There is a people group whose language you may not want to learn, whose customs you may find distasteful, whose dress may offend, and whose values may disappoint. They are worshipers of idols. They raise their children in poverty. Many Christians consider this people group either unreachable or beyond the sphere of their calling.
Because their language is that of white suburbia. Because their customs are as familiar as our childhoods, their dress as unremarkable as the sale rack at Old Navy, their values as fragile as their credit ratings. Their idols are money, possessions, and leisure. Their children starve not for food, but for relationship. And their faces? Their faces look a little too much like our own.
Behold suburbia, the mission field for whom our hearts do not break. We hold them in contempt as those who have heard and spurned the gospel. Their failing marriages, rebellious children, and quiet addictions stir in us weariness and wariness: This is their own doing. This is the fruit of their commonplace lives of capitulation and mediocrity. Suffering and loss may visit them, but they still drive to hospitals and gravesites in late-model SUVs. Why should we pour out our lives on the rocky soil of suburban America when, for the price of a plane ticket, we can till the fertile fields of Africa, Asia, South America?
But who are we to say that one soil is more fertile than another? Perhaps this field is yours to till simply because you find yourself already in it. No plane ticket required, no bold geographical leap of faith, just a slow and steady determination to respond well to the call to “love your neighbor.” Literally. Even if their problems are messy, and mundane, and not the stuff of headlines or documentaries. Even if they never soften to the gospel.
It is good for our hearts to break for Africa, for Asia, for South America. It is good for seeds to be planted by passionate believers in the fertile soil of distant lands. But I pray that hearts might also break for the suburbs, and that God would raise up faithful men and women who will till where the ground is rocky and unforgiving, believing for a harvest that could only be reckoned as supernatural.
Pray with me. Ask the Lord of the harvest, who sows and reaps where he pleases—both far and near.
“Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord. (Isa. 59:17)