The Geography of Economics
Cities are complex and layered. It reminds me of the conversation between Shred and Donkey in the movie Shrek:
Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.
Cities are like ogres are like onions ... they have layers. Layers of understanding and meaning. This doesn't apply simply to cities, but every where from the rural hinterlands to small towns to midsize cities and more. What this means is that are many facets of cities to study, uncover, and understand. This ranges from the built environment to economics to demographics to climate to topography (a city's site and situation) and so much more.
These layers are woven together (moving the analogy from layers to threads) to create a complex tapestry. History also plays an enormous shaping role as well. Now all of a sudden when you drop a church into this what church planters are facing is the ability to discern and navigate through all of these layers to see what is influencing life and ministry in that specific context.
As I've shared before, take a community's economy and see how that influences the life and culture of a community. Joel Kotkin in The City explains how economics are one of the 3 markers of a healthy or vibrant city. Conversely, when the economy faltering it is the source of its demise. As an armchair historian I always find it fascinating to see communities go from 20,000 people down to 5,000. Why? Economics. The mine closes, people lose jobs, and then leave. Economic vitality or unhealth is often played out geographically. Regions or cities that are growing and bustling are doing so because of a strong economy. Regions or cities that are struggling and declining are doing so because of a weak economy. Again, add into the mix church planting then all of a sudden what the planter is up against is the economic trajectory of their community (whether growing or declining).
The question we ask at Intrepid is: what does it look like to plant churches and start businesses in communities that are struggling economically? Again, this has geographic ramification as well. Declining communities are often downtrodden and unsightly ... not the prime landing place for most church planters. How then do we step in (not with some messiah complex) and help a community turn around economically all the while planting churches?