A “Christian ghetto” is like being in a Christian bubble. It’s a negative term for a believer surrounding themselves with only Christian culture.
If you were looking for a quick definition, there it is. If you want a little more info, read on.
Today I was listening to the incredible podcast “This Cultural Moment” and the hosts, pastors John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers, used the term “Christian ghetto.” I’d never heard this term, but they were talking about the incarnational approach for the missiological method[i] and then Sayers said, “The boogieman at that time [1989-2008], was the Christian ghetto. No one wants to be in the Christian ghetto.”
“…if we can just get cool again, and just update Jesus for the modern Western world, make Him hip, we’re good.”John Mark Comer
Comer immediately agreed with Sayers and said, “I grew up, I was home schooled, I grew up in 1980’s church with just terrible music. Everybody’s wearing dockers, you have to tuck in your polo shirt with the braided leather belt. I feel like I still need therapy for this. And so, I still feel like I’m in emotional healing from that. OK, if we can just get cool again, and just update Jesus for the modern Western world, make Him hip, we’re good” (episode 3).
Apparently, I’m late to the party. I found the term “Christian ghetto” used in an article in RELEVANT Magazine as early as 2004. If you’re paying attention, the time frame fits right where Sayers said it did and props to RELEVANT for recognizing it in the moment. The author points out that in an attempt to live out our faith, we bring “our pseudo-spiritual subculture around with us everywhere we go. We turn the world into a large church service full of people who believe like we do and who don’t offend our sensibilities with their sinful behaviors.”
“But, when we get sucked into a Christian bubble in every area of our lives then we are missing the mark.”Derek Chirch
After 2004, Google doesn’t give us much until 2011. Blogger Derek Chirch talks about living a life surrounded by believers and Christian “stuff.” He then says, “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” (“Do You Live in a Christian Ghetto?”).
Then not much again until around 2016, when it seems like the term got some attention. I’ll give you one more example from Paul Tripp’s devotional: “For many of us, we haven’t actually taken Matthew 5:14 seriously. We haven’t created for ourselves a lifestyle where we have natural opportunities to be a light in a dark place. We’re simply trapped in the Christian ghetto.”
If living in a Christian ghetto is being in a Christian bubble, and I didn’t know the term, then I must be super hip and not in the bubble! More importantly, I agree, living in a Christian ghetto is no bueno since we’re supposed to be out in the world loving others to Jesus!
[i] If you don’t know what this means, neither did I. I highly recommend listening to “This Cultural Moment” from the beginning. If you absolutely can’t, here’s a quick synopsis: missiology is “the study of religious (typically Christian) missions and their methods and purposes” and an “incarnational approach” alludes to Jesus’ incarnation and refers to the idea that “the church is born anew within each culture in a way that fits that culture.”