giving God the finger
challenging title, challenging post!
i've labored over this post for a couple of days because i wanted to make sure my heart was right and i totally understood the misunderstanding that may come along with it...so, here it goes...
when i got back from my vacation i had a ton of mail (the old-fashioned kind that shows up at your house in a tin box) - most of it was junk mail (sale ads, etc), some of it was useful though. one piece that i always love to read is a little known church planter's magazine called "cutting edge" - it's published by the folks in the vineyard church and it's quarterly so it doesn't bother me to sit down and read it all because i know they've done a great job of putting it together - bonus, it has some of the best looking graphics of any mag that i read...
this month's issue featured an article/interview with david goetz. goetz wrote a book a called "Death by Suburb" in which the basic premise is this: the environment of the suburbs is unique and there are certain toxins that come with living there. however, it's not because the suburbs are 'bad' - the problem is that they are 'good' - too good in fact. overly good, always getting 'gooder' - always striving to be the 'goodest' (i know, the word is 'best' - just go along with me here).
here's the toxin found in the above - satisfaction and contentment are never realized! along with the suburbs comes the compelling rat race of what used to be called 'keeping up with the joneses'...getting one suv isn't enough, now it must be two; playing baseball isn't enough, now it must be the travel team that flies all over the country trying to win championships and robs children of their youth (fwiw, i played on a soccer travel team, i never flew, it was fun, i was still able to be a kid); having one home isn't enough, now you must own a lakehouse, a cabin in the mountains and a time share in orlando...the question is this...when is 'it' ever enough? when do we stop to realize that perhaps what we currently have is what God wants us to have (or, maybe even less than what we have!).
goetz makes the statement (and this is the genesis for this post...it's his words, but, yes, i am repeating them here)... So in this kind of environment, you begin to think, “This is the way the world is.” Getting more money, more stuff, moving up the ladder. And you begin to say, “Why don’t I have these things?” And you begin to think, “I want my neighbor’s life. I want his house, his wife, his yard.” And it’s like giving God the finger. We find ourselves increasingly in a lifestyle of ingratitude, deep discontentment, and destroyed marriages." (read the entire article here beginning on page 2).
as we move forward in the body of Christ with understanding the mission of the church, there's a lot of emphasis placed on the 'forgotten places' - those are the places where the crack houses are, the pimps and prostitutes rule the street, the gangs operate their empires and the homeless are abandoned to live - the inner city. there needs to be a lot of emphasis on this as a part of our mission - Christ demands that we not forget that part of our society. however,there also needs to be a focus on the suburbs and the need for new churches in the burbs. having been a part of one church plant in the suburbs (really, more rural but transitioning to suburbia) and now serving in a church and living in a city that are considered suburbs, there needs to be an awakening to the need for new churches, more outreach, more truth and more focus on the burbs - it is, after all, where much of america is moving. i encourage you to take a look at the 8 toxins that goetz identifies and the corresponding solutions - good stuff!
one final quote from this interview that resonates with something mark batterson talks about a lot in his blog ... "But there are a lot of ways to do creative ministry in the suburbs. Not everything has been tried yet."
the truth is, most of us in suburbia are blessed way beyond the last generation (not saying that's a bad thing, I'm not a 'prosperity preacher' nor am i a 'dirt-poor' preacher), it's time for us to once again develop a sense of gratitude and contentment, time for us to once again focus on our family (not the one next door or down the street), time for us to be mom and dad (rather than chauffeur and atm), time for us to go counter-culture by establishing that life is much more that accumulating and our accumulations - time for us to stop giving God the finger!