It’s become apparent that I need to clarify a statement made in a sermon a few months ago. Back in September, we were studying a topic that is heavy on my heart and the hearts of our elders: reaching the lost in Bucks County, especially those who have never heard the gospel. And we did so through careful reflection on several of the Great Commission passages, beholding the missionary nature of a great God who sent His Son, sends the Spirit, and now sends us into the world.
Observations about our culture
At one point I made a remark about increasingly private nature of Bucks County people. I mentioned how many of the new homes in our area have longer driveways, bigger front yards, and private back porches where we tend to spend our time away from community. I also compared new homes to older homes and how the private spaces (bathrooms, clothes closets, etc.) have grown exponentially while the social spaces (living rooms, front porches, etc.) have shrunk.
Should I feel bad about my big front yard?
Now since then, I’ve heard that a few “I told you we shouldn’t have bought that big home” type of comments have been made, so I want to be sure to clarify.
On one hand, these observations were exactly that—observations. As missionaries in a particular culture, it behooves us to know the nature of the culture we are trying to reach with the gospel. The objective of sharing such observations was not to make anyone feel guilty, but to make everyone think carefully. We Hilltowners have a unique challenge in that we are trying to talk to people who don’t want to talk. Bucks County people value privacy. We purchase homes with big front yards and private back spaces so that we can retreat from others and not be bothered. It doesn’t make our job impossible, but it definitely requires a greater level of intentional creativity. It means we have to take advantage of the natural spheres of influence in our lives, and even create new spheres of influence where we can (spending time with our co-workers outside of work, getting to know other parents at our kids’ schools or ball games, going to the same cafe and getting to know the staff, etc.).
On the other hand, one of the most pervasive sins of our culture is materialism, it also behooves us to live as salt and light—radically different lives that don’t crave the things our neighbors crave or for the same reasons. If you feel convicted about giving into that materialistic drive, such feelings of conviction should not go unchecked. Take time to prayerfully consider whether your standard of living is appropriate, and what you could do to adjust it wisely for the sake of the kingdom.
Maximizing gospel impact
Christ-followers make decisions that maximize our impact for the gospel, just like we would expect of any missionary that we support. Let’s say we supported a missionary in South America, and they were looking to buy a home. Wouldn’t we expect them to make a decision that would maximize their impact for the gospel? We would expect that motive would drive all of their major (and most minor) decisions, from the type of car they buy to the way they spend their free evenings.Well, you’re a missionary. So am I. And we have been sent to Bucks County. That means we make choices to maximize our gospel impact in Bucks County. If that means you are moving to a new home in the near future and have a choice between a house in the middle of a corn field and a house in the middle of a neighborhood, one of them probably provides greater gospel opportunities, but perhaps not in the way you would expect. If you’re a mechanic with the spiritual gift of service and want to bless people by fixing cars at cost, then the house in the corn field which has a better garage might be the better option. If you’re a great cook with the gift of hospitality, you should look for the home with a great living and dining area that would allow you to use your gifts for God’s glory.
Whatever you do
Paul was trying to help one of his church plants consider how they made certain decisions, so he created for them this same gospel filter to pass them through. He said, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We usually think he was talking about doing things with excellence, but he wasn’t. He wastalking about choosing the thing that will maximize your gospel impact. He said you’re free to eat anything and drink anything (vs.24-26), but choose what you eat and drink “for the benefit of many, so that they may be saved” (v.33).
So Hilltown, set this as your decision-making filter. Whatever you do, do what’s in the best interest of the gospel, for the benefit of many, so that they may be saved. I guarantee if that’s your criteria, you’re investments will not be made in vain.