Loving Uncool Places
I know I'm wired for loving and craving off-the-beaten-path kinds of places. Sure, I may live in Portland, Oregon, but as a whole it doesn't stir me like obscure places. However, there are plenty of these off-the-beaten-path kinds of neighborhoods in the city that light my fires. Untrendy. Uncool. But I love them.
I jokingly tell people I am drawn to places with baggage. But even with Portland's otherworldly coolness it has more baggage than you may realize. Every city does for that matter. Even with that said, it is easy to love and be drawn towards the popular and the cool.
Let's state the obvious ... it is easy to love to lovely. I love $4,500 mountain bikes more than $80 Walmart ones. I love $125,000 Aston Martins more than a $500 Geo Metro on Craigslist. The same storyline plays out in cities. San Francisco is desirable, Portland is trendy, Denver is amazing, and Miami has the whole beach scene. It is easy to envision ministry in these settings.
But what about those uncool places? Those kinds of places where you almost mutter under your breath that you live there. Bakersfield, California. Council Bluffs, Iowa. Douglas, Arizona. We are all drawn to and want to live (and minister) in desirable places. Usually we call them another term as well ... livable. Paris is livable. London is livable. Geneva is livable. Vancouver (BC) is livable. Bakersfield is not. Council Bluffs is not. Douglas is not. Livable is not the same is inhabitable. Livability speaks of ample amenities ... both cultural and economic ... ample eateries, museums, night life, vibrant street scene, attractions, educational opportunities, economic opportunities, and the like.
Make no doubt about it. Moving into undesirable and unlivable places is hard. Counterintuitive. Countercultural. However, doesn't that speak to the nature of the gospel? Yes, we can make an argument of going to alpha cities to serve and plant churches. In Acts 23 Jesus told Paul that he was to go to Roma and testify about him. Jesus was sending Paul to the epicenter of Roman culture, power, and influence (and rightly so!). But for every Rome there's a Crete. The point isn't to elevate one and denigrate the other. Instead, to point out both are viable options for living and ministering.
What places are you drawn to?