Stetzer on Living Missionally in the Burbs

Sam Rainer

October 7, 2008

Ed Stetzer was recently interviewed by Joe Thorn over at the sub-text. His comments and insight will resonate with many church leaders. You can read the full interview here. I particularly appreciate Stetzer’s comments on some common mistakes churches make in the suburbs:

What are some common mistakes churches in the suburbs make?

I think there are probably several.

First, they assume that nice shiny clean people have nice shiny clean lives. When you work in an urban context, you can sometimes see the sin and trouble with greater ease. It is better hidden in the suburbs. Thus, we think that people need sermons on how to improve their lives. They don’t. They need messages on how to be transformed by the gospel.

Second, the suburbs are community killers. Many churches make the assumption that because people have moved to a setting that has back decks instead of front porches that they don’t want community. I have found that they do — they just do not know how to seek and receive it. Life transforming suburban churches can and must lead people to deeper community even when the culture pushes against it.

Third, some pastors hate the suburbs. If you hate the suburbs, stop whining about it and move into the city. I have done both and find them both in deep need of the gospel. It is trendy to mock the suburbs — I have done it myself, calling them the “vast suburban wasteland.” Well, it may be, but everywhere is a wasteland without Jesus. So, if you are called to pastor in the suburbs, dig deep and engage its culture — look for bridges over which the gospel will travel and expose the idols that the gospel must destroy.

If you minister in a suburban context, what are some unique challenges that you have faced?

6 comments on “Stetzer on Living Missionally in the Burbs”

  1. kristinesorumwilliamsnyu says:


    I am a journalism student at NYU and am writing an article on christianity in college. I saw one of your blog entries on your research about college students and going to church, and was wondering if I could email you or comment on your blog with a few questions? If you have just a few minutes, it would be really helpful. Thanks so much,

    Kristine Sorum-Williams

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Kristine – feel free to email me. My email is Thanks.

  3. kristinesorumwilliamsnyu says:

    Did you receive my email?

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    Kristine – just sent my answers your way. Sorry for the delay.

  5. Brandon Smith says:


    Out here at DBU, as you know, we hit the wall of people who think they’re saved even if they aren’t or do not live it out properly. In and in the churches aroun DBU, you have sermons falling on deaf ears because everyone is pointing fingers instead of realizing that the sermon is about them.

  6. Page Schulman says:

    Useful piece – I am thankful for the points . Does someone know where I can grab a template a form document to fill in ?

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