I feel like I need to apologize. I’m a pastor in the suburbs. I live in a place with little obvious material poverty. Multiculturalism is largely nonexistent. My back yard is bigger than my front yard. My community is rife with “first-world problems.” And moving to “the city” isn’t even on my radar.
Most of the “action” in the church world of our city is happening way closer to downtown. There are so many faithful churches doing powerful and beautiful things there. I love watching my brothers and sisters creatively engage their places with the good news of Jesus. The suburbs, on the other hand, are usually thought of as a wasteland of consumerism, isolation, and antiquated Boomer methods of being the church. That’s not all wrong. But if you want to be in on the “movement of God” in our city, the suburbs are not the place to be.
At the beginning I said “I feel like I need to apologize.” More accurately, I’ve felt the need to apologize in the past. When people asked about our church I focused on the work we were doing with a youth center in the inner city. I shared all the reasons our church wasn’t a “typical” suburban church. I located us on the closest edge possible to the city, shying away from greeting our actual geography with a willing embrace. And that’s something for which I actually need to apologize.
Here’s the thing. My wife and I feel called to the place and people we’re with–our neighborhood, church, and the south suburbs of Denver in general. We throw that “calling” word around pretty freely to spiritualize our choices, so let me explain what I mean. God has set this part of the city in our hearts as home. We have been drawn to this part of the city since we moved here, despite the fact that we lived elsewhere until three years ago. It’s like God placed a magnet in our spirits that drew us to this place. We kept trying to live here even when work took us somewhere else. This place, and these people, are home in a way that goes beyond our choices.
Once I accepted that fact, I started to believe that God wants the suburbs to flourish too, not just downtown or by the university. It’s true that the suburbs are profoundly broken–alienation, isolation, addiction, enslavement to things, and a gnawing sense of hopelessness.
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1
It’s also true that God’s good desires for his world are for the whole thing, including the suburbs.
So I’m committed to this place; this people. I’m thankful for the many who God has called to other places too. And I hope we see the peace and reconciliation of his kingdom take root and grow in every part of this city.