For some of you students who are reading this, ghetto may not mean what you think it means. Well, it might mean "gangsta" or "hood" in your venacular, but I'm using it a little bit differently. A ghetto is a place where a particular group (sometimes stereotypical) lives, and it's usually not a very desirable place to reside. Most of us are familiar with the socioeconomic sense of the word or perhaps the historical sense of the word (i.e. Jews being herded into ghettos during 1930's and 1940's)...but, in recent times, the term "Christian ghetto" has surfaced as a hot topic of conversation amongst progressive evangelicals. So, what exactly is meant by "Christian ghetto?" Well, the idea is that many evangelicals have retreated into holy huddles in which every area of their life is saturated with Christian "stuff"---everything from people to programs to concerts to t-shirts. We go to church on Sundays. We belong to a life group. Christian conferences are hot social events. Our kids go to every youth group outing or camp we can possibly get them into, and if we can afford it they're in Christian schools. If we can afford the time, they may even be home schooled. We love to go to Christian rock concerts ("If you love Secular Rock Band X, you'll love the Christian Alternative Rock Band X!") Why read a great "secular" novel if there is a new Francis Chan book to read? (Mind you, I really enjoy Francis Chan's books and highly recommend you read them...just read some other stuff, too.) Consider your life---who do you spend the majority of your social time with? What events or groups do you participate in? What music and movies entertain you? If all of your answers include "Christian," "church," or "Bible" as an adjective, you probably are living in a Christian ghetto.
You are probably wondering, "What's so wrong with any of these things? Shouldn't we want everything we're involved with to be Christian?" In and of themselves, none of these things are bad and most are actually really good things. But, when we get sucked into a Christian bubble in every area of our lives then we are missing the mark. Jesus spent the majority of his time with his inner circle of believers, and you should do the same. However, he also encountered his culture without insisting on a spiritual adjective being attached to everything. He touches a leper, dines with a tax collector, hangs out with a prostitute, and isn't shy about pushing back against a religious establishment that was on the wide path. I'm not sure the residents of the Christian ghetto would have let Jesus move into town. If Jesus were living in our culture today, I honestly don't think he'd be at many Christian events. You would find Jesus in the dark corners of the world searching for the sick and broken...after all, they are the ones who need a doctor, right? He understood a very basic, logical concept that most of us choose to ignore most of the time---if you want to reach the lost, you have to spend time among the lost. You have to be in this world and not of it. So, we are left with a choice...we can remain immersed in our Christian ghettos and we can be very ineffective in reaching the world and making disciples. Or, we can move out of town and bring light into darkness. Just so I am clear, you need to stay in Christian community to do this. You will fail miserably without the encouragement, teaching, admonition, and love of brothers and sisters in Christ. You just have to be intentional about moving into community with those outside of the faith so that Jesus can reach them through you.
What would Jesus do? He wouldn't live in the ghetto.