Join Head of Eden, Sarah Small, as she explores how we can be obedient to God in the staying and in the being sent.
‘This week three of our original Eden team members moved away. It’s been an emotional time, our team life as we’ve known it and as we’ve so often taken for granted, is about to change. We’re losing not just co-workers but friends and a key part of our local support network. Looking back, I can see that despite the challenges, the differences between us and at times the frustrations, we have been part of something truly special and beautiful. We’ll miss them, and it’s caused us to feel unsettled.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many of us to re-evaluate so many things – our jobs, locations, calling, church engagement and much more. At the heart of Eden is the call to go to communities that are struggling against poverty, and once you have gone, to stay. Yet we still like to test that call from time to time and ask God, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ The challenge with asking is that we also need to listen to God’s answer. It can be quite easy to stay for reasons of comfort or ease and similarly we can easily decide to leave in order to escape the tough stuff, or to fulfil a urge for a new adventure or thrill.
In his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship’, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously says, ‘When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.’ With this in mind we need to ask ourselves, are we prepared to stay put until he says otherwise, and similarly can we imagine uprooting and moving on if he should call us onward? Neither staying, nor going is a superior calling, provided it’s what God is calling us to do.
Some of us would say we’re natural settlers – wanting to dig deep and be rooted in a place or close to certain people, others are more natural pioneers, needing change and new adventure to make them feel alive. However, I’d like to suggest that these aren’t always helpful distinctions.
In the ESV version of the Bible, we frequently come across the lovely word ‘sojourners’ to describe God’s people – those on a journey, residing temporarily en-route to somewhere else. In other places they are called immigrants, foreigners, exiles and famously in Philippians 3:20 ‘citizens of heaven.’ As citizens of the kingdom, all our settling and pioneering will ultimately be temporary.
Place is precious, as are people and relationships and when they change, we can easily get unsettled and question our calling. All of us could be called to go again – are we really ready for that? Similarly, we may be called to dig deeper and stay put. Our call is obedience to God first and foremost.
All that said, I have found that embracing the changes we’re facing has brought 3 unexpected blessings:
- Change allows for the shaking up of that which has become comfortable and potentially stale and unproductive
- When familiar relationships (or places) are removed it brings opportunity to reach out and invest in new people – there’s more time and more opportunity for others.
- Change causes us to exercise deeper trust in God when that which is safe and secure is stripped back we need to check where our true foundations are rooted.
All of us have experienced much change in the past 18 months, and many of us are uncertain what that means for us next. So can I encourage you: if you’re asking God, to really listen to his answer and follow him whether that’s to go or stay.’
For more information about joining an Eden team and living long-term as an urban missionary visit joineden.org