncover and present a Christian response to this city-changing movement.

Editorial Reviews

"A provocative starting point for a discussion that has long needed to take place in church planting circles. In this book, Sean and his compatriots have raised a series of issues related to gentrification and re-gentrification of urban center neighborhoods, while skewering simplistic and romanticized notions of planting churches in places where they could do as much harm as any good they might do."

Al Barth, Global Network Coordinator, Redeemer City to City

"The topic of gentrification has become a bit of a hot-button issue. Some see it as a solution to urban revitalization, while others believe it causes real harm to real people. In his latest book, Sean Benesh (and his co-conspirators) give the church an extremely helpful resource that not only sorts out the complexities of the issue, but also provides real, practical steps of engagement for those with a passion for loving cities in all the right ways. I highly recommend this resource for anyone who desires to see a true reflection of the Kingdom birthed in the city they live in."

Brad Brisco, Author of Missional Essentials and The Missional Quest

"Is one supposed to smile widely while reading an intellectually thorough, investigative, and missiological volume like this one? Possibly not, but I found its multifaceted approach, refusal to label complex concepts simplistically, and present-future outlook truly delightful. A wonderful contribution to the study of urban ministry."

Linda Bergquist, Author The Wholehearted Church Planter and Church Turned Inside Out

"Restoration, renewal, and reconciliation are the building blocks of city life lived in community. This book is a must-read for city practitioners, including the Church, who desire not only to restore old buildings or renew the spirit of entrepreneurship, but also to reconcile longstanding cultural and generational differences to build healthy communities. Who then is responsible for the transformation of the human spirit, as well as for the multiple facets in the gentrification process? Is it each individual, organization (both for-profit and non-profit), or city government?"

Earnestine Cellestine, President, North Portland Bible College

"One part theology, one part sociology, and one part missiology, this work on urban ministry is a necessary tool in the kitbag of any church planter who is serious about urban ministry. Whereas the majority of books about planting map the geographical borders of the targeted zone, this book also explores the zone within, and focuses on where those two borders meet. An invaluable study."

Peyton Jones, Founder, New Breed Church Planting, Managing Editor, Church Planter Magazine, Author of Church Zero

"This book is a must-read for every single person who cares about the city in any way. The complex topic of gentrification absolutely needed to be researched and handled in this honest, in-depth way by concerned and committed Christians who love the cities. I often struggle to do the topic of gentrification justice in urban classes because of the multi-layered complexities of its nature. This book will be a resource I will use personally and point students to again and again. With pleasure!"

Kendi Howells Douglas, Professor of Cross-Cultural Ministries, Great Lakes Christian College

"Do you love the city? The United Nations predicts that by 2050 one-half of the world's population will be squatters or urban poor slum-dwellers. In his skillfully crafted book, Sean Benesh and his selected contributors help us understand the dynamics of the changing urban landscape and force us to consider appropriate ministry responses. We are all called to serve in our own contexts, and for most of us, that means the city."

Doug Priest, Executive Director, CMF International

"I have struggled with the challenges of gentrification first-hand in the multicultural urban neighborhood where we lived and founded Urban Neighbours Of Hope. After about a decade, our neighborhood in Kelvin Grove, Springvale, Melbourne, went from being considered one of the worst streets to one of the most sought-after in the area. Real transformation was happening. Public drug use and violence disappeared. A sense of village emerged where residents began to trust and value each other's diverse cultures, foods, and gifts. However, there were also unintended consequences. The price of rents, for example, doubled, and the local leaders who came to faith and helped make this transformation possible could not afford to stay there. Our friends and neighbours were again dispersed to cheaper neighbourhoods around the city while other, more well-healed folks, reaped the neighbourhood's newly celebrated benefits. This is the first book that I know of that tackles this phenomenon from a Christian perspective. As such this is a crucial read for any Christian who wants to love their neighbours and neighbourhood enough to seek holistic change. I am grateful for Sean and his assembled activists-thinkers for engaging this important challenge to the neighborhood transformation processes and wish I had this book 20 years ago!"

Ash Barker, Convener, International Society for Urban Mission (, Author of Slum Life Rising and Make Poverty Personal

"Despite the undeniable fact of the urbanization of our planet, the church of Jesus Christ still seems resistant to transform itself for the sake of her mission. Sean has thought deeply about the sociological implications of urbanization, and from that proposes an unexpected yet helpful missiological response. Beyond a simple suburban or urban strategy preference of ministry application, this book will drive its readers to an introspective analysis of the urban church, the Kingdom of God, and ultimately how Christ's followers might behave if the King got His way."

Jeff Christopherson, Vice-President, Canada, Northeast US, North American Mission Board, Author of The Kingdom Matrix

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