Church planting in the suburbs is sometimes frowned upon as “safe” and “unneeded”. Behind this thought is the dangerous link we make between independence and spiritual health. But perfect picket fences are insufficient barriers to the endless holes existing in a broken world. In reality, the mask makes it all the more dangerous. Like a camouflaged viper, invisibility is a weapon.
In suburbia you can have it all: convenience, abundance, and comfort. The message is: SELF (self-empowerment, Self-enhancement, Self-fulfillment). And the only heresy is suggesting otherwise.
Even the Churches have bought into the problem. Our “missional” activity typically goes outside the walls of community or in foreign lands. We assume rich people know Jesus and poor people don’t. The rich young ruler was probably on the HOA board. This is the neighborhood equivalent of the tax collector.
Below are 7 reality checks for the Church in Suburbia (aka Paradise City)
1. Genuine community is what you are built for.
People work crazy hours then fill life with crazy schedules. Karate, Soccer, and Dance lessons: These are the Kings and Queens of our society. We even complain about our weekend schedules as a badge of honor. The rare opportunity for margin/rest is filled with designing a better moat or tower. Only heretics suggest abstaining from programs and investing in community.
Consider the irony of this statement “Getting suburbians into biblical community is hard”. To be Christian is to be in community. True community exist in Christ. They are inseparable ideas. Christians must model this lifestyle and this will require intentional abstention.
2. Cultural diversity is a biblical value, not a strategy.
Suburban Churches must break the homogenous mold. We must start a new narrative. It will be a costly endeavor requiring courage, humility, repentance, and a willingness to fail. Accepting the ease of homogeneity is high, it can be a frightful window into our true (non biblical) values. We must fight for compassion over comfort. The fight against prejudice, bigotry, and racism is fundamental to Christianity. This will take time.
3. God desires justice, kindness and humility. Suburbia doesn’t.
In suburbia the schools are great, the parks are safe. Our problems are carpool lines and try-outs. Our isolation numbs our senses. In many ways we are the frog in the frying pan.
God HATES injustice. Sadly, the liberal politicians demonstrate biblical justice better than many suburban Churches. To be christian is to be just and merciful within an unjust and unmerciful world. But much of suburbia comes at a great cost to others. Christian living in suburbia should not feel shamed, but to ignore these problems is to cause them.
4. God’s great mission includes suburbia
Suburban life is an endless numbing of latte stops, swim lessons, and mini vacations. God’s mission for the ABUNDANT LIFE requires loss. Suburbia calls for gain.
Hospitality and kindness cannot be truly understood apart from loss. Giving is foundational to both. As Christians, we are the alien element. we are the odd ball. When a culture designed around consumption meets a faith designed around giving, one will try to eat the other. Christians must know that God has blessed them with an everlasting calling and that includes their neighborhood.
Loss is the great unspoken. It is the dragon under the bed. For some, giving comes long after Disney and 30A have been accounted for. For others, a $500 pardon frees us from investing sacrificial time. A few indulgences to escape the call to love my neighbor as myself. Because The Church has a program for that.
5. Sacrifice is Christian.
Simply put. Your life is not your own. Risk more. What do you have that was not given? What do you have that will last?
6. There is always more!
The Gospel is a never-ending horizon. NEVER be fooled into thinking you have touched the back fence. Suburbia tells you that God comes in a package. In fact, Amazon Prime can have Him delivered in 2 days with a forward from your favorite celebrity preacher.
YOU CANNOT IMAGINE HOW BOUNDLESS GOD”S LOVE IS!
7. Christianity is not a prayer before T-ball practice.
Suburbia is trying to make heaven on earth. This pursuit embraces safety and abhors risk. Eventually our prayer lives top out with 2 unspokens and thanks for good weather. It is one thing to oder a croissant, it is an entirely different thing to become a French citizen. But that requires risk.