Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not All Suburban Kids Belong with the Poor

There is this unspoken belief nowadays that to really follow Jesus, you must sell everything and move in to live with the poor. To be a real missionary, to make a real impact, to really live your faith, you should give up everything suburban, move to a rundown part of a global city and live in an abandoned building. Now don't get me wrong, there are elements of this that are true and right - incarnation, sacrifice, community, and serving others because of the One who served us. But it's not unilaterally the best for everyone. Following Jesus is much more contextual than that and this concept is dangerous when applied to everyone.

Let me tell you about a few high school boys I met last month. There is John, who is building an ATV for his senior project. Once it is built, he will program it to autonomously parallel park itself. Then there is Paul, who has three years of real experience with graphic design and 3d motion graphics, which he learned pretty much on his own. And then there is George, who was, at one time, the fastest high school senior in the nation when it came to running the mile and has a lot of interest in civil engineering. I know I talk about potential of the emerging generation all the time, but even this was a little crazy. I would bet that any of these three boys, all who have a vibrant and dynamic faith, along with all kinds of suburban young people that you and I both know, could do a myriad of things with their future. Have semi-normal successful careers, invent something amazing, invest their time, talents and money in something incredible that could benefit hundreds or thousands of people or more. You get the drift - when someone has this kind of potential, you can't predict their path. You just know it could be good.

To tell every suburban kid like this that the only way to really be in God's will is to trade all that specific and specialized talent to minister to the poor - that is plain irresponsible. Instead, we've got to help them think through vocation and calling, potential and stewardship, and living missional lives while being given much.


  1. THANK YOU. how can we tell everyone in the world this? because, really, we're doing ourselves a disservice by discounting talents for the sake of some idealized living that involves being poor to minister to the poor. we're also doing ourselves disservice by misquoting scripture and saying that money is the root of all evil. okay, rant over.

  2. you are welcome =) and you've seen a good sample of what really impacts global poverty to know.

  3. Ah, Tony, I love this. Thank you. I wrestle with God lots and lots over this- am I living how and where I am for my own comfort? And again and again He shows me in a million small (sometimes big) ways that He has me where I am on purpose. ...And I believe Him for a bit until I start freaking out about it again... then He shows me again. He is so patient with me. "do small things with great love"- mother t- being willing to "go"... and also serving wherever we are glorifies Him when it's done in love and with a willing heart.
    Love you!

  4. Also, Tony and Leslie, I love this post by Rachel Held Evans on the subject:

    "How To Follow Jesus... Without Being Shane Claiborne."

  5. thanks emily for your comments and thanks for the post by rachel held evans - that's a good post.

    i will say this too - elements of this post have been floating around in my head for 2-3 years. so it's good to get it out of there...