September 19, 2011

Northern Exposure

Any New Englander, whose property is rimmed with stone walls or whose gardening spade is broken by underground boulders, knows one thing. We are living on stony ground. Any New Englander, whose life is surrounded by people with hard hearts toward Christ or whose attempts to plant a gospel seed sometimes fail, knows the same thing. We are living on stony ground. As its unofficial mottoes suggest, New England is a place where great ministry challenges and opportunities coexist.

Beware of Strangers. The first vanity license plate I spotted in New Hampshire said, "GO HOME," which demonstrates that New Englanders can be suspicious of outsiders. On the positive side, the relationships you do forge are real, solid and last a lifetime. Anyone who hopes to minister effectively here should plan on staying for a long time to gain credibility and see fruit.

Waste not. Want not. In New England, people get straight to the point because they don't want to waste time...theirs or yours. As I go door-to-door (with an invitation to church, a batch of cookies), I encounter a certain terse efficiency. If I find the rare person who is willing to open the door, the conversation is brief. Me: "Hello, my name is Patsy. I'm." She, interrupting,: "Sorry. I'm not interested." Door closes. Anyone who does Christian ministry in New England will never be out of a job.

The Land of Steady Habits. Sunday, especially during church service hours, is the perfect day for New England companies to require employees to work, schools to schedule organized sports and stores to hold one-day sales. The Sabbath is an unfamiliar concept in New England where four of its states are in last place for church attendance in the United States. My retail manager didn't understand why I couldn't work on Sunday even after I told her I was a pastor's wife. Those in ministry here should recognize that laypeople face pressure to neglect church and conform to the culture. 

The Mayflower Compact. The first immigrants to New England brought Christian values with them. Many of these are in place today even though those who practice them are not aware of their origins. People in New England promote education, but they don't flaunt how much they know. They value history and want to learn from it. New Englanders are hard workers and love their families. Everyone is thrifty, and no one talks about money, even the wealthy ones. Anyone in ministry here can thank God for our faithful ancestors and ask Him to bring our region back to Him.

The road of New England ministry may be rocky and the Yankees may be cranky, but I know God has His people here and that he has called me to minister to them. This promise from Ezekiel 11 gives me hope for our area, "I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. " The motto of my adopted state encourages me, as well. Qui transtulit sustinet or He who transplanted (us) sustains (us).

You may be interested in a discussion of ministry in the South.

1 comment:

  1. As a Southern lady of my acquaintance once said to me: "Connecticut?! They REALLY need Jesus in Connecticut!" (She obviously had no idea that I'm from the state in question---where Jesus is as much needed as He is here in the Bible Belt.)


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