How do we bring the gospel to bear in an affluent suburb?
There are challenges in every context, and church planting in an affluent suburb is no exception. But there are also unique opportunities here to see lives transformed by the gospel.
In his book Center Church, Tim Keller observes:
I am proposing that Christians themselves must be contextualized “letters of the gospel” (2 Cor. 3:1–13). In other words, we will have an impact for the gospel if we are like those around us yet profoundly different and unlike them at the same time, all the while remaining very visible and engaged.
We have sought to be “like” the culture by living among people in our community. This simply means that we interact with our neighbors, get involved in our kids’ sports teams, exercise regularly, and participate in other recreational activities. We do these “everyday things” with gospel intentionality.
And as we live our everyday, normal lives with people in our community, we find out what they’re struggling with. We learn the core concerns of people’s lives—what they really long for—and in so doing, we bring the gospel to bear. Our hope is to help people connect their story to God’s story.
In a society that lives for the weekend, gathering on Sunday becomes a declaration of allegiance.
At the same time, we seek to be distinct—“unlike” the culture. In a culture that worships the creation, we worship the Creator. This has implications for how we view relationships, kids, finances, recreation, hospitality, and time. Practically, in a society that lives for the weekend, gathering on Sunday becomes a declaration of allegiance.
In a culture built on consumption, we seek to encourage lives of contribution; where we use our time, talent, and treasure to promote God’s agenda rather than our own.
We have an amazing opportunity to advance God’s kingdom through living lives of generosity, and through planting churches that plant churches around the world.
Again, we simply find out what people like to do, and do it alongside them with gospel intentionality.
Put simply: we find out what people like to do, and do it with them with gospel intentionality.
Here are four vital convictions that have sustained us so far:
1. Patience and Perseverance
Church planters typically are not patient people. We tend to be driven, hard-working, and results-oriented. But it takes time to see a church become established and mature.
Church planting is not magic; it doesn’t transform people overnight. For the majority of people, church planting will require more of them than anything they’ve ever been part of.
For the majority of people, church planting will require more of them than anything they’ve ever been part of.
Be patient and persevere.
God has proven his great faithfulness as we’ve sought to respond to what he’s called us to in Jupiter. It can be tempting to try to put on an impressive show to gather a crowd, but God calls us to be faithful, not flashy. So we aim to be faithful in prayer, in proclaiming his Word, and in loving others.
I’m an extrovert who likes to do a lot, but as I look back over the first year of our church’s life, it hasn’t been through our doing that God has provided. It’s been through our praying.
He’s provided places for us to meet at just the right time; he’s provided people who serve with enthusiasm and joy; he’s met our financial needs; and he’s provided meaningful friendships.
Over and over, God has provided in ways that have nothing to do with our efforts, and everything to do with his faithfulness.
And God’s faithfulness gives us courage. Courage to move to that place. Courage to initiate that conversation. Courage to invite that person (and get rejected again and again). Courage to ask for financial support. Courage to proclaim the gospel when it exposes the idols of a culture. Courage to ask the follow-up question when you see brokenness in someone’s life. Courage to show up.
This courage hasn’t come from within, but God has made us courageous as we’ve relied on him (Josh. 1:9).
4. Intentionality and Awareness
I know there are books, tactics, and studies that help us better understand our area and people. And we need these. But we also need the awareness that only comes through experience.
I know there are books, tactics, and studies that help us better understand our area and people. And we need these. But we also need awareness that comes through experience.
In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly aware of those around him and what’s going on in their lives. He was intimately involved in the messy lives of people. He moved toward others and brought good news—whether they were impoverished or affluent.
So live among the people around you with intentionality, and bring the good news of Jesus to bear as you do.
Be patient. Stay faithful. Have courage. Be intentional. And watch Jesus build his church.