Gen 11:4; “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
I recently had the privilege of travelling to the U.A.E. with OneHope for some program design sessions. These sessions were taking place in the city of Dubai. (A place that surely will become a missionary hub for the 10/40 window over the next few decades) I was joined there by a great team that was made up of ministers and cricketers of different nationalities. The aim of these meetings was to come together and design a Cricket Program that could be used alongside the Gospel in South-East Asia. There are over 100 million kids between 6-16 years old that play cricket in South-East Asia, many of whom will not simply walk into a church and hear the Good News. However, give them an opportunity to play the game they love and present God’s big redemptive story to them over the course of 16 plus weeks and you just never know what salvific work the Lord could do in their lives. This is a project that we will continue to appreciate your prayers.
After the sessions were over we were able to go downtown and see the city. So many buildings. I read a sign in the Dubai airport that said there was only 1 skyscraper in Dubai in 1990. Now, in 2014 there are over 900 and they are still building more. The pinnacle of their ‘creation’ is the Burj Khalifa (برج خليفة,). Standing at 2,722 ft it is the tallest building in the world. It is Dubai’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’. In all honesty it is hard not to stand in awe of its sure size and structural beauty. Add to that the water show that is presented to the passing masses every 30 minutes at evening time and it’s difficult not to take you phone out and snap a few shots. And yet for all of its grandeur there was something that ‘did not sit well’ with me. Entering into any city for the first time I ask the Lord, “Who is really in this place?” and “What is really going on here?” Every city is different and every city carries a different ‘spirit’. So, what is Dubai all about? What are they selling? Well, when I walked into the lobby of the Burj Khalifa, this was the first thing I saw:
“I am the power that lifts the world’s head proudly skywards, surpassing limits and expectations.
Rising gracefully from the desert and honouring the city with a new glow. I am an extraordinary union of engineering and art, with every detail carefully considered and beautifully crafted.
I am the life force of collective aspirations and the aesthetic union of many cultures. I stimulate dreams, stir emotions and awaken creativity.
I am the magnet that attracts the wide-eyed tourist, eagerly catching their postcard moment, the centre for the world’s finest shopping, dining and entertainment and home for the world’s elite.
I am the heart of the city and its people; the marker that defines Emaar’s ambition and Dubai’s shining dream.
More than just a moment in time, I define moments for future generations.
I am Burj Khalifa.”
If these are not frightening words, I don’t know what are. The self-declaration of power, beauty and life force capabilities makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. In the Book of Genesis we see that the people of Babel built a tower for the purpose solidifying their collective strength; not much seems to have changed over the last 4000 years. In walking around the city of Dubai you are quickly aware of the fact that the ‘world’ is there. So many different nationalities and cultures are found in Dubai. It seems as if the ‘spirit of the place’ and natural tendencies of the ‘spirit of man’ are so hungry and strong there, that they are trying to reverse the act of Genesis 11:8 where the Lord did indeed scatter the people over the face of the whole earth.
As mentioned earlier, I think Dubai will in some way serve the church and its mission due to its unique location, but will the city become to opulent and amazing for its own good? Can it continue to sell itself to the nations as the greatest city in the world? Is it built on sand in more ways than one? Only time can answer these questions. Until then, are ‘Dubai-ing’ what they’re selling?