Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much, By Ashley Hales

Finding Holy in the Suburbs

Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much

by Ashley Hales
Foreword by Emily P. Freeman

Finding Holy in the Suburbs
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: October 23, 2018
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4545
  • ISBN: 9780830845453

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Suburban life—including tract homes, strip malls, commuter culture—shapes our desires.

More than half of Americans live in the suburbs. Ashley Hales writes that for many Christians, however: "The suburbs are ignored ('Your place doesn't matter, we're all going to heaven anyway'), denigrated and demeaned ('You're selfish if you live in a suburb; you only care about your own safety and advancement'), or seen as a cop-out from a faithful Christian life ('If you really loved God, you'd move to Africa or work in an impoverished area'). In everything from books to Hollywood jokes, the suburbs aren't supposed to be good for our souls."

What does it look like to live a full Christian life in the suburbs? Suburbs reflect our good, God-given desire for a place to call home. And suburbs also reflect our own brokenness. This book is an invitation to look deeply into your soul as a suburbanite and discover what it means to live holy there.

"In a time where there is so much talk about opportunities and challenges related to life and ministry in cities, the suburbs can become an almost forgotten afterthought. And yet, if the heart and mission of God are focused on every single square inch of his universe (and they are), then the suburbs remain an important, not to mention strategic, place for Christ’s kingdom to be planted, germinate, grow, and bless the world. Ashley has done a wonderful job in this volume laying out kingdom opportunities and challenges in the suburban space. I have learned a lot from her ideas. I trust that you will too."

Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, author of Jesus Outside the Lines, Befriend, and From Weakness to Strength

"Hales takes on the near hopeless cause of waking up suburbanites like me to see God’s larger story for our lives. Finding Holy in the Suburbs is both thoughtful and practical, and I admire her fierce writing, challenging me to seek out what’s holy in my unremarkable suburban life."

Dave Goetz, author of Death by Suburb

"Ashley Hales stands in the bold tradition of the ancient prophets. In her book Finding Holy in the Suburbs, she exposes the tinseled temptations of the suburbs and calls us to Christ and his ways of generous self-sacrifice. The book’s vivid storytelling, biblical reflections, unabashed truth telling, and practical applications make it a worthy read for anyone no matter where they live."

Jen Pollock Michel, author of Teach Us to Want and Keeping Place

"Finding Holy in the Suburbs is manna for those who believe suburban living is akin to living in a shallow, plastic wilderness devoid of beauty and inspiration. And it is manna for those of us who don’t find ourselves in the suburbs but who, nevertheless, have an insatiable longing for meaning and for home. Hales is chock-full of wisdom, gifting us with a beautiful theology of place. Hales is a theologian of our time—heed her."

Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness

"Scripture tells us that God uses the places we live to draw us to him. In Finding Holy in the Suburbs, Ashley Hales connects the dots for those living in the abundance of the developed world. Drawing on theology, sociology, and her own story, Hales shows how houses, streets, stores, and even playgrounds can reveal our hopes, goals, and deeper longings. Whether you live in the suburbs or are responsible for the discipleship of those who do, this book will challenge you to think holistically about the spaces we inhabit and how those spaces ultimately shape our souls."

Hannah Anderson, author of Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul

"With poignant clarity and expansive grace, Ashley Hales assures us that God works powerfully in the suburbs. She lays out the pathway toward a holy and purposeful existence in our neighborhoods, one that is full of wonderful paradoxes: risk in safety, sacrifice in abundance, and shalom in busyness. Finding Holy in the Suburbs will encourage anyone who desires greater, eternal riches far beyond the American dream."

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, Christianity Today contributor, author of Start, Love, Repeat

"As a suburban dweller myself, I confess I had never given much thought to how my location was shaping my faith. Thankfully, Ashley Hales's book Finding Holy in the Suburbs opened my eyes to both the pitfalls and the possibilities of following Jesus in suburbia. Through a combination of theological depth and simple, practical steps, Hales provides a much-needed path of spiritual formation. I am both humbled and delighted to say I will never look at my community the same again."

Sharon Hodde Miller, author of Free of Me

"Not just for suburbanites, this book is for anyone who wrestles against competition or control. Finding Holy in the Suburbs inverts our suburban sensibilities, nudging us away from self-preservation and toward the beautiful catastrophe of kingdom living. Masterfully weaving personal reflection, research, and robust theology, Ashley Hales takes our hand and walks us home."

Shannan Martin, author of The Ministry of Ordinary Places and Falling Free

"For all of us, the Christian life must be embodied and lived in a given place. Even for those of us (like me) who have never lived in the suburbs, Ashley Hales's examination of her own location and context help us explore how we are formed by our own concrete community and geography. Her honest struggles with the false promises of consumerism, busyness, worship of safety, and other idols of our day will resonate with many, including us city dwellers. This book isn't just about the suburbs; it is about a woman who finds herself in a place she would not have chosen and seeks to learn what the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus bring to bear on her own home, neighborhood, time, money, parenting, friendships, and life in this moment in history. With warmth, humor, and wisdom, she helps her readers—in their own lives and context—to do the same."

Tish Harrison Warren, priest in the Anglican Church of North America, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

"I live on the encroaching edge of suburbia, but, like many readers, I prefer to read books about country life. I opened Finding Holy in the Suburbs assuming it would be a book I needed more than I wanted, but only a few pages in, it became a book I couldn't put down. Ashley Hales writes about life in the suburbs with gentle wisdom, intellectual depth, and refreshing honesty. She offers hope where so many have offered only criticism or cynicism. By weaving clear advice and transformative practices with engaging personal stories, Ashley Hales helps us to become reoriented toward our true spiritual home while sinking our roots more deeply into the ground beneath our feet. Finding Holy in the Suburbs is good news and practical encouragement for all of us, in every place."

Christie Purifoy, author of Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons

"Ashley is the rare sort of writer, imaginative yet concrete, prophetic yet gentle. She only cuts where she can bring healing. She brings just this sort of writing to Finding Holy in the Suburbs. And whether you're a suburban dweller, city slicker, or rural resident, this book has a powerful word to say about place and belonging."

Seth Haines, author of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by Emily P. Freeman
Introduction: A Story to Find Home in the Geography of Nowhere
1. Worshiping Granite Countertops: Consumerism
2. When Your Worth Is Measured in Square Footage: Individualism
3. Circling the Suburbs in My Minivan: Busyness
4. Beyond the Gated Community: Safety
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends: Repentance
6. You’re Not a Barbie, You Belong: Belovedness
7. This Isn’t Pinterest-Worthy Entertaining: Hospitality
8. Open Hearts and Open Hands: Generosity
9. The Opportunity of Cul-de-sacs: Vulnerability
10. Paper Birds and Human Flourishing: Shalom
Conclusion: Coming Home
Discussion Questions


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Ashley Hales

Ashley Hales holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. With her husband, she is the co-founder of The Willowbrae Institute, a new think tank researching the intersection of Christianity and the common good in America. Ashley hosts the The Cartographers Podcast and is the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and A Spacious Life.