“Bubba” needs Jesus

Posted: May 9, 2007 in Church, Perspective

Apparently, we’re “bubba.”

Someone I talked to last week in Atlanta asked me where Decatur, Alabama was.  I replied the typical answer, “North Alabama, about 30 minutes west of Huntsville.”  His response was, “Wow, that sounds…”bubba.”

First, I feel for anyone named “Bubba” whose name is now an adjective.  I can’t think of one instance where someone’s name has become an adjective for something and that be a good thing.  Second, I must assume “bubba” is synonymous with less favorable terms about rural southern people like “redneck,” “hick,” or “backwoods.” 

It’s a shame really that our area is classified as such in the eyes of out-of-state people who think Alabama doesn’t have things like indoor bathrooms and barber shops, but I must admit that our town does contain its share of conveniently stereotyped people and places.  I cannot deny or hide that fact.  Every time I see a truck driving down the road with a Confederate flag decal covering the entire rear window, I nearly sigh out loud.  Every time I step out of my 3-year-old house and hear a cow moo-ing less than 500 yards away, I feel more ‘country’ than I ever have in my life.  (On a related note, you can hear roosters crowing in the backyards behind our church).  The ultimate ‘redneck’ thing I’ve seen:  I once saw a car with a piece of plywood in place of where the front bumper and grill assembly used to be – complete with headlamps nailed (yes, nailed) to the plywood.  Talk about a genuine piece of redneck engineering.  Oh, and the original grill was also nailed to the plywood, right there in the middle of it.  If I knew how to get pics off of a 3-year-old camera phone, I’d post it a picture of it.

I guess in a way, it’s nice to be “bubba.”  We lack things like 3-hour (or more) traffic jams like the ones I’ve sat in in Atlanta.  Our crime rate is lower.  Wal-mart on its worst day isn’t as crowded as the ones in Atlanta on their best.

But sadly, the “bubba” image is also misleading.  Decaur is small, but by no means ‘podunk’ (another word worth exploring at another time).  Hey, we’re even getting a Target (sad to be excited about that, isn’t it?).  There’s a lot of industry here on the river and cutting edge technology being developed and tested in Huntsville.  But that’s not what people generally think of when they hear the expression “North Alabama.”  Every time that happens, I find myself launching into an attempt to rectify the misrepresentation that permeates people’s opinions.

But in spite of amenities like DirecTV, hi-speed DSL, and tons of new housing developments, I guess one could argue that Decatur really is a bit “bubba,” really meaning that – in many ways – this town is a bit like stepping back to a time.  At times, it seems as if the people here resist change in our communities, our politics, or even our churches.  Progress moves at a snail’s pace. 

And here we are at Crosspoint.  A church plant in a town of 130+ churches, many of which are throwbacks to styles of decades gone by in their style, their architecture, and even their attitudes about reaching people.  I’m sure I’m generalizing unfairly here, but that’s the impression I get as an outsider who moved into this area merely 5 years ago.

Why does Decatur need another church?  Because people need Jesus.  That’s it.  In spite of this town’s time-capsule feeling of a time when blue laws dominated the courtrooms and churches were the center of the community, there are tens of thousands (maybe more) people within 15-30 minutes of our church who do not go to church.  Why?  Maybe they’ve been disillusioned by church.  Maybe they’ve been wounded by people claiming to be Christians.  Or maybe they’re just tired of the ‘bubba’ mindset in churches that resists change and has become increasingly boring and possibly even irrelevant in a culture where Paris Hilton and American Idol are more famous than Jesus is.

That’s why we are here.  And Crosspoint is not ‘bubba.’  Though I’m obviously biased in my opinion, I’ll still say this:  Our music rocks, our preaching is relevant, our atmosphere is casual and inviting, our technology is above and beyond what I thought possible in a church our size, our community is mission-driven, our friendships are real, and we’re constantly striving to find new and innovative ways to connect with people.  Now I don’t mean to imply that other churches fail in this (by no means).  In fact I believe many are also striving for the same things in their own ways, and my attitude towards them is not one of competition, but a desire to see them succeed because people need Jesus.

But in a town that I reluctantly admit is probably more than a bit “bubba,” there’s no reason Crosspoint shouldn’t stick out like Paris Hilton doing jailtime (bad metaphor?).  There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to shine a light on this community in a way that’s not been done before.  There’s no reason to not believe that people will be coming to Jesus because people have discovered him all over again and found a community of people that’s real, innovative, and relevant.

Let me qualify what I’m about to say by re-emphasizing that I want to see other churches succeed, regardless of style, denomination, or whatever.  I appreciate what many churches in this town do and I will celebrate the lives of the people that call those churches “home.”

However, in a town with over 130 churches in a city of 60,000 people, I have to ask, “Why aren’t more people being reached?”  Is it not on churches’ radar to reach lost people?  Is our collective ineffectiveness the result of trying to superimpose century-old ways of doing things on 21st century America?  Is it resistance to change?  Is it fear?  Is it simply not knowing what to do?  Is it our language, our dress, our counter-cultural attitude?  Is it that people look at churches as if they’re museums to small town America instead of living, breathing members of the Body of Christ who’s still very much alive and working in our world?

To me, what it really means to be “bubba” is to simply maintain the status quo and ignore the fact that we need to adapt if we really want to impact people’s lives.

I don’t ever want to be “bubba.”

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