October 4, 2007 / David Fitch

Seeking Good Soil in the Burbs – Neil Cole on Being Missional in the Burbs

Neil Cole is such a good missional thinker and he was speaking at Up/rooted’s event last Thursday. He said a lot of good things, but what really got me were his answers to the question how do we get missional, engage the hurting, the poor, the broken with the gospel in the suburbs? He talked about how difficult this was. How finding the poor and those in need, hurting and in pain could be seen as nigh impossible. He nonetheless asserted that it’s all about finding the good soil (Matt 13:8) The good soil is the soil of the poor, the broken, those in desperate need who are ready to hear the gospel where there is a lot of fertilizer (code word for a more straightforward term no doubt). He said here is where we must plant seed. It is disguised and hard to find in the suburbs. He said nonetheless it is there. He suggested a.) taking a ride with the local police periodically. Have them show you where the hurting people are. They know where there’s “trouble,” domestic abuse, bars that break out in fights, hurting people looking for an escape, where there’s financial stress, where the desperate people are. He suggested going to the community centers and hanging out where the AA groups are. He said go to the ones in the community centers (where there’s smoke filled rooms) versus the churches, for here there is better soil with more fertilizer (again code word for another more straightforward term). He said look for foreclosure signs, “for sale” signs in the neighborhoods, people going out of business, for these people are the hurting ones

He then talked about meeting these people, connecting with them, ministering to them. He talked about speaking truth in love, the gospel in its simplicity, beauty and clarity, straightforwardly, yet in love, listening, praying, ministering encouraging, offering help of some kind. He also talked about the real possibility that many will simply reject the gospel. Because in reality the gospel asks of us all to die, to die to self, pride, ego, self projection, human pride and hubris. He said, or implied, this is the same for rich or poor. He talked about Mark 6:8-11 on a couple of different levels. He said there will be times when we must move on, from good soil to good soil (shaking the dust off your feet), the need to keep going, keep planting and keep searching for the good soil to plant seeds of the gospel through holistic love and engagement.

This stokes my imagination. Much of this has been confirmed in my few short years in the burbs. Thanks Neil Cole.