A couple weeks ago I clicked on a link that took me to an article published in BusinessWeek.com entitled, “America’s top 10 Unhappiest Cities.” The article computed their unhappiness quotient, if you will, on the basis of such things as the incidence of depression, suicide rates, violent crime, and unemployment. Before I list the cities below and suggest their missional significance for us, please consider that there is no doubt that:
* Throughout the Scriptures, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, regards the poor and needy as cherished (do a search sometime of “poor” and “needy” in your Bible software program).
* Those whom God cherishes he helps with awesome and cosmic displays of power (recall the plagues that busted Israel out Egypt, the drying up the Sea, the incarnation of God in Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus from the grave).
* The poor seemed to be specially targeted by the good news Jesus declared and demonstrated.
* The primary way God now chooses to act for the sake of the poor and needy is through his own Spirit-empowered followers who follow his lead, go to where they are, and offer their very lives. Somehow God takes the offering of mobility—their going, and availability—their willingness to be of use, and makes it all work in ways unexpected and even “impossible.”
Here they are:
1. Portland, Ore.
Overall rank: 1
Depression rank: 1
Suicide rank: 12
Crime (property and violent) rank: 24
Divorce rate rank: 4
Cloudy days: 222
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.8%
2. St. Louis
Overall rank: 2
Depression rank: 13
Suicide rank: 22
Crime (property and violent) rank: 1
Divorce rate rank: 18
Cloudy days: 164
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 8.2%
3. New Orleans
Overall rank: 3
Depression rank: 25
Suicide rank: 43
Crime (property and violent) rank: 5
Divorce rate rank: 26
Cloudy days: 146
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.9%
Overall rank: 4
Depression rank: 46
Suicide rank: 50
Crime (property and violent) rank: 3
Divorce rate rank: 15
Cloudy days: 185
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 18.6%
Overall rank: 5
Depression rank: 17
Suicide rank: 27
Crime (property and violent) rank: 11
Divorce rate rank: 2
Cloudy days: 202
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 8.8%
6. Jacksonville, Fla.
Overall rank: 6
Depression rank: 2
Suicide rank: 9
Crime (property and violent) rank: 23
Divorce rate rank: 7
Cloudy days: 144
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.6%
7. Las Vegas
Overall rank: 7
Depression rank: 42
Suicide rank: 1
Crime (property and violent) rank: 9
Divorce rate rank: 6
Cloudy days: 73
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 9%
8. Nashville-Davidson, Tenn.
Overall rank: 8
Depression rank: 4
Suicide rank: 26
Crime (property and violent) rank: 8
Divorce rate rank: 8
Cloudy days: 156
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 6%
Overall rank: 9
Depression rank: 7
Suicide rank: 20
Crime (property and violent) rank: 34
Divorce rate rank: 19
Cloudy days: 186
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 6.4%
Overall rank: 10
Depression rank: 29
Suicide rank: 18
Crime (property and violent) rank: 2
Divorce rate rank: 28
Cloudy days: 149
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 7.7%
Pasted from <http://realestate.msn.com//slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=18184152>1=35000>
The original mission statement of our church was to uphold the Bible standard of Christianity and to preach the gospel to the poor. The difference between that statement of mission and the classical mission of the broader American Holiness Movement—to spread Scriptural holiness across the land—the difference is only apparent. Any holiness that neglects those especially cherished by God is something other than biblical holiness.
Our heritage and the classic mission of a holiness people suggest that cities in general call for focused and strategic response. And the saddest of cities all the more so! Given the clear Scriptural data on the heart of our God, the historic special concern we have had for the poor and needy, and the deepening needs of the cities I suggest that America’s saddest cities represent mission fields in our midst whose people cry out to God and to us for help.
I can easily envision these sad places as representative of:
* Darkness to which light streams.
* Emptiness to which fullness flows.
* Brokenness that yearns for healing.
* Indifference that Love alone can move.
* Chaos begging for cosmos.
* Creation corrupted into uncreation, but destined for New Creation.
* All of this happening through the people of God in whom dwells the Spirit of God who makes them like the first-fruits of the coming Recreation.
Lord, let it be!