The Missions Field of Suburbia
By Jed Brewer
July 1, 2011
When Christians start talking about the idea of a “calling”—a specific place and task God has asked you to do with your life—the following question may come up at some point:
“Well, aren’t some people called to, you know, a 'normal' life? To just working a job, and having a family and living in a house?”
Not only are some people called to a life that involves a 9-to-5 job and a house in the suburbs, the Kingdom of God needs them to do that—and to do it well. And that calling is just as important as mine or anyone else’s. As the Bible says, we are one body with many parts, and every part is essential.
However, God doesn’t just call a person to a place; He has something for them to do when they get there. When God called Moses, He didn’t say, “Go unto Pharaoh.” He said, “Go to Pharaoh, and deliver the following message.”
And so it is with us. God is not only calling you to a particular environment, but He’s calling you to do something when you get there. I don’t just wander around the ghetto aimlessly, supposing my mere physical presence there is some sort of sanctifying agent, reducing sinfulness by the minute. I have work to do.
So, yes, some are called to the suburbs, just as some are called to the mountains of Afghanistan. But both need to know what it is God wants them to do when they get there.The unique temptation for those in the suburbs is that we’re liable to just “hang out” in our comfortable environment. Comfort, unfortunately, often leads to complacence. If you’re in a physically comfortable environment, you’ll want to get on your knees twice as often and ask the Lord, “Jesus, what exactly are you asking me to do here?”
The other temptation is to think the reason you have a comfortable environment and plenty of resources is simply because you are awesome. But let's be very, very clear: Whatever resources you have as a Christian, wherever you are, it is because God has given them to you. You did not earn them, you do not deserve them and you certainly do not own them. In fact, you're called to share them.
God entrusts resources to each of us, but they remain His. The Bible notes that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. When God entrusts something to you, it is so you can turn around and use it to bless other people. If God is entrusting resources to you (money, influence, time, etc), you will want to put time, prayer and thought into beseeching the Lord for wisdom on how He wants it used. Don’t hesitate to say: “Jesus, I know a lot of people screw this up, and I don’t want to be one of them. What do you want me to do with this resource?”
If you’re called to the suburbs, and you’ll seek the Lord for wisdom on how you can best use your time there, you will find all kinds of amazing opportunities to serve Jesus by serving others. I have no doubt that, right now, there’s a young person reading this who God has called to be a stay-at-home parent in a nice suburb somewhere. There might be an individual who is called to the workweek, called to the neighborhood, called to a comfortable community. What might God ask him or her to do with that? Here are just a few ideas:
- Be the personal freak-out hotline for someone going through divorce. There may be a lot of these couples in your area. How can you pray for them, provide for them and remind them of what is worth fighting for?
- Visit people in the nursing home who don’t have kids around. Get to know them and invite them to get to know you. What is their favorite food or book or flower? Bring it by unexpectedly. You can also hold the institution accountable for providing proper care.
- Befriend the beleaguered minister at the church and be a champion for him. Prayer, open ears and helping hands are resources any church needs that any member can offer.
- Figure out who the local latch-key kids are and make their house the go-to spot after school for games, cookies or conversation. A quick Bible lesson while said cookies are devoured couldn’t hurt either.
I can assure you each of these tasks and many others are sorely needed. Suburbia is a missions field as much as any other exotic location. Maybe you’re not called to the trenches, but you may be called to the picket fences, where there is no shortage of hurting hearts and broken lives. If you’ll listen and look for daily opportunities to share love in your community, you’ll find yourself on the front lines of the Kingdom. And that’s the only place any of us can hope to be.