Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Suburban Q & A (Part 2)

Here's the second part of the interview about my forthcoming book. (Yes, I broke it up into two posts not only because it was long but also so I could have an easy thing to post in case I couldn't think of anything else this week.)

Is it selfish for Christians to live in suburbia?

Hsu: Well, God needs Christians in suburbia just like he needs Christians everywhere. There's a difference between a self-centered suburbanism that gets sucked into all the materialism and consumerism, and an other-centered Christian suburbanism that focuses on how to herald the kingdom of God in the suburbs. Christians shouldn't abandon the suburbs; they should redeem them and make them better places to live.

Does ministry to suburbs mean that we don't care about cities?

Hsu: Some people pit the suburbs against the cities, but I don't think it's an either/or. It's a both-and. Suburban Christians need to see their suburb as part of a metropolitan whole. In Jeremiah, God calls us to seek the welfare of the city we live in. That means not just caring for our local suburbs but also the larger urban metropolis. Care for the suburbs means care for the city, and vice versa.

How can suburban Christians seek the welfare of the city?

Hsu: I think suburban Christians and churches need to have three spheres of ministry focus--suburban, urban and global. Start with your local suburban community and meet needs there. But also look to the larger urban metropolis that your suburb is a part of and partner with ministries to the larger city. And then you have international, global missions. A lot of suburban churches do the local and the global but skip the urban in between; they might support missionaries in Africa or Asia but not ministries in Chicago or Toronto. A balanced church ministers to all three--suburban, urban and global.

How can suburban churches minister to their communities?

Hsu: Sociologists have said that America needs a "third place," outside of the first two places of home and work. We've lost the civic gathering places and public squares where people used to meet and connect. That's why coffeehouses like Starbucks did so well in the 90s--they filled that vacuum with places for people to meet. But really, the third place should be the church! Suburban churches can be civic places that are open to their communities. You don't have to have a food court or espresso bar to do this. Any church with Sunday school classrooms can open themselves to other organizations to meet in their buildings, Girl Scouts, Al-Anon, whatever.

What does it mean to be a suburban Christian?

Hsu: Being a suburban Christian means that even though suburbia can be an anonymous, materialistic, consumerist environment, we intentionally live in ways that promote community, generosity, simplicity and civic good. It means that we look for ways to love our suburban neighbor as ourselves. It's the same thing that Christians are called to do wherever they live, and that we see suburbia as a place where we can exhibit God's grace and mercy to all who live here.

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