Where are you? Where has God placed you? The various postcodes in which you live your life are not an accident. They’re not the result of a freak set of circumstances. God has placed you there very deliberately. How do you feel about where God has placed you? How do you feel about the people he has put you among? Who he has called you to love and share Jesus with?
Places are different. But often we don’t stop and think about those differences. And when we fail to stop and think about these differences we fail to love either the place or the people well. In fact I’d go so far as to suggest that a dis-located gospel is a huge missed opportunity. What does it look like to be the church where God has placed you? What is the area like? What is it’s history and how has that shaped the present? What are the dreams and aspirations of the people who live where you church is and where you live? What are there needs, not just their felt needs and their actual needs? What is the story people find themselves in? How is that changing and shifting? And how will you find that out? (Hint it’s not by binge watching Netflix or Prime).
One of the dangers for us as churches, pastor and people is that we assume our place is a generic place. That it’s the same as the places and people elsewhere or that we see via our media consumption be it social media or binge watching our favourite series. That it’s generically British. Generically middle or working class. Generically Northern or Southern. And so on. And so we end up preaching a generic gospel via generic sermons and meeting generic needs for a generic area and a generic people and guess what we get a generic response. But that simply isn’t good enough. Yes the spirit can work through that and praise God he does. But God has placed us in the postcodes where we live out our lives for his glory so that we connect with the people who are there not some generic everyman or everywoman with a gospel that is not generic but powerful for each and every individual and family and area.
What is the history of your local area? Hayfield has been shaped by a couple of major things historically; the miner’s strike and resultant closing of the pits and being the site of a former RAF base. That history matters, there are so many things to celebrate, it still has so much influence and has shaped so many people. It is a story of struggle, of resentment of authority, or feeling overlooked, of loss, of economic hardship and so on. That story matters. But now there is also the rampant gentrification which is taking place, the pop up housing estates which seem to have a phenomenal rate of churn as people move in, get promoted or separated or relocated with work and move out with a frequency not seen in the more established older ex-RAF areas.
The old area I loved has changed. The postcode where God has placed us as a church and where we live is now larger, more diverse, spread across classes and aspirations, with various stories and histories and aspirations. And God calls me to love across the divides, to share the gospel across the divides. And the great news is that the gospel is teh one power on the planet that can change a society one life at a time as it wipes away sin and shame and brings life and reconciliation.
Do you know your place? Do you know it’s story, it’s history, it’s hopes and dreams? Do you know how to address those things with the power of the gospel and the great news of Jesus? Do you love those God has placed in your life from that area?