Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

4 August 2009

Impacting the Suburban Ghetto

"The growth of the metropolis throws vast numbers of people into distant dormitories where ... life is carried on without the discipline of rural occupations and without the cultural resources that the Central District of the city still retains."
[Lewis Mumford: Technology and Science Historian, 1922]

Suburbia: the push-button Zion of those who have made it and therefore have it made. There, amid the water sprinkling systems and lava rock landscapes, rises the new Eden with little need for God: Paradise Found, where churches ulcerate themselves trying to sell self-denial to the pampered. Can the urgency of the Cross ever be made real to those who cocoon in front of an entertainment center and insist on defining hell as dandelions and heaven as the proper side of town?

[Calvin Miller: "Rethinking Suburban Evangelism"]

My spirit is both irked and stirred by the suburbs and neighborhoods of Canadian cities. I'm moved by the fact that there are generations of skilled, middle-class, employed, and educated people who unknowingly are now North America's "unreached people group". They are the result of a generation who left an irrelevant church behind... and now find themselves with little spiritual heritage, and even less personal faith of their own. It's sometimes disappointing that Christians over-identify the shortcoming of Suburban living and as a result employee short-sighted and half-hearted efforts to reach those who live there. Simply because they've failed in the past... and it's hard.

  • Downtown is sexy
  • Suburbia is bland
  • Downtown is eclectic
  • Suburbia is repetitious
  • Downtown is vibrant and public
  • Suburbia is quiet and private

Yep... ...and who cares.

The suburbs and "Little Pink Houses" type neighborhoods in our cities are littered with unreached GENERATIONS living in their comfortable caves; untouched. You know the inspiring stories of radical African Missionaries forging into dark jungles with unknown dangers lying ahead... willing to sacrifice their style, comfort, preferences for the sake of OTHERS freedom? Well guess what. It's our divine calling to GO into ALL the world and preach the good news of Jesus.

There is also a misconception that the "quality of life" is better in the suburbs than in the inner city so people don't have the same "needs". Within percentage points, when studies are done about drugs, alcohol, sex, crime, marriage issues... suburbia rates neck-in-neck with the inner city. The same social pitfalls exist... but there is no "Local Mission" around the corner with a listening ear, step up, and a prayer to offer because we haven't put the effort into discovering a legitimate avenue of communicating "The Message".

"Suburban Ghetto" is an increasingly common term... implying numerous things (social, political, economic, spiritual) , not the least of which to the Evangelical Christian should remind us that new strategy is needed to begin to take the Great Commission seriously in our own cities. It doesn't matter a hill of beans if you don't like suburbia. Our love (that God will give us if we ask him for it) for it's people and concern for their spiritual well-being SUPERSEDES personal preference.

Here's something that may anger many some of you. I DO want a large TV. I DO want a killer backyard barbecue/patio/pool set-up. I DO want to make lots of money to be able to be able to buy the latest toys. I DO want a large car with lots of seats. I DO want a golf club membership. I DO want a big house with lots of rooms furnished well. And I want them... because they're all just tools to share Jesus with a key strategic demographic of unreached people in the very cities God wants to make harbors of His glory. I don't personally care one way or another about ME "having" them (since I don't really have any of them yet! Ha!) but whether it meets our standards of righteousness or not... they are ticket's into conversations and invitations into relationship that can lead to changed lives.


Yesterday we got to pray for God to heal the liver of a half-millionaire in my city... on the golf course. We earned a degree of his relational trust over 9 holes by being normal, friendly people... listening to his golf tips (have your body and hands come back to it's original position before your club strikes the ball... thanks John) and through it... God opened a door. The price of the round of golf could have fed a Compassion Canada kid for a month and a half. I'd do it the same way 100 times out of a 100. John's life is worth JUST as much as a child in Africa (of whom we DO sponsor 2) and I'm called to go find John and share the gospel with him.

In the Kingdom, it's not "either or"
It's "both and".

"Waiting on the secular family to be interested in the church's message demands patience. Sometimes it's directly related to need. At seasons of great need, most people are interested in God. If the pastor can lay down the church's availability through advertising or general reputation, when those needs come, the families who thought they were not interested suddenly are. We must socialize before we evangelize"

Calvin Miller
In 1975, God gave Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission, a simultaneous vision about the 7 areas in our culture that God wants us to climb and conquer for His Name and Renown.

  • Family: Where Generational Blessings or Curses are passed on to our children
  • Education: Where either Truth or lies about God and His Creation are taught
  • Government: Where Evil is either Restrained or Endorsed
  • Business: Where people build for the Glory of God or the glory of man
  • Media: Where events, news and information are interpreted and passed on people through the lens of good or evil
  • Arts and Entertainment: Where Values and Virtues are either celebrated or distorted
  • Religion: Where people worship God in "Spirit and Truth" or settle for religious rituals

The generations who are lost in the malaise of the Suburban Ghetto... are people of great influence in MANY of these areas in our culture. How can we not take the time to strategize about how to influence the influencers in our cities and then wonder why we're not influencing them?

It's partially because we're not talking to them where they are... in a language they are familiar with. The onus is not on THEM to make the effort. It's on US to put ourselves SECOND. It's on us to SERVE and show kindness (giving us a voice) to those Jesus died for. This is God's desire for everyone from the inner-city to the gated community...

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.
1 Timothy 2: 4-7 [The Message]

It's the simple message of God's love. When the life of ONE influencer is freed from fear, death, hopelessness... think what the subsequent ripples of reciprocation will bring when you (out of relationship) disciple them. The very thought of it looses the dream of "The City of God" to run rampant through my spirit.

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1 comment:

Sarah said...

You were right, Dave! I definitely needed to read this. Thank you so much!

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