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:
- Places matter
- Longevity matters
- 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.