Going and Staying for the Gospel

I was reading this lovely post on the end of Parks and Rec recently and it brought up something I’ve been thinking about for some time. When you read the Great Commission, it sounds clear that every Christian should be open to going wherever God needs them in order to make disciples of all nations. This is the basis of international missions, and it’s why the Church seeks to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth for the glory of God.

Every Christian is called to make disciples and teach them to obey everything Christ commanded us, and we are to be open to going wherever we are called by God to do that. But what if it isn’t just about going somewhere else? What if going sometimes meant staying?

I’m not saying we don’t go international or to another city or town; I’m saying what if sometimes going to make disciples meant going into our current town? Our home town. Where we have our roots.

And here I want to echo the same three points made in the article mentioned above, while focusing on different nuances:

  1. Places matter
  2. Longevity matters
  3. Community matters

1. Places matter

We live where we live for a reason. Think about that. Place has never been irrelevant when it comes to God and his plans. Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the place he prepared for them. Jesus was sent to a particular place in a particular time for a particular reason. Jeremiah 29:7 records God telling his people to, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

The welfare of the city or town we live in is important to God. He doesn’t want us to live lives of little or no impact on the community he has placed us in. Instead, He wants us to bear his image in ways that restore that image in our community. He wants us to work hard to see it flourish, including seeking justice where there is none and caring for the neglected. He wants us to pray for our cities and towns. When’s the last time you did that?

God can still call us to leave our home whenever he sees fit, but that doesn’t mean we waste the time we’ve been given in the place he wants us right now. As the article mentioned put it,

Pray that if God ever calls you to leave your community, that you would feel the loss. If it doesn’t hurt when you leave, you never lived there at all.

2. Longevity matters

This part of the article was too good to improve on, so I’ll quite it at length:

If you moved out of your city tomorrow, who would notice? Would your neighbors? Would the barista down the road?

We often talk about “gospel-goodbyes”… These treasured moments are opportunities to send people from our church to sink their roots in the soil of another place. But, for those who stay behind…we must be committed to working, playing and partaking in the best of that city. At the same time, while we enjoy the best parts of our city, we work to see change in the worst parts of our city.

James Davison Hunter, in his book To Change the World, argues that the way for Christian’s to change the world is to exercise “faithful presence.” Maybe the gospel is calling you to stay and be present. Maybe God wants to send you into the local HOA, PTA, arts community, book club or community theatre.

Is God calling you to stay? To exercise faithful presence in the place you understand, belong to, and believe in?

3. Community matters

If place matters, then it follows that the people in that place matters. That community matters. We are called to belong to brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are also called to bring flourishing to the community at large. And you don’t bring about flourishing on your own.

We are united to other believers in our church and in the world by the lordship of Christ and are united to our non-Christian neighbors by virtue of the love of Christ and in mutual concern for the welfare of our city.

Sinful man cannot bear God’s perfect image on his own; he needs other people to help. And even then we won’t really pull it off.

But we’ll get closer.

And that’s what we’re working towards – restoring God’s image by making Christ known – whether we’re going or staying.

It’s been a while

It’s been a long time since I wrote something here. My last post was something I wrote almost entirely in my mind and needed somewhere to put it. But it’s been too long since I sat down at A Parched Soul, took a deep breath, and exhaled something that felt good. Read more →

Back Row Moments

Every now and then, it happens. I’m driving home listening to the radio, usually the local NPR or classical stations, and there’s a moment so powerful, so arresting, that I find myself sitting in the driveway, unable to move.

Maybe it’s a beautiful piece of music, or a story about an afflicted group of people. Whatever it is, it’s a moment when what I’m hearing is so powerful that it forces me to stop. Forces me to listen. And then moves me to reflect.

It’s what the public radio business calls a “driveway moment.” A moment where you’re unable to leave your car because of how riveted, how captured, you are by what you’re hearing.

And it’s what they hope to create for their audience. Sure, they want more listeners and higher ratings. But they also know that each driveway moment is a person captivated – and a person willing to tell someone else about their station.

When a radio station is really nailing its content, when it best understands its audience, driveway moments happen.

And this made me think about the church – my church, specifically.

Over and over again, I’ve heard stories of transformation from different people in the church. How lives are changed, marriages are healed, and souls are mended.

The details are different, as you would imagine. But I started to notice something in all of them – a common thread. What was it?

The back row.

My church goes after the people that don’t care anything about church. It’s a hard mission, but one we obviously feel is worth it. So it can be difficult to get some of those people to church.

But when they do come through the doors, their approach is almost always the same: come in late, don’t talk to anyone, sit in the back, leave as soon as the doors open.

And that’s how most of the stories we hear start out – including my own.

That’s not everyone of course, but on the whole it seems to be how much of our community starts their experience at our church.

And we love it.

In fact, we try and make it easier for them. We don’t force them to talk to anyone, we ask them not to give, we don’t ask them to move down so more people can sit near them, heck, we don’t even force them through a greet and seat anymore. To us, the back row should should be the best experience in the whole auditorium.

Why? Because the people in the back row represent the clearest view of who we’re trying to reach.

Would we love to talk to them? Of course we would. But we’d love for them to come to know Christ even more.

And we’ve found that if we let them come and sit in the back row long enough, one day they’ll show up at the Connection Center, in a small group, or in a serve team.

We’ve found that if they keep coming, keep listening, then one day it’ll happen.

One day there will be a service so powerful, so arresting, that they find themselves in the back row, unable to move.

A moment where they can’t leave their seat because of how riveted, how captured, they are by the God they just heard about. And then they’re moved to reflection, maybe even repentance.

They have a back row moment.

And it’s what we hope to create for our community every weekend. Sure, we want more people to come. But we know that each person that has a back row moment is a person captivated by God – and a person willing to tell their friends about it.

Why saying “truth is relative” makes no sense

I read the following on a blog recently:

“You don’t get to decide the truth. Other people have their own experiences, just as valid.”

This is a predominant mindset in our culture today. And I understand why. How can one person say their truth, their experience, is any more meaningful than any other person’s? Read more →

Through You

through you

See more #20words

One Less Time

one less time

See more #20words

Fighting

photo

See more #20words

Radiant Morning

radiant morning

See more #20words

Stop to Listen

Apologies for missing yesterday. I had some technical difficulties (aka leaving my book full of 20 Words poems at the office). You should see two today to make up for it. Enjoy!

stop to listen

See more #20words

Until…

Until...

 See more #20words