A few months before I left co-pastoring in Bend, Ore., we had the opportunity to pay off our mortgage and become a debt-free church. It was an amazing moment in the church’s life and represented decades of faithful generosity and engagement. We sensed an inheritance being left for the next generation that went beyond just a building, a way to love our city.
One of the metaphors we used to describe that moment, which is a good metaphor for what I see this year in our district, was a community garden: a place and a people that nourishes a community through individual partnerships with a common vision. God spoke through Jeremiah to an exiled people: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. … Seek the peace and prosperity of the city. … Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer 29:5-7, NIV).
I won’t take the time to unpack our reality of living in exile, but the temptation for people like us who live in a post-Christian society is to gather our resources and shelter in place. We often feel the need to build walls and separate ourselves from others, even from other churches. Growing up in the Northwest, I experienced a personal individualism that often kept my life and church separate from others, doing our own thing and minding our own business. However, people in exile must learn to depend upon each other, to share the produce they grow and to carry the burdens others bear. As Foursquare pastors, leaders and churches, we have the opportunity to depend upon each other, lean on each other, and work together for the good of Jesus’ mission through our Foursquare family.
Eugene Peterson wrote regarding this Jeremiah passage (and think about this quote considering your relationship with Foursquare), “This is your home. This may not be your favorite place, but it is a place. Dig foundations; build houses; develop the best environment for living that you can.” When Jeremiah told them to plant gardens, it was not just metaphorical–it was hands in the dirt. And there is something profound about the linking that takes place, the connection to a place and people, when your hands are in its dirt and the fruit of your labors benefits not only you but also others in that community, including the next generation of leaders.
Here’s my challenge: if God has called you to this place and people, dig into its ground. Invest in it and others. See the children and youth emerging all around us and the growing inheritance we have as a District. Find other like-minded leaders and churches to partner with. Seek the good of your community and the greater Northwest region: Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. A great place to start building and planting relationships is at any of our upcoming Regional Connects. I hope to see you there as we cast a vision for organic ways to partner together on a mission for the good of our cities, region, and world. We love you, pray for you and believe with you for Jesus to lead and guide us in every step.