Pastor’s Corner, 9/18/09

This weekend I am beginning a year-long, once-a-month program known as Leadership Putnam (LP). One of the stated purposes of LP is “to provide leaders with a practical and sophisticated understanding of major problems and opportunities facing the Putnam County area.” Gaining this insight is the primary reason I’ve been interested in participating in LP since I first moved to Cookville.

In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God tells the exiles in Babylon, “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare [shalom] of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” Peter tells us in I Peter 1:1 that all Christians are “resident aliens,” exiles scattered throughout the world. We have a dual citizenship (see Philippians 3:20), and are not of this world but are in this world and are sent into this world by Jesus Christ Himself (John 17:11, 14-18). Taking all these passages together (along with many, many others), the Bible teaches God’s people that we have a responsibility to the world around us. Until Christ returns, we are to seek the welfare of the places and peoples among whom we live. The word “welfare” is the Hebrew word “shalom,” which in its broadest sense refers to peace, prosperity, completeness, soundness, wholeness, health, safety, general well-being, and the like.

We are not merely to wait for Jesus to return, for our exile to be over; nor are we to congregate only with one another in holy huddles. Rather, we are to be salt and light in a dark and drab world, letting our lights shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to, “while we have opportunity,…do good to all people…” (Galatians 6:10). As we saw in Titus, we are “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2). We are to live full and godly lives among unbelievers, building houses and planting gardens, marrying and multiplying, seeking the good of the various cities into which God sends us. We are to pray for our communities. We are to put down roots, become a vital and vibrant part of our community, love our neighbors well, serve the outcasts and “untouchables” of the city (as well as the well-to-do and highly respected, cf. Daniel and Esther), and be a blessing to our fellow citizens, making it our ambition “to lead a quiet life and attend to our own business and work with our hands…so that we will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). Christians should strive to be the most generous, most committed, most faithful, most supportive, most visionary, most creative, most encouraging, and most obedient members of any community. Of course, because of God’s image in every human and His common grace, unbelievers may outdo us in all these categories; but it shouldn’t be because we lack knowledge of or concern for our duty.

So going back to Leadership Putnam, I’m looking forward to learning this year of ways that I personally, and perhaps even we as a congregation, can better seek the welfare of Putnam County. What are the major problems and opportunities facing our county at this time? Might I be able to help alleviate them? How can I be an instrument of shalom here? Think about yourself – why has God called you where He has called you? Why do you live in Putnam County, or Overton County, or White County, or Van Buren County, or DeKalb County? Here’s the answer: in order that you might be an agent of welfare/shalom and transformation there, bringing the blessing of King Jesus’ kingdom to the nations, bringing the knowledge of His glory and grace to everyone you encounter.

Our church is somewhat unique in that we draw from the entire Upper Cumberland, and so seeking the welfare of Cookeville, or Algood, or Algood School, might not need to your most important priority. One of these days my dream is to see PCA churches in all the counties surrounding Putnam; but until then we will continue to gather together on the Lord’s Day, scatter back into the places the Lord has exiled us, and work together to seek the welfare of our communities. We do this not only because in their welfare we will have welfare, but also because we love our neighbors, and desire them to find their greatest joy by knowing and delighting in the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We are workers for the glory of God, and for the joy of the nations. May the Lord give us a vision for His glory to fill the Upper Cumberland as the waters fill the sea, and may He give us very concrete ways to seek the welfare of our communities.

SDG

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