Career vs. Calling
One of the fundamental reasons as to why the more livable a community is deemed the more church planters there are is ultimately tied to whether church planting is viewed as a calling or a career. Sure, most (all?) would say that it is a calling, but evidence would lead to different conclusions. Obviously it is much more complicated than this, but it at least opens up the door for further conversation and consideration.
Strong words aside (they were jarring, right?), what livability reveals is that since cities, communities, and neighborhoods ranked high in this classification receive the lion's share of church planters we must ask more follow up questions like ... (1) why? (2) what does it mean? (3) why don't place deemed "unlivable" receive proportionately more church planters than nicer communities since the needs differ drastically? (4) why aren't church planters opting for "lousy" neighborhoods and communities? (5) what different framework then is needed to plant churches in areas labeled unlivable?
Again, calling versus career. If church planting was viewed through the interpretive lens of a career then it would certainly seem to be an irresponsible career choice to locate, plant a church, and do ministry in a hinterland, whether urban or rural. That would be like getting an M.D. / PhD from Harvard and "throwing it away" to work in Cange outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti like Dr. Paul Farmer, who founded Partners in Health. Why would a Harvard-educated double-doctor live and serve in one of the most destitute places on the planet?
While in college Farmer found a kindred spirit in the writings of German physician Rudolf Virchow who wrote, "Medical education does not exist to provide students with a way of making a living, but to ensure the health of the community." And thus both sides of this dichotomy are revealed in this quote. We could even replace "medical education" with "seminary." If we do this little exercise then what does it reveal? That quite often this conversation about livability can be coupled together with whether one views church planting as a career versus a calling. That's not to say everyone who does one is one thing and another the other, but in broad categories there might be something to it.
How do we ensure we're following after a calling and not a career?