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In the church, you can talk about money, and you can talk about relationships, and you can talk about sin...

but don't talk about where people live.

It's a hands-off topic in the American church, and I think that's a problem.

Part of it is due to the mindset we have created that a "church" is a building, or that churchlife consists of Sunday mornings and little else. If my concept of church is driving to a building one or two days a week, then why in the world would it matter where I live?

When you meet in homes, things are different. Or are they? We'll get to that in a minute...

There are two things that have me thinking about this:


  1. A New York Times article that Adam sent me, after we were talking about this very topic. The link to the article is here. It's about how hard it is to make friends in today's world. It also says that, "As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other..."
  2. The other thing that has me thinking about this is Psalm 122:3 - "Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together."

I once heard someone say that there are only three places that still exist in American society where you can find true community: college residence halls, the military, and prison.

Proximity. Proximity. Proximity.

Where we live is perhaps the last holdover of our independent, fallen nature. Criticize my behavior, criticize my priorities, criticize how I spend my money, but do not, in any way, mess with where I live. Where I live is my business, and it is none of yours.

Those three things (proximity, unplanned interactions, and a welcoming environment) are hallmarks of true churchlife. God does not build His Building by placing stones far from each other. He builds by placing stones on top of one another. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. Or as it says in Haggai 2:15 - "Now give careful thought to this from this day on - consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord's temple."

So what keeps us from choosing to live together in proximity?

There are several things. For one, a house is most likely the biggest purchase someone will make. And if I am going to live with others, I must now think about their income levels as well as my own. Wealthier families will have to choose to live in a neighborhood that may be less than ideal. Finding neighborhoods that have a diverse offering of sizes and prices in houses is not always easy.

Also, do I really want to give up my sense of privacy? Privacy, to some extent, is important. Families need a place that is their own (notice that college residence halls, the military, and prison are not places for families). Unplanned interactions means unplanned interactions, and I like to be in control of my interactions with others.

The third is that the house is the pinnacle of the American Dream. I pride myself in lessening my desire for the American Dream. I rationalize all the other ways I have given it up. But my house? Give me a break! Haven't I done enough already?

And then there is the question of whether living close to one another is really even worth it. I have reaped great benefits from living in proximity to my brothers and sisters, but there have also been times when it has made no difference...when someone living across the street seemed as far away as Alaska (note: I'm in Texas).

Living in proximity is not a panacea. It won't rush in the kind of church experience we see in Acts. It won't replace being intentional and vulnerable on a daily basis. But I do think it makes a difference.

I do not mean to issue forth rules or law here. There is much that goes into where we live. In my church, people live all over the place for various reasons. Some live close to others, and others do not. 

But I think it's time to make proximity a priority. I think it's time to have conversations together about how what God is doing on earth should impact where we live.

It matters.


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Reader Comments (1)

I'm just waiting for a "for sale" sign . . .

Also, I was just reading the tagline at the bottom of your blog. "Definition of 'freak': a person who has withdrawn from normal, rational behavior and activities to pursue one interest or obsession." It is good, in this time of re-prioritizing, to remember what our interest and obsession *should be.* It is a little harder to work that out in real life, but I'm glad for challenges. And for grace.

August 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramy

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