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.