Monday, August 27, 2007

Suburban Spirituality

I shared with my congregation yesterday (so weird to be able to say that) about how the missionary of Christ seeks to have a good grasp of his context (the time and place where he does ministry) and a great confidence in his message (for us, the grace of the gospel). The context for our missionary work in Round Rock, TX is suburban America 2007. Over the last year, I have sought to gain a greater understanding of our missionary context, and in a way, not only better understand the people we are trying to reach, but how suburban culture continues to impact my own spiritual journey. Through my own observations from conversations with many people in this community and some reading I've done and the wonderful insights of people on our team, I tried to lay out five over-arching characteristics that shape the people who live in our community. See if you notice any of the following in your context...

1) Relational Isolation: most people who live in the Round Rock area are transplants to this community, meaning they have very few roots in this area - no parents or grandparents or cousins close by, no high school or college friends that live within driving distance. Most people in our context are surrounded by people, but they are known by very few (if any). I love how Randy Frazee describes this - our crowded loneliness. Lines of people at the store, rows of parents at the football game, neighbors at the playground, but no deep friendships.

2) Distrust of Authority & Truth: almost everyone I meet has a story about why they live with a cynical worldview toward people in authority and anyone who claims to have the truth. As John Burke writes so well about in his analysis of our generation, the generation of the 60s & 70s went on a binge on self and now our culture is vomiting up the results. Parents can't be trusted - they just get divorced and leave. Politicians can't be trusted - they just make promises to get elected. Pastors can't be trusted - they'll abuse someone sexually or steal someone's money. All in all, we have produced a generation of cynics (see Jon Stewart as exhibit 1).

3) High View of Tolerance: because we live in a global culture where anyone can flip on the TV or log on their computer and get news from any corner of the world, it seems crazy to most people in our community to say that our worldview is any better than their worldview. In fact, when most people in our culture hear someone say that they believe their dogma to be true, they mostly write it off to that person's ignorance of the rest of the world. With so much cynicism toward truth and authority, it only makes since that our culture's highest value would be acceptance of everyone else's values.

4) Hidden Brokenness: while every generation and people group has brokenness, suburban America tends to hide our brokenness in the cover of materialism and isolation. In our pursuit to keep up appearances with everyone in our relational sphere, we tend to submerge the real us and put on a front that makes us look like we have it all together. The problem with this is simple: we don't. Everyone has stuff they deal with, we only vary in how well we hide it from each other. And suburban dwellers hide it well behind manicured front yards, security gates, and leased happiness.

5) Instability and Uncertainty: just as our global world leads to a high view of tolerance, it also leads to a heightened sense of uncertainty. Will my job be here in three months or will it be shipped overseas? Will another terrorist attack hit our nation in the near future? Financial security, job security, national security, and family security have become buzz-words for our time and place. Everyone wants to know what the future brings because they know it will definitely be different from the present.

While the list could have been longer, I stopped with these five. What are your thoughts as you read through these? Do you notice them in your own life or the lives of those around you? How is this information helpful to us as Christ's missionaries to suburban Texas 2007? Anything you would add?


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

One thing that comes to mind is that the salvation of any person is entirely in God's hands.

Romans 9:18
"God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."