Daily Devotional for Thursday February 1, 2007
Fleeing to the Suburbs
(Ephesians 2:19, 3:15)
Fleeing from the lost and hurting souls living in the inner cities of America for the safety, comfort, and MONEY of the suburbs. One of the phenomena I have watched over the past 20 years, has been the flight of churches located in the inner cities of America, many long time works of God, to the suburbs. I have heard all of the various "reasons" for these moves, but they all end up at the same place, MONEY! It is simply more profitable to operate in the comfort and affluence of the suburbs than in the inner city. I have no doubt that these churches who have moved out to the suburbs do a great work for God, meet the spiritual needs of those they minister to, and are a tremendous asset to the Kingdom of God. However, let me ask you one question. What about the lives and eternal souls of those who live in the city where they used to be?
You see, this is the heart of the issue. As church after church flees the inner city, there is a spiritual void. Sadly, in most cases it is the cults, the false religions, and the things of this world that come to quickly fill that void. The "light" is quickly replaced by the "darkness." Cults like Scientology , Mormonism, and the Jehovah Witnesses, false religions like Islam, quickly move in to fill the spiritual void left when a church abandons the inner city. Instead of the people living in these metropolitan centers being told about the Truth of God's Word and how to find everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ, they are being led into hell through the lies of L. Ron Hubbard, Joey Smith, the Watchtower Society, and the Qur'an.
In addition to the cults and false religions vying for the souls of these people the church abandoned, you also have the allures of this world that now operate without any opposition from those warning people from the Truth of the Bible. The drug dealers, prostitutes, alcohol vendors, bookies, are now operating free from anyone warning the people that these are traps from satan designed to destroy their life. The "light" has been removed and is replaced by the darkness, the "salt" is taken away allowing lives to rot. It is not hard for satan to lead souls to hell when he is working unopposed.
So what is the answer? Inner city churches are dealing with older building that need repair. The inner city often poses logistical challenges like a lack of parking. They are dealing with a declining membership and income. There is no denying the safety issue, especially when it comes to services and events held at night. Dealing with a transient and low income population is also a legitimate concern for churches in the inner city. These are all very real problems an inner city church faces and why leaving the inner city for the suburbs usually makes tremendous sense.
Selling the property in the city gives a church the initial funds they need to tie down a nice piece of property in the suburbs where land is much cheaper and build a brand new state-of- the-art facility with plenty of parking. The suburbs have a much larger group of people to draw from so the church can actually grow quickly. There are always security issues, but they are much easier to handle in a suburban facility in an area where the crime rate is a fraction of what it is in the city. You find stable communities in the suburbs where people live for many years and the vast majority are working and earning a living for their family. When you cotnrast the problems with the city and the benefits of relocating to the suburbs, it is very easy to see why over the past 20 years so many churches have made this move.
There is only one factor that is always left out, or if it is considered, it simply doesn't carry enough weight to stop the move. THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE INNER CITY! Again, when the church leaves, they pack up the "salt" and "light" and take that with them. The people they leave behind are left to the ravenous wolves who seek to devour their souls and lead them to an eternity in hell. It was God who planted that church in the city in the first place. No doubt it was a different time and as the years wore on, many things changed. The one thing, however, that never changes is the need people have for the Truth and for a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is as true today as it was the day the church in the inner city was founded.
So what is the answer? A responsible church that is forced by economics to move out of the city, must carry the burden for the souls of the people they are leaving behind. I find it amazing that a church will leave the inner city, prosper in the suburbs, give tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands a year to foreign missions, and never spend a dime or a moment back in the neighborhood they left. Those people are going to the same hell the person in Africa or Asia are going to!
A church that is forced to leave the inner city needs to continue the work God gave them in the city by making it their number one missions project. They can find inexpensive facilities to continue having services, continue to feed, clothe, and provide practical help to those who live around their old church location. If God is leading them to move to the suburbs, they can still have an effective ministry and presence in the city. A church may actually be able to move to the suburbs and reap those benefits that will allow them to have an even greater impact on the people in the city they left. *The key is to make a commitment to the people, the real lives and eternal souls of those who live in the city where God birthed that church!
I love you and care about you so much. Please hear my heart today. I am not saying that a church will be cursed for moving out of the city to the suburbs. Every pastor and church administration needs to seek the Lord and let the Holy Spirit guide them in these critical decisions that affect the life of that fellowship. What I am saying is that a church can't simply leave the city for the suburbs and leave the people in the city for satan to destroy. Those people in the city may not have the financial resources the people in the suburbs have, but they have the same needs, God's Truth and an everlasting relationship with Jesus Christ.
I will be praying for those pastors and church leaders who may be in the midst of making this critical decision today. I will also be praying for those pastors and church leaders who have already made such a move. As God guides you and leads you, don't forget to put in place a plan that will allow you to continue to minister to the spiritual needs of the people in the city where your church began. It is easy to simply leave them and forget all about them. However, the Lord is reminding you today that you have a responsibility to minister to them and bring them the hope and love of Christ. He will give you wisdom and guidance and direction in how you can best do that, and bless you richly for your obedience as you take Christ to the "least of these my brethren."