One of the most beautiful, relatable, and surprising parts of scripture is that God loves towns.
“And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left – and also many animals?” (I bolded this because God cares about the cattle).
“But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” – Luke 4:43
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.” – Luke 19:41
The main reason God cares about the towns, of course, is that there are people in them. God cares about lost people more than anything else, and found people as well. But that is not the only reason. As you saw, he also cares about the cattle, because he owns them. As the author of creativity, he cares about the architecture, art, media, literature, and beauty. As the earth’s maker and caretaker, he cares about the environmental impact. As the earth’s ruler, he cares deeply about the government, authorities, community groups, and justice. As soon as humans live in community, the community takes on a life of its own.
I grew up in Stephenville (not Stephenville Crossing, though I have many friends from there). To say that Stephenville has a little of its own quirkiness is like saying that the ocean is a little wet.
- We have the original Domino’s Pizza (there’s a story). It’s nothing like the food chain.
- We were host to thousands of Americans across a quarter century at Harmon Air Base.
- We have had reports of UFO’s, which may have been base-related.
- Stephenville was founded as a Catholic community and St. Stephen is honoured there, but the town probably wasn’t named for him.
- We have a gorgeous ocean road with dedicated bike and walking lanes.
- We have had many primary industries over the years (including a paper mill).
- We have huge music, arts, and sports scenes for the size of the town.
- We have at least four distinct dialects represented in the region.
How about you? What stands out about the community you live in? Do you love your town (or city, or local service district)? If you were given the gift of God’s sight for your town for the next 24 hours, what would you see as you walked the streets? Would you weep over the brokenness, poverty, injustice, addictions? Would you rejoice at the good that is being done by the various community agencies? Would your heart be drawn to the lonely, newcomer, widow, orphan, and poor? Would you delight in the music and art and drama? Would you join your politicians and community advocates in strategizing for the town’s growth and wellbeing?
God loves our towns, and so should we. But how do we love our towns? There are so many stories from churches across the province who are investing in the common good of their towns in creative ways. There is a little town in Central with a population of 271. The church provides welcome baskets for newcomers to the community. Not the church. The community. There is another midsized church that advocates for members to have one gathering, one ministry in the church and one ministry outside the church so that they can be invested in the life of their town. Another outport church hosts a regular coffee gathering – simply because the community has no meeting place for the hundreds of people in their town who are looking for connection.
Here are a few smaller scale ideas for individual disciples: Try writing a list of things you love about your town, then sharing some of them on social media. Become a regular customer at a local business and tip generously. Try to be present for the next community event (e.g., Canada Day, Come Home Year, etc.). Walk prayerfully around your block or neighbourhood (or main street), and ask God where He is working. Put your lawn chairs out on your front patio instead of the back. However we choose to do it, let’s resolve to join God in loving the quirky, beautiful, broken towns we live in.