a new economic geography and the church 3

These posts represent reflections on the implications of the economic crash for the Church based on The Atlantic March 2009 feature,  “How the Crash Will Reshape America” by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class


Another significant shift that Richard Florida predicts is the rise of “mega-regions.”

Contradicting Thomas Friedman’s argument in The World Is Flat that “the global economic playing field has been leveled, and that anyone, anywhere, can now innovate, produce, adn compete on a par with, say, workers in Seattle of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley” (p. 50). Florida insists that “The World is Spiky” (The Atlantic, Oct 2005. Article unavailable online.) In other words, “place still matters in the modern economy—and the competitve advantage of the world’s most successful city-regions seems to be growing, not shrinking.” 

These “city-regions” or “mega-regions” are larger than an urban city with a large suburban ring. Florida states, “Worldwide, people are crowding into a discrete number of mega-regions, systems of multiple cities and their surrounding suburban rings like the Boston-New York-Washington corridor” (emphasis mine). Other North American mega-regions include the Charlotte-Atlanta corridor, the “Texas Triangle” of Houston-San Antonio-Dallas, as well as Northern and Southern California, Tampa-Orlando-Miami, and the Pacific Northwest. These—and other—mega-regions are also well positioned for growth in the new economy because of their ability to attract well-eductaed, creative persons. 

Thirty years ago, educational attainment was spread relatively uniformly throughout the country, but that’s no longer the case. Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Raleigh, adn Boston now have two or three tiems the concentration of college graduates or Akron or Buffalo. Among those with postgraduate degree, the disparities are wider still. The geographic sorting of people by ability and educational attainment, on this scale, is unprecedented. (p. 50)

So, what abouth the Church? 

There are myriad implications of Florida’s observations and assertions here. For now, I’ll mention that this contextual understanding sounds stimulating and fun on the one hand. On the other hand, it sounds quite challenging. Questions arising from all of this may include: What does preaching and teaching look like in this new context? What does leadership of the congregation look like? This exaggerated effect of educational-level clustering would produce a new, more homogenious,  setting for ministry. What opportunities does this afford us? What societal assumptions might agents of the gospel need to subvert and upend? As with all of the church’s mission, we continue to wrestle with the question, “What would Incarnation look like here?”

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

4 thoughts on “a new economic geography and the church 3

  1. It also seems relevant to note that most of our UM churches are outside these “mega-regions.” In fact, in several of these we seem to be more defined by decline than growth.

    If we take formal education as a type of enculturation, how does this form of enculturation relate to the enculturation into the Kingdom and its values that is the church’s calling? If our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, I don’t think we can uncritically accept other forms of enculturation as unqualified goods.

  2. I’m going to get to how we see the “mega-regions” and the not mega-region areas as mission fields in another post or two.

    Great point on the issue of enculturation by our formal education. This is and will definitely continue to be a live issue.

  3. i was fascinated by this atlantic article, especially how he called this collapse more of an opportunity for some and change for others. as the church, we need to realize that we have to adapt and plan ahead to meet the needs of the new economy and a new country, including those places that will be left behind (akron and buffalo). would this be the dawning of a post-post (post) modernism?

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