Why You Should Consider Living Where God Has Placed You
.... And Not Necessarily In A Place That Makes It Easier To Sleep In On Sundays?
Yes, I'm responding to the thinkpiece posted by TGC entitled "Why You Should Consider Living Near Your Church." All indented or italics lines are direct quotes.
It's doubtful I'm going to say anything particularly unique here (and I am not even going to LOOK at the comments), but this piece irked me.
Should you consider living near your church? You absolutely could, and perhaps it is indeed God's will for you to move. But that could mean you would also need to consider a lot of other things: possibly changing jobs, for one or both spouses, potentially changing school systems for your children. You might be moving closer to your church's "hub of missional activity," but what about your missional activity in the town/job/school you're already in? What if you believe God placed you in the town/job/house/school you're already in?
Does a commute really prevent you from joining in the life and activity of the church? Mine doesn't.
"The longer the commute, the greater the sacrifice involved to be a meaningful part of the church’s life and witness."
.....and that's a bad thing how, exactly? Are you familiar with Matthew 26:41b? "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Our entire lives as Christians are meant to be sacrificed. You know what my flesh wants on Sunday mornings? To sleep in and then have pancakes and Irish coffee and not speak to anyone.
If living physically closer to your church helps you suppress your flesh, then I rejoice for you! Personally, I could encamp in my church's narthex and still not WANT to get up in the morning or attend service. There is no commute length or service time that will entirely rid us of of our sin nature, which desires neither the fellowship of the saints, nor to receive word and sacrament.
I am not sure how much geography and demographics play into this piece. My guess is, Christians living under persecution [literally facing death in order to worship] or in 3rd world countries [where you have to walk hours to worship] would find this concept laughable.
I live in rural Connecticut. The nearest LC-MS church is 30 minutes away, and then there are 2 others that are 45 minutes away. I ended up at one of the ones that's 45 minutes away. (The church that's 30 minutes away is tiny, to the point where I expect it may be absorbed into my current church in the next few years.)
Prior to relocating, the author says,
"We were unable to be involved in many of the wonderful outreach efforts First Baptist sponsored because our 'local' was different than the church’s."
That's too bad. It hasn't stopped me so far, by God's grace. I understand I have two "locals". And it means that perhaps in my own town, where there is no church of my denomination, I have to.... [GASP]... THINK ECUMENICALLY! And when I serve in an outreach in my church's town, that is also "my local."
"In 10 years, we were rarely in the homes of fellow church members who lived in Durham, unless it was on Sunday for lunch. They were hardly ever in our home, since we didn’t live in town."
That's a hospitality problem, not a distance problem. See also: sin nature/selfishness. If people aren't hospitable, the proximity of their lunch guests is irrelevant.
Having relocated, the author says
"We bump into other church members all the time around town."
That's nice, but is that truly a case for moving? I drive 45 minutes to go get groceries and I see church members there. Okay, so not only should I move, I should move to the area I'm most likely to run into the largest number of congregants?
I am active in my church. A typical month includes at least 10 hour and a half round-trip drives (4-5 Sunday services, 4-5 choir rehearsals, 1 council meeting, generally 1 social event or outreach event. We have Wednesday night dinners & services typically about 12 times during the course of the church year, but then I'm already there for choir rehearsal). Is this challenging? Yes! Yes, it is! I listen to a lot of audiobooks to pass the time, I eat meals in the car, sometimes I am a little late, and as a single person, it's not like there's anyone else kicking your butt into gear or encouraging you to get your butt to church.
I do sympathize with those that have kids and find it hard to get it together to go anywhere at any time, never mind a Sunday morning. I'm dealing with one sin nature (mine). You're perhaps dealing with yours, your spouse's, and those of however many children God has blessed you with. Not for nothing are we told in Hebrews 10:25 to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Satan does not want us receiving word and sacrament, does not want us fellowshipping with the saints, does not want us to be involved in our churches. If you think you can change that by living closer to your church, I'm not sure we're on the same page about a lot of things.
I love the KJV here. Exhorting! Not making it more convenient to have Sunday lunch.
"Kingdom Location Matters"?
Yes it does. But it's God's kingdom, not ours.... right? RIGHT?
"I believe it’s ideal to live near your church’s gathering place for the kingdom’s sake."
.... but God is omnipotent, right? His will WILL BE DONE, RIGHT?
Suggested further reading: Unbiblical Conscience Binding, Mary Jones and her Bible.
As a reminder to myself: let's not try to spiritualize our experience. If we happen to be able to attend a church near where we live, then we should thank God. If we are able to attend a church AT ALL, we should thank God. Let's try and remember that for most of the world and for most of history, it's been a hell of a lot harder to worship than we have it in 21st century Western culture. Ultimately, worshiping the Maker of Heaven and Earth is not about - or at - our convenience.