The Iron Curtain
February 29, 2008
As I write this, I want you to know that I’m not angry and I’m not bitter at any particular Christian sect or group. How’s that for a starter?
I wanted to write today about a phenomenon that exists in American Christianity of which I have thought about frequently and am attempting to change. It’s an iron curtain, but not one of guns and hatred, but one of comfort. This iron curtain is a spiritual one and rests not in Europe, Asia, or Africa, but just south of New York. The curtain divides the northeast (and specifically New England) from the rest of the United States.
I moved here 10 years ago, being born in Northwest Ohio, going to college in Florida, and living for short periods of time in Tucson and Atlanta. Almost immediately God gave me a passion for this area and for the people in Massachusetts.
Outside of this place, the Northeast is looked at as a place that could do with or without God, a place that is cold to the gospel, and a place filled with rude people who drive as arrogantly as they talk (so 1 out of 3 ain’t bad). But since I moved here, what I’ve found is people in love with the truth. Not what they’ve been taught. Not what they’ve been told. Not necessarily with the traditions they’ve grown up with (though they have them too). But the truth.
So here’s the thing I’m trying to figure out. If this place is so cold to the gospel, then why would more people from this beloved “Christian culture Bible belt thing” we have going on from Florida to Idaho, not be moving their families away from this subculture in our society – one of affluence and comfort, to a very difficult place where it’s gonna take 5 years to see any kind of fruit?
I love going to conferences like Catalyst and C3 and other such venues to get fired up about what God is doing, but when I do, I wonder how many of these pastors or leaders or lawyers or teachers or whoever would be a great asset to our difficult task of reaching people with the gospel in the Northeast.
There are people going to the Middle East and Asia and the Philippines and third world countries by the scores. And tons and tons of Christ followers are moving to some super-growing cities like Charlotte or Columbus (Ohio, not Gerorgia) to start churches. But I don’t exactly see people lining up to make their way into New England (one of the great technology areas in the US, by the way).
And so we try to place a band-aid on a bullet wound. The southern baptists, who I respect in a great way and believe are doing some great things, send their college students on yearly mission trips to New England colleges. By the time the college grads are finished, many of them hate the winter,and despise working so hard to have 30 students come to their things when back home there was 100. So in the end, they are seduced by the community back home.
What we need up here is talented men and women, the best and most creative people that places like California, Florida, and Texas have to offer(preferably people who are not cry babies when it’s cold), who will come and utilize those gifts here, even though they would probably be leaving their family and friends for a place not quite as cozy as home. (But I do believe I recall Christ calling people that direction in Scripture)
People like Steve, who has brought his family here from Missouri, and worked through a lot of hard times in the process. Or Anthony, who left the comforts of Pennsylvania in the late 90’s and who has now started 4 other churches besides the successful one he pastors now. Or this church in Boston, which originated from a group of people that were sent from this church in Chicago because of the vision of this pastor and have done quite nicely for themselves.
I say all this today because I believe that the iron curtain that divides New England from the rest of the country is one-sided. This area is ready for the gospel. Not a subculture. Not a conference. Not a political ideology. Not even a Christian radio station (we can check that out on the internet if we really want to). But the gospel.
And if there’s anything I can do to make your stay here more comfortable, just say the word.
Until next time…