Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why We Live in the Burbs

Over the past few years, there has been much talk in The Church about the welfare of the city.  I have to admit that being a part of the The Church my entire life, I never heard these words uttered once until around 2008.  Sidebar: I live in the South, so it's no surprise that we're a little behind on things.  We're just now getting around to the "fix your own yogurt" craze.  A friend was just in town from D.C., and she said they've been topping their own yogurt for about 2 years.  So, I understand, the idea of engaging the city is not new, and yes, I'm fully aware of the Scriptural foundation.   I'm just stating that it did not come into my life until a few years ago.  By the time these ideas entered The Acuff household, we were living the full-blown suburban dream, okay, not really, but we live in the suburbs.  

We bought our first house in the city.  We had our first child.  We bought our second house in the city but closer to the suburbs and had our second child.  We had our third child and bought our third house in the suburbs.  Finally, we could settle in peace and raise our children in a safe neighborhood in the most highly sought after elementary school.  We were close to our church and church friends.  Safety. Comfort.  

About a year and a half after we moved into the suburbs, we began being exposed to the idea of moving back into the city for the sake of ministry.  We were hearing of people moving back into the city to live in areas of great brokenness and deep hurt, places that are the most concentrated areas of injustice and broken systems.  We tried to listen, and we tried not to listen.  It tugged at our hearts, and it offended our lifestyle.  We began listening to the hearts of those around us who had great wisdom in these matters, namely our friends Lisa and Matthew Watson.  We joined an association called, read their literature and have since attended a local conference.  We have been greatly challenged by the teaching of John Perkins, Tim Keller, Bob Lupton and others on these matters.

So the next step is to put our house on the market and move back into the city, right?  Not exactly.  We have spent the last few years thinking hard, listening hard and praying hard over these matters.  We have not taken them lightly.  We have considered urban ministry to the fullest, even pursuing multiple job opportunities in urban ministry to no avail.  Our conclusion, at this point, is that God has us right where He wants us.

We no longer live in the suburbs with the same purpose.  We moved here for safety and comfort, but we're staying here on mission.  We have found a need to be an example of simplicity in the suburbs.  We have also had opportunities to help restore marriages and take food to hurting families.  We are finding ways to model the gospel to people who are greatly broken but highly skilled at covering it.  We seek ways to represent Christ in an area where church is the norm but the pursuit of Christ is not priority.

At the same time, we love the city of Memphis.  We care about the welfare of the city -- the people, the school system, the leaders.  We will not cease to be engaged in the work God has called us to in this community as well as the restoration He has called us to in the city.  There is certainly room for work in both places. We are called to live intentionally wherever we are.


  1. Thank you so much for this. We have had the same struggles with trying to figure out if living in the suburbs is contrary to what we believe. Our hearts have most definitely been changed over the last few years and we have been praying and seeking God fervently over this issue. We have come to the same conclusion, for now God has us exactly where he wants us. However, I am so excited to be a part of the lives of friends who have made this big step to move back into the city. I now have a compassion and a heart for that part of town and the people that inhabit it that I never did before.

  2. I remember a poolside conversation at Mimis when you were brave enough to ask me if I thought you needed to move into the city....and could we still be friends if you lived in the burbs. :) I'm so glad you are in Gtown. Your intentionality and "different" way of thinking and living is refreshing and appropriately uncomfortable. May you continue to be a prophetic witness in your place and a blessing to the city. If you ever do decide to move....I hope you'll be my neighbor!