Yes – we are moving to New Jersey. This is usually the answer to a follow up question in many of our recent conversations. It most often occurs when catching up with friends or family and explain our desire to plant gospel centered churches in some of the least churched lands in America. We have had this sort of dialog many times:
- Friend: What are you guys up to?
- Us: Well, we are at a church in the Nashville metro area, but we are moving in about 10 months to plant new churches.
- Friend: Really, that’s great, where are you heading?
- Us: New Jersey
- Friend: You are moving to New Jersey!? Why do you want to do that!? Or yesterday at an airport in VA, we just got laughter from an old friend when we said the words “New Jersey” – her co-worker was actually from NJ. I asked her if she liked Jersey and her answer was simply “Well…I’m living here in VA”
None of these conversations have been negative for us at all, but it does seem that Jersey needs a new PR campaign. But when it comes down to it, our motivations to move to the state have little to do with what most people think of when relocating to a city. I have come to realize that in America there are 3Cs which matter deeply to people regarding where they desire to live: Comfort, Cost of Living, and Quality of Life. Well, maybe just 2Cs, but I couldn’t come up with another C which would say it better that “Quality” of life. Perhaps I could throw in "Career" as well.
The odd thing is that most of the people we are sharing our plans with are Christian people. It seems our motivations are quite similar when it comes to choosing where to live. Not that this is always a bad thing, but it has caused me to reflect a bit on the teaching of Jesus who indicated that the Kingdom of God was more important than the things of this current age.
And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” - Luke 18:29,30
We are well aware of the difficulties of moving to New Jersey to plant churches. It is expensive, it is crowded, it is unfriendly to the gospel and the biblical worldview. But none of these things deter the vision to which God has called. In my reading of the New Testament it seems to me that Jesus has asked us to follow him, place him, his call, his mission, poor people and lost people before other concerns. This was true for the fisherman and tax collectors of Jesus day and for the businessman or professional of today. No matter what our vocational calling, we are to seek first the Kingdom and allow all else to be added by the sovereign hand of God.
Most of the people we have talked to know that New Jersey is not a place where gospel centered churches are thriving and that Jesus is like a long lost relic from the past to many people there. Yet, if the gospel of Jesus Christ is true – if Jesus is the unique Savior of the world – then the Northeast is a spiritual disaster in our times. New Jersey may not make Money Magazine’s top five places to live. It may not make the travel channel's top US cities list. It may not be the place I would choose to live myself. Yet because of the call of the gospel, we will joyfully go live in this land and among its people.
A friend of mine closes his e-mails with a quote from John Piper. The quote reflects on the beautiful exhortation found in Hebrews 13:7-16. Here is the quote:
Since we have no lasting city here, stop working so hard trying to make it lasting and luxurious, and 'go forth to him outside the camp'--outside the safe place, outside the comfortable place.
We have learned that people love to call New Jersey the armpit of America. We made deodorant to solve the problem of the human armpit – we believe God desires us to establish new churches in the great land of New Jersey. We would love for you to join us?