Monday, November 10, 2008

City versus Suburbs

I have been thinking about the difference between living in the suburbs versus living in the city. I have done both in my life. I do agree with Tim Keller and others that the major urban centers not only of the US but of the world are important places to be planting churches. But is there a fascination with urban centers at the expense of the suburbs? There seems to be a stigma attached to suburbanites by the urbanites. My question, what comprises an urban center and what is a suburb?
I have lived in city limits (STL and Fort Worth, TX) and in a suburb (Garland, TX). I don’t really know how to qualify the town I live in presently. I live in Columbia, MO in an area that some in this community would consider a suburb of Columbia. I live 8 miles from downtown. When I lived in the city in STL, I lived 6 miles from downtown. Not that much of a difference, but I definitely lived in the city in STL, but may live in the suburbs here in Columbia.
Another question, is Columbia an urban center? The District definitely has that feel, but Columbia only has about 100,000 residents. I lived in the suburbs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in a town that had almost 2.5 times more people there than Columbia. In fact, in the DFW metroplex, there are more than 10 cities of equal or greater population than Columbia.

I think that the same issues that plague suburbanites, plagues many urban dwellers and that is consumerism. I don’t think that it is the location that makes a place inherently good or bad, but it is the attitude of the dwellers. I see urbanites afflicted with consumerism just as I see suburbanites (that is the need to acquire things to make one satisfied). It may be easier to connect with your community due to the proximity of your neighbors, but it is possible just as well to live missionally in the suburbs. It all depends on your heart and your outlook.
I want to recommend a book that explains the rise and importance of the suburbs and gives believers practical advice on how to live missionally in the suburbs: The Suburban Christian by Albert Hsu. Check it out and learn how to live missionally in communities where we are isolated, selfish and unconnected, be it the suburbs or the city.


Unknown said...

Agree with your thinking. The fact remains that there are some suburbs that have more influence in some metro areas than the city centers.

As you know, DFW has several "power-centers". Richardson for Telecom...Las Calinas for tech...Addison for a variety of businesses...Alliance for multi-use big box...AND downtown Dallas and FW.

It's probably overly simplistic to define "the city" the same in every metro area. I think Tim Keller would agree with that, actually...and his principles regarding influence still apply.

The trick is to find "the city" in the area you live. And besides, the internet specifically and technology in general make it possible to wield influence from about anywhere if you catch the right wave.

Bill Victor said...

I like that Rick, find "the city" in the area you live. I think that is more easy to find here in Columbia.

Jordan said...

I think Keller writes from a unique standpoint that may be different from cities elsewhere in the country. NYC is very isolated compared to the suburban areas in which I've lived.

For the past 4 years, I've lived in the same 5th floor walk-up apt. I've never had a conversation outside of "How are you?" with anyone in my building.

Each person's community in NYC is much harder to define. I believe that "living missionally" is harder in the city than in the suburbs.

Suburbanites have a softer edge than city dwellers and lives are focused on different things. I agree consumerism plagues both but you find less families in the children...less married couples...narcissitic lifestyles thrive in the city. And that makes it difficult for some to see their need for a Savior.

The MAN Fan Club said...

For me it just really matters where the kids eat free. I'll always find a grounded church.

My wife and I are in a transition and just recently have become involved in a neighborhood bible study. It is kind of nice. Just hard finding a time that is good for everyone and we have kid watching issues.

I could see holding a bible study in an apartment complex.