The Challenge of Being Missional in the Suburbs

The county that I live in and the church that I pastor is in Forsyth County, Georgia. Forsyth county is a bedroom community of Atlanta, just north of the city. Forsyth County has been placed on a national list. Forbes magazine listed Forsyth County, GA as the 13th richest county in America. (America’s Richest Counties – Forbes.com)

Here is an excerpt from our entry on the list:

Forsyth County has a median income of $83,682. Georgia isn’t one of the country’s biggest states, but it is made up of more counties than any other. The result? Counties post specific demographics. Take Forsyth. It’s a part of the Atlanta metropolitan area, but the median household pulls in $33,000 more a year than neighboring Fulton County.

What does that mean for our church, Big Creek Church and churches in our community? What does it mean for all churches who find themselves in suburban counties of wealth and affluence? With all that wealth in this county we shouldn’t have any problems, correct? People in Forsyth County and in the suburbs should be free from any needs, right? Of course not.

Certainly in an affluent county like Forsyth, it is harder to assess the needs. They don’t seem as obvious and readily apparent, but the needs are HERE and they are REAL.

If we are willing to look we will find those in need.

To often the needs hide in the shadows and in the margins of the suburbs. If you have ever ministered to people with physical needs in the suburbs, you’ve discovered that those with needs are usually not out in the open. They are often hidden away and out of sight. It requires us to be intentional and to design opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ to needy families and children in the suburbs. (There was an article in the AJC newspaper called Homelessness in the Suburbs. This article wasn’t about our county in particular but rather concerning a neighboring county…but it nevertheless highlights my main point that even among the wealth, comfort and affluence of the suburbs, there hides among us great need and hopelessness.)

If we are willing to listen we can minister to those in need.

Even our neighbors who live among us, in our very own neighborhoods are in great need. Behind the manicured lawns and the white picket fences are people unleashing a silent scream of pain. They are screaming in pain over broken marriages, fractured relationships with their children, and loneliness. Many are trying to anesthetize their pain with busyness, drugs, alcohol or internet pornography.

Are we willing to get into the lives of our neighbors and love and listen to them? I believe that they are giving us many clues to their need and brokenness but too often we, ourselves, get caught up in our own busyness, that we fail to take moments to invest time with them. Many times all it takes is a willingness to stop talking and just be willing to listen and care.

Forsyth County and counties like it, may be affluent and rich, but it won’t ever be truly rich until people surrender to the love of Jesus. God has called His Church to be a lighthouse of love to those who broken, battered and bruised by life.

Certainly the challenge is real, but as Christ followers we have a wealth of opportunities to show people Jesus in the suburbs by allowing them to see the power of the gospel in our own lives.

Bill Reichart is a pastor at Big Creek Church in Forsyth County, GA. He blogs at his personal blog, Provocative Church and his ministry blog, First Impressions .

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3 thoughts on “The Challenge of Being Missional in the Suburbs

  1. Hey Bill,
    I admit I struggle with idea at my church. It sometimes seems that people think unless you want to live in the city you don’t care about others. Personally I grew up Rural and I want to move back to that type of environment. Something out in the middle of nowhere. People who are intentional about building relationships will do it no matter where they live.
    Good Post

  2. I have a friend who wanted to start a ministry to the homeless in our area and people thought he was crazy. I mean…after all…we are 45 miles north of Houston…there can’t possibly be homeless people in our little country town just on the edge of the piney woods. His ministry literally feeds and ministers to hundreds of homeless people every time.

    The needs are there….if we will look.

    Sometimes we just don’t want to see.

    Great post Bill.

  3. “Behind the manicured lawns and the white picket fences are people unleashing a silent scream of pain. They are screaming in pain over broken marriages, fractured relationships with their children, and loneliness. Many are trying to anesthetize their pain with busyness, drugs, alcohol or internet pornography.”

    This says it all. People are hurting, no matter the income, the size of the house, or how good they hide it. We just need to take the time and risk stepping into their lives to allow them to begin to break down the walls. Great thoughts!

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