In this series of posts on Sojourn Values we are asking: What do we as “sojourners” (1 Peter 2:11) value? How should we live in this world? What should our attitude be toward those around us? Here are the values we have already visited (The Centrality of Grace, Deep Content, Broad Appeal and Regular Celebrations), but let’s keep exploring the answer to those questions in part 6.
We want to love our city because we love God and God invites us to love people like He does. Part of the way that we express and demonstrate our love for Traverse City is that we actually care. We care to learn about the place we live, so that we can apply the gospel with wisdom.
This one can be a bit of a journey in two ways. First, in a personal way. Maybe you fell in love with Traverse City at first sight but, honestly, it took a while for Kim and me to be able to say “we love Traverse City.” We moved here from Columbus, Ohio and very much enjoyed big city life. (We also had to get used to the long winters and cooler year around temperatures!) But, over the course of time and through the work of the Spirit we have come to see something more important: we are not here by accident. In other words, God has us in Traverse City for a reason. We now love this city and the people who live in it. This has led to a journey of letting that change our rhythms and routines (where we live, what we do, etc.). Maybe your story is similar... Pray that God will give you a heart for this city and its people. He has you here for a reason, too.
Second, in a corporate way. Churches often have an ironic relationship with the cities in which they reside. On the one hand, they really do want people to come to know Christ and to help the hurting. But on the other hand, they often treat and talk about those outside their church with a lot of distaste and condemnation. (I speak from experience as I did this way for a long time.) We want Sojourn to love Traverse City and to focus on ways to help it flourish—whether through the planting of new churches, engaging the workplace with the values of the Kingdom, caring about what it cares about or living as good neighbors in the community. We want the church to be experienced by its non-believing neighbors as a life-giving and valued presence. If we dislike our city it is far more difficult to hide then we realize.
Getting started is simpler than you might think. A great first step is simply participating. Just being involved in what is going on in our city. And that gets even easier during the summer. For example, we have festivals (Cherry Festival, Film Festival, etc.), the Farmers Market and Friday Night Live (Friday Nights Downtown, July-August). These provide great opportunities to attend and to volunteer. If you don’t know, Front Street has come alive during the last 10 years. 10 years ago, the State Theatre was closed, there was no Film Festival, there were only a few restaurants on Front Street, Brew did not exist and there was only one Grand Traverse Pie location. Downtown is clearly the nerve center of Traverse City. We need to know that and we need to spend time there. What you invest in, you care about. Participating is not the only thing we need to do, but it is an easy way to start caring for our city.
If God can call upon Israel to love and seek the welfare of a foreign city that they are in as slaves (Babylon, Jeremiah 29), then we too can love our city and seek its welfare.