Fr’nklin has an interesting post here on whether we are trying to plant the gospel in bad soil.
He quotes Neil Cole as he writes:
So, if we’re planting our churches in the latest and greatest upscale subdivision…more than likely, says Cole, we are planting good seed in bad soil. However, this seems to be the default of church planting: plant your church in a nice neighborhood with nice people where you can make a nice income and your kids can have nice friends and you can have a nice budget to do the things that nice churches do. We seem to be searching for those few “camels” who can fit through the “eye of a needle” so that they can pay for us to live like them and have the things that God “needs”.
What kind of people does the Bible describe as “good soil”?
1 Corinthians 1: 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.
So what’s all that mean for a missionary in aspirational middle class suburbia?
Is this a dead end trip?…
Should we just pick up and go where there are some people a bit more willing to hear?…
I think if nothing else it causes us to question how we use our limited time. He goes on to say that ‘Cole doesn’t suggest we should abandon planting churches in bad soil, but that it shouldn’t be our focus.’
So… is suburbia ‘bad soil’ territory?
In terms of hard to reach people groups, I reckon middle Australia is right up there with the toughest. When people believe that they have ‘almost made it’ and just a little more will see things right, the gospel message of self denial and cross carrying is pretty unattractive.
Of course middle Australians want their kids to have good values and to grow up ‘nice’ so we could look to snare them that way… but… I just don’t see Jesus or Paul functioning like that. Can you really imagine Jesus runing a kid’s ministry to ‘get the parents’? as I sometimes hear suggested. You have to admit it doesn’t sound much like him does it?!
I don’t think there’s any question that in a secular world its pretty tough to compete with the religion of consumerism, especially when our own lives are so infected and we live with such a high degree of syncretism. If we follow Cole’s message then we ought to put less focus on middle Australia and more on those who recognise their need and who are open.
My problem is that middle Oz makes up the great bulk of the population and someone has to have a crack at reaching them – not just running church services for Christians as good as they may be – but genuinely connecting with people in their worlds and pointing them to Christ.
Some days I would rather work with what might seem a more ‘open’ demographic, but my guess I that while the grass may look a bit greener elsewhere, the mirage of ease would soon evaporate when I arrive. I imagine that mission to different people groups simply presents different challenges and at the end of the day the key question for me is always the same.
Where has God called you to be?
When you know that the rest is pretty much a case of just getting on with it.