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Missions 101

There's Brokenness in the Burbs Too

Feb. 28, 2012By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

I don’t live in a cool place and that is ok, because as my wife reminds me, I'm not that cool anyway.

I don’t know of any Muslims or Hindus that live in my neighborhood.  I have never met anyone from another country that lives near me.  Even more so, I think my whole neighborhood has the same skin color.  Every house sits on a quarter acre lot and almost everyone has a two-car garage (in Minnesota that’s normal!).  In the winter I don’t see anyone from my neighborhood because it’s below zero and no one goes outside except to shovel their driveway. In the summer everyone is on vacation.

There is a Christian school one mile away from my house and a few evangelical churches within 10 minutes.  Everyone involved there has the same skin color too.

I don’t know anyone who speaks more than one language, who has traveled abroad or who teaches at a university.  Heck, I don’t even know of any college students that live close.  There is a community college, but like I said, my neighborhood doesn't have anyone attending.  I would say a third of the adults have completed a college level degree.

There are two baseball fields and parks a quarter mile in each direction.  All the homes are livable and were built in the 1980s with the exception of some newer homes.  Those who live here have typical suburban jobs – there are number of teachers, contractors, carpenters and general maintenance guys to go with some bankers and business managers.

Does this demographic deserve a Christian witness?  It’s not that cool.  If you had to choose Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA or Anoka, MN, which one would you choose?  It’s not even a close competition is it?

Yet on my street I know the gospel is needed.  I don't think anyone within 10 houses call any church their home.  Last year the guy two doors down beat his kids and wife and then fired off a gun in the driveway.  The SWAT team paid him a visit and gassed the entire house.  My neighbors have labored to find work and some of the marriages (if they are married) are struggling.  There are a number of high school students who like to roam the streets.  I know they think they are cool – maybe they should move to the city.  

Think poverty is a city issue only?  Consider that most people in the US who live in poverty don’t live in cities at all!  15.4 million suburban residents live below the poverty line, which is a 53% increase since 2000.  Our major cities “only” have 12.7 million living in poverty. 

Into this environment six families gather in our home every week, and since we are all Christians, we should have our act together.  But that is not life.  Kids have been arrested. Members of our group have been threatened physically. One spouse was in a serious car accident. There is brokenness in the relationships with extended family members. Houses are underwater due to the economic downturn.  Jobs have been lost or the salaries cut to where a second job is needed.  Dads are spending two hours in the car everyday to find a job and one woman spends three.  Bosses have been unfair and cruel.  Employees have done a terrible job and there is guilt in firing a man who has a family.  There is fear, anxiety and hope all wrapped into our time together. 

They know who John Piper is – he is our Senior Pastor.  But if I gave them they acronym test (DG, T4G, TLI, BBC, TGC, ACTS29, Resurgence, etc), they wouldn’t know any of them.  I'm the only one with an iPhone.  Some don't even have email.  

These are the people I live with and I love them.  It's not cool, but the Lord has people here that belong to Him and others whom He is calling!

There’s brokenness in the burbs. 



Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

Tags:  missional living
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